Michael Baur, Ph.D., J.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy and Adjunct Professor of Law, Director of the Natural Law Colloquium, and Associate Director of the Center for Ethics Education at Fordham University recently spoke with Matt Galloway of CBC’s The Current on the topic of moral fatigue in everyday life during the coronavirus pandemic.
Having emerged from the field of bioethics, moral fatigue occurs when “individuals are faced with particular moral imperatives [that] become problematized when the framework for pursuing those imperatives itself gets thrown into disarray.” In everyday life outside of the emergency room, this is seen in the disruption of routines and behaviors that we have normalized. As Dr. Baur says, “It’s no longer a question of what’s the right thing to do. That’s no longer obvious. Now the question is ‘Am I in a position to know what’s the right thing to do?’”
Dr. Baur uses the example of living on a raft while simultaneously having to rebuild it; the very tools needed to rebuild the “raft,” our social institutions and habits, are readily at our disposal, but we must also question their reliability. This scenario of having to question or abandon some of our long-held habits makes it difficult to adjust to our current quarantined reality, creating this state of moral confusion in our lives.
Despite the havoc wreaked by the coronavirus, Dr. Baur sees potential for good at the end of this. While habits are often helpful, this period of necessary rapid change can serve as an occasion to “not be so mindless, and to think twice about what really was necessary, what really was natural,” and to allow us to “rework, reflect, and rebuild” our daily lives and institutions. Dr. Baur ended his interview with a call for patience and understanding of others, as well all search for ways to adapt to these trying times.
You can listen to Dr. Baur’s full interview with Matt Galloway, starting at the 53:00 mark.