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The Moral Black Hole
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, Philosophy.
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, Philosophy.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4671-758X
2009 (English)In: Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, ISSN 1386-2820, E-ISSN 1572-8447, Vol. 12, no 3, 291-301 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 12, no 3, 291-301 p.
Keyword [en]
Ethics, Crisis, Emergencies, Disasters
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-32651DOI: 10.1007/s10677-009-9152-zISI: 000270838400008ScopusID: 2-s2.0-67349278771OAI: diva2:411392
QC 20110418Available from: 2011-04-18 Created: 2011-04-18 Last updated: 2011-04-18Bibliographically approved

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