“Join or Die: How Deontological Moral Intuitions Complicate Cooperation amid the Covid-19 Pandemic”

Journal Article


Dr. Alessandro Del Ponte

Journal Title:

 Forum Italicum

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Tackling COVID-19 requires universal collective action: everyone must play their part to reduce the spread of the virus and quell the pandemic. Yet, some people obstinately refuse to cooperate, irrespective of the consequences for themselves and others. In this note, I illustrate a key element of human psychology that hampers cooperation amid the pandemic: deontological moral intuitions. Deontological morality prescribes that moral taboos must be followed no matter the consequences. This means that people who consider Covid vaccines a moral taboo are prepared to suffer virtually any consequence rather than take the vaccine. I discuss the evolutionary basis of deontological intuitions, their implications for cooperation, and consider possible solutions. In conclusion, although not always harmful, deontological moral intuitions against Covid measures -and vaccines in particular- are a major obstacle that stands in the way of successful collective action during the pandemic.