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The moral black hole

Sandin, Per and Wester, Misse (2009) In Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12(3). p.291-301
Abstract

It is commonly believed that people become selfish and turn to looting, price gouging, and other immoral behaviour in emergencies. This has been the basis for an argument justifying extraordinary measures in emergencies. It states that if emergencies are not curtailed, breakdown of moral norms threaten ('the moral black hole'). Using the example of natural disasters, we argue that the validity of this argument in non-antagonistic situations, i.e. situations other than war and armed conflict, is highly questionable. Available evidence suggests that people in such emergencies typically do not display panic reactions or exaggerated selfishness, and that phenomena such as looting and price gouging are rare. Furthermore, a version of the... (More)

It is commonly believed that people become selfish and turn to looting, price gouging, and other immoral behaviour in emergencies. This has been the basis for an argument justifying extraordinary measures in emergencies. It states that if emergencies are not curtailed, breakdown of moral norms threaten ('the moral black hole'). Using the example of natural disasters, we argue that the validity of this argument in non-antagonistic situations, i.e. situations other than war and armed conflict, is highly questionable. Available evidence suggests that people in such emergencies typically do not display panic reactions or exaggerated selfishness, and that phenomena such as looting and price gouging are rare. Furthermore, a version of the moral-black-hole argument based on the mere possibility of a moral black hole occurring runs into problems similar to those of Pascal's Wager. We conclude that we should be wary against applying the moral-black-hole argument to non-antagonistic cases.

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
keywords
Crisis, Disasters, Emergencies, Ethics
in
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice
volume
12
issue
3
pages
11 pages
publisher
Springer
external identifiers
  • scopus:67349278771
ISSN
1386-2820
DOI
10.1007/s10677-009-9152-z
language
English
LU publication?
no
id
703238ea-c631-45cf-949c-0e75680bbe57
date added to LUP
2017-04-03 15:38:09
date last changed
2017-07-09 04:59:48
@article{703238ea-c631-45cf-949c-0e75680bbe57,
  abstract     = {<p>It is commonly believed that people become selfish and turn to looting, price gouging, and other immoral behaviour in emergencies. This has been the basis for an argument justifying extraordinary measures in emergencies. It states that if emergencies are not curtailed, breakdown of moral norms threaten ('the moral black hole'). Using the example of natural disasters, we argue that the validity of this argument in non-antagonistic situations, i.e. situations other than war and armed conflict, is highly questionable. Available evidence suggests that people in such emergencies typically do not display panic reactions or exaggerated selfishness, and that phenomena such as looting and price gouging are rare. Furthermore, a version of the moral-black-hole argument based on the mere possibility of a moral black hole occurring runs into problems similar to those of Pascal's Wager. We conclude that we should be wary against applying the moral-black-hole argument to non-antagonistic cases.</p>},
  author       = {Sandin, Per and Wester, Misse},
  issn         = {1386-2820},
  keyword      = {Crisis,Disasters,Emergencies,Ethics},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {291--301},
  publisher    = {Springer},
  series       = {Ethical Theory and Moral Practice},
  title        = {The moral black hole},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10677-009-9152-z},
  volume       = {12},
  year         = {2009},
}