Friday, 17 September, 2021

Vaccine Problem


Chandra K. Pjr

Human beings are gifted at solving problems. When the shortage of food appeared to threaten humankind, the hunters and gatherers introduced agriculture, thus the agricultural revolution took place. When diseases began to wipe out lives, we invented medicines, thus the medical sciences came into being.
All sciences, be it philosophical, mathematical or physical, have, in one way or the other, solutions to some very deep and disturbing issues our civilisation faced at different periods in history.
While our lives have improved drastically compared to ancient times, the problems too have grown more sophisticated than ever before. Society, along its way towards prosperity, comes across new problems, which sometimes require very meticulous and patient mediation so that we can make it yield as early as possible.

Thousands of people have so far died worldwide due to COVID-19. Thousands more, who are losing their beloved ones, are being left in despair each day. The world is in crisis right now. One good news, amid this darker time, however, is that vaccine against this virus has been found. But, sadly, due to inadequate supply and unequal distribution, the woes of people, especially in undeveloped nations, is far from being over. Should the United States, the UK, and other powerful nations, who are allegedly sitting on a stockpile of unused vaccines, share it with countries who are scrambling for it or should they first ensure all their citizens are completely immunized while abandoning the people in poorer parts of the world to their doomed fate? What would be the right decision here? Does moral right and wrong even exist?
The problem of what is morally good and what is wicked has troubled thinkers ever since Socrates first began to attack the unreasonable arguments of the Sophists. In Plato's Euthyphro, one notices the Gordian knot someone, who claims to have a universal notion of piety and impiety, finds himself squeezed into.
Euthyphro, a sophist, when asked by Socrates what should be the ground for judging an action to be moral or immoral, responds by asserting, "Anything that pleases God is moral". Of course, this seems to be a very straightforward and somewhat even plausible answer. However, another problem, no less mighty than the first one, squarely confronts us on closer inspection – How are we to know what pleases God?
Religious texts, no doubt, is the best place to check for actions that might please god. Or is it? Can such a text which offers solutions to all moral dilemmas even exist? It is practically impossible for such texts to exist as there are infinitely many possible unique actions, which, logically, would take forever to enlist one by one. Therefore, what religious texts offer us are generalized moral laws. One example of such law would be – “To lie is wicked.” But is lying always wicked? Let’s consider the following scenario. A person, who we know is innocent, hides in our house. A very demonic man – he is sure to murder him – asks where the person has escaped. What are we to do in that circumstance? Should we hold to religious doctrine or should we lie?
There are countless dilemmas in moral philosophy like the one stated earlier. Foundation of any seemingly strong ethical theory – be it Utilitarianism or Kant's Categorical Imperative or Subjectivism of Religious doctrine – appears to whimper under the clutch of such conundrums, the most troublesome of them all, of course, is the famous Trolley Problem. Not surprisingly, the idea that moral laws are hard, almost impossible, to pin down is widely endorsed by the experts of the field. But that should not impede us from solving the individual problems which now and again threaten the peace of society. With the right touch of creativity and emotional genius, it is always possible to reach universal equilibrium on any given ethical conundrum.

The Solution
So what is the solution to the vaccine problem? Would it be morally right if the powerful nations shared their vaccines on time with poorer nations who desperately need them? If yes, then why? Because this would save the life of maximum innocent people is a very tempting response to this. But it’s not that simple.
Given a choice to save either ten innocent lives or three of your family members, no doubt, everyone would opt for family members. So why should America or Britain or Germany or China or other rich nations be any different? But what if there exists a way through which one can save ten innocent people as well as the three family members? Won't that be the ideal moral action? And gladly, there exists one such clever solution to the vaccine problem.
It is a scientific fact that aged people are more vulnerable to the Covid-19 virus while youths and children are comparatively immune to it. So countries with a huge stockpile of vaccines should focus on immunising people in this age group everywhere instead of vaccinating their youths and children first while leaving the vulnerable population elsewhere to death.
This, no doubt, like two plus two makes four, would be the most universal and uncontroversial solution to the vaccine problem. And, of course, if there are gods somewhere, then they too would be pleased by it.

(The writer studies Literature and Philosophy at Middlebury College, USA