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Video Interview: What Caused the Coronavirus Pandemic – with Peter Singer

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  1. I love your point that this pandemic should awaken Westerners to the reality of the large amounts of deaths from easily preventable communicable diseases in poor countries. The COVID pandemic really puts into perspective the value of life. Wealthy nations are putting in an enormous effort into preventing a small number of people from dying a little earlier than they would otherwise. How much easier would it be for us to help people in poor countries to prevent deaths from communicable diseases (or other preventable causes, for that matter).

    I also hope that people in rich countries will better sympathize with people who are struggling just to survive around the world (ie. seeking money for food and rent). For the first time, many of us Westerners have to confront the possibility of being unable to pay rent or buy food. Hopefully people will remember how scared they were of both getting a communicable disease and being able to support themselves and become more generous to the extreme poor wherever they are in the world.

  2. “The COVID pandemic really puts into perspective the value of life. Wealthy nations are expending an enormous effort into preventing a small number of people from dying a little earlier than they would otherwise.”

    Whilst I have not listened to the video (does not allow download without login – and I do not participate) the point you make hits home regarding the focused values which are currently being prioritized during this period. However something I read yesterday equally applies a historical perspective:-

    “Whether a poor family economize by infanticide or by curtailing their expenditure is simply a question of profit and loss of pleasure would be equal in the two cases, it would be a matter of perfect indifference by which machinery the requisite correspondence between food and eaters shall be effected. The inhumanity of the act, the want of self-control which it implies, the temper or character which it expresses and fosters are matters of no importance except in so far as they may result upon the whole in an actual diminution of pleasure or increase of suffering. But, when once it is admitted that the end includes a certain ideal of human character, then the deliberate extinction of children deliberately brought into the world with the intention of so disposing of them will seem a vastly greater evil, to the individuals concerned and to the society which tolerates their conduct, than much poverty with all its physical hardships and privations. From this non-hedonistic point of view we can no longer recognize an absolute distinction between means and ends. Some means may no doubt have no value beyond that of conducing to a further end ; but many, nay most, of the acts which do conduce to further ends have a value (positive or negative) of their own; and this value must be taken into account in estimating the rightness or wrongness of the acts.” Rashdall, H., 1907: The Theory Of Good And Evil. A Treatise on Moral Philosophy.. Vol. 1, The Clarendon Press.

    In any measured scale the extremities always suffer the most but whilst the current pandemic has highlighted weaknesses and failings within the health and emergency planning provisions of most nation states resulting in a great testing and sacrificing of the health practitioners, it would seem incoherent to now make ethical decisions at varience to normality which merely helped mask shortcomings or failings of those systems by adjusting fundamental aspects of the applicable ethical-morale framework(s) because of a provided focus, even if those changes are seen as short term fixes for exceptional circumstances. Surely it is better to recognise the problems, face them, and cry for those suffering, whilst resolving to prevent such situations continuing into the future. The virus may imprison the physical body, arguably allowing a measuring and control of societies to fight it, but it surely should not impound the mind.

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