A Philosophical Approach to COVID-19

In these times of crisis, societies respond differently. Mr. Melton approached this topic by posing an open-ended question to his 12th grade philosophy students: What are your opinions about the way collective vs. individual societies are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?

Drawing from current examples and news articles, students formulated their opinions and expressed their thoughts on this topic. Mr. Melton has been “blown away by the responses and how incredibly thoughtful they have been.” 

Here are a few excerpts from their responses:

“...The way in which different countries have responded to the COVID-19 outbreak varies greatly across the world, from China and North Korea's tactic of locking down the social aspects of their countries, to Iceland's strategy of mass testing people in order to effectively isolate infected people and in turn keep other aspects of life less restricted, to the United States' attempt to walk the fine line between social distancing rigidity and respecting the rights and freedoms that are at the basis of this country. What can we attribute this to? I don't know; however, I speculate that it may have to do with the following reasons. First, there could be a higher level of cynicism and distrust toward our government here in the U.S., which is making it harder to enact widespread social distancing if advised by the government or other officials. Second, the social freedoms we take for granted under normal circumstances here in the U.S. may be the thing that's preventing the government from actually enforcing measures to keep us socially isolated. Finally, there are cultural differences that have affected the outcome of the virus here in the U.S. and other Western society countries, in contrast to many Eastern countries. The most obvious example of this is the social acceptance of wearing masks for air quality protection in many Asian countries vs. the fear that some people have when they see people wearing masks here in the US… ~Carsten ‘20

“...Some countries have chosen to take drastic measures to slow the spread of the disease while other countries have decided to go the other direction and not make changes to fight the virus. I think that the way countries are handling it depends on resources, past experiences, health care systems, and whether or not their country is part of a society that is focused on the collective or the individual...It is important to consider other factors that give certain countries advantages and the ability to handle these situations better when evaluating the most successful responses to COVID-19. Looking at these countries' responses and a number of others, it is my opinion that societies that have a collective manner of thinking have been more successful in responding to the virus when compared to countries with more individualistic approaches.” ~Hannah ‘20

“COVID is a catalyst for insecurity. It's scary. Fears reflect the very foundational problems within a society. At macro and micro levels, fear exacerbates insecurity. At a macro level, the period of unprecedented economic growth in the stock market instills a lingering uneasiness in the unsustainability of such growth. With the catalyst of a global pandemic, this insecurity is actualized in a market crash. At a micro level, people are forced to deal with relationship dynamics that could be otherwise mediated in society. This is supported by increased numbers of domestic violence cases around the world and the sharp uptick in divorces in Wuhan...The societies which handle this the best are those which are able to deal most effectively with societal insecurity...These problems stem from insecurity in society and the government's inability to address that insecurity. Not from whether society is communal or individual.” ~Jakob ‘20