Following up on my philosophical follow ups of yesterday, later last night I read Judith Butler's piece on the pandemic. She criticizes that situation because we have previously failed to create a more just health care system that would have handled this better. Because of this systemic failure,
Social and economic inequality will make sure that the virus discriminates. The virus alone does not discriminate, but we humans surely do, formed and animated as we are by the interlocking powers of nationalism, racism, xenophobia, and capitalism. It seems likely that we will come to see in the next year a painful scenario in which some human creatures assert their rights to live at the expense of others, re-inscribing the spurious distinction between grievable and ungrievable lives, that is, those who should be protected against death at all costs and those whose lives are considered not worth safeguarding against illness and death.
Alex Broadbent in his pieces has been making the point that we have to do the hard thinking to determine what criteria make these choices. Nor is it consoling to point out that doctors make these choices all the time. Of course Butler is also correct that we should have a better system to begin with. I think that's also inherent in Agamben's criticisms of the response. My own thoughts a few weeks ago were, "Why aren't we doing what South Korea did which is obviously better?" Only to eventually realize we weren't prepared to do that. We've inflicted social harm (and hopefully not longterm harm on the institutions of the republic) because of that.
It is the role of philosophers to conceptualize and criticize and imagine how to do better and right. Broadbent has been insisting that there are relevant data and criteria that do not seem to be factored in to decision making. Agamben is insisting that the decisions be broadly more and not focused solely on survival (a fair point, though I feel Agamben is functioning in some sort of fantasy).
Yesterday I was reading Leo Strauss's essay on Plato's Republic. A most infelicitous writer Strauss. But in that essay he makes Plato's point that the just city is impossible. Which raises the question, what is the most just city that is possible then? Or, given our failures to create a better system to begin with and our failures to be adequately prepared (and surprisingly so since this virus is nowhere near as fatal as Ebola or SARS and as one friend said, "this is our practice run" for the really bad pandemic) what then is right, good, and just? Fair debate to be had there, but also not to lose site of the fact that being cornered by the failures into a series of bad choices.
While I was reading Strauss, Sebastian was re-watching Frozen 2 where Queen Elsa is told to do "the next right thing." Sounds like sage advice. In this moment, maybe that's all that can be settled for. But the next right thing is often not clear and rather narrows our vision of the moral.