Hardened hearts : Are the Swedish people being failed as moral agents by Swedish authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic?

University essay from Umeå universitet/Institutionen för idé- och samhällsstudier

Abstract: Almost since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sweden has been criticised for doing too little to stop the spread of the virus. No lockdowns have been implemented and schools have stayed open throughout the pandemic. In his book Pandemic Ethics, Ben Bramble argues that lockdowns are necessary and that Swedes may become ”somewhat colder” and ”less able to flourish” as a result of Sweden’s pandemic response. In this essay I discuss whether or not the Swedish people are being failed as moral agents by Swedish authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic. I analyse two senses in which the people could be morally wronged: (1) by having too much moral responsibility placed upon them, and (2) by becoming less virtuous or less able to flourish as a result of actions and words of the authorities. In answering (1), I argue that an individual moral agent has little or no moral responsibility from a utilitarian point of view. From a virtue ethics point of view, the cause behind the action is more important than its consequences, so being handed the responsibility for stopping the spread of coronavirus would not be significantly different from other instances where citizens are free to act in a way that may lead to them causing harm to others. By analysing examples of how citizens can exercise their moral virtues in states with differing responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, I show that citizens becoming more or less virtuous does not follow from the pandemic response of the country they live in, thereby refuting (2). I then briefly discuss two ways in which I believe authorities could fail its citizens as moral agents.

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