Sunday, February 28, 2021

Lockdowns and ethics

A Response to Ian Dunt’s Anti-Sceptic Screed | Lockdown Sceptics: - David McGrogan:

February 27, 2021 - "Ian Dunt describes lockdown scepticism as 'an ethical abyss' in a recent article – 'a testament,' he puts it, 'to how certain commentators and politicians will allow their need for attention to overrule even the most rudimentary of moral standards.' This is, of course, kneejerk ... opinion: lockdown sceptics are immoral because they don’t care about grannies dying. It is also complete nonsense on its face, as we all know: one could just as readily respond that lockdown zealots are immoral because they don’t care about children’s futures or about cancer patients or about the death of liberal democracy....

"[T]he main argument against lockdowns is that they actually make ethical conduct impossible. Indeed, they deprive human beings of that most fundamental characteristic of humanity: the ability to make ethical choices of one’s own. In that sense, they represent the complete absence or negation of ‘ethics’ properly understood. So the phrase 'ethical abyss” is absolutely on the money – the perfect descriptor of the lockdown movement.

"Michel Foucault once said that 'freedom is the ontological condition of ethics'. That is a fancy French post-structuralist’s way of saying that ethics cannot exist without freedom. What does this mean? Very simply, if you are being forced to ‘do the right thing’, or you just do so to comply with the law or social expectation, then you can hardly be said to be acting ethically. You are just doing what you’re told, or what you’re ‘supposed’ to do, and that isn’t the exercise of any genuine sort of ethics. The only time you can properly be described as acting ethically is when you have a choice to do two or more things, and you make that choice in reference to ethical standards of your own....

"Foucault did not dismiss the difficulty of all of this. How does one generate one’s own ethical standards, and exercise choice on that basis? How does one cultivate in oneself the propensity to act ethically? These are not easy questions to answer, but they are not impossible ones, and indeed Foucault was attempting to chart a path to genuine self-actualising ethics before his untimely death. What he was clear about was that the whole enterprise was contingent on acting freely. 'Freedom is a practice,' he once said in an interview. You have to do it. In doing it, in acting freely, and in reflecting on what [one] is doing, one can develop ... the propensity to act in light of ethical standards of one’s own. The two things go hand in hand: ethics do not exist without freedom; freedom is ethics’ ontological condition.

"The lockdown movement is responsible for many great crimes but the greatest might be depriving people of their moral agency – depriving them of the capacity to make ethical choices. Our ethics have been determined for us. In taking our freedom away from us, the Government has taken away our capacity to develop ethically, indeed to act ethically at all. We do not exercise our own judgment about risk and the harms we might do to others.... We act mostly only in reference to ‘the rules’.

"Lockdown zealots like Ian Dunt will say that this is all to the good, because people can’t possibly be trusted to behave ethically (or at least with the ‘right’ ethics) if left to their own devices. They will have parties, they will hug their grannies, they will watch football matches, and they will kill people as a result. Maybe, maybe not, but what we can really be sure of is that their capacity to exercise genuine ethical conduct, on Foucault’s terms, will wither and die on the vine the longer lockdownism prevails. They will become ever more dependent on predetermined ethical standards, selected for them.... How, when this lockdown is over, will people ever revert to the position of acting, not in reference to what the government says is permissible, but in reference to their own ethical standards? How will children grow into fully formed adults if they can’t exercise ethical choices of their own? How will our society recover when the State has imposed its own ethics in between every single one of us in such an intrusive way, and for so long?

"This is the real enormity of what lockdowns are doing. This is the real ethical abyss."

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