Philosophy and Disaster

Philosophers have traditionally written from the perspective of ordinary people and they are as vulnerable to fear as other members of the public. Academic philosophers can contribute to the multi-disciplinary field of homeland security and disaster studies through extensions of social contract theory from political philosophy, and applications of moral systems. The idea of a state of nature is relevant to government’s role in disaster preparation, response and planning, because disasters often result in a second state of nature. All three of the main ethical systems of virtue ethics, deontology, and consequentialism, are relevant to disaster-related situations in ways that suggest the importance of being able to combine all three. Both the applications of political philosophy and moral theory can be augmented by John Rawls’s idea of distributive justice and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s idea of the common good. Finally, the inevitability of human mortality, as emphasized by existentialist philosophers, can create a wider perspective on disaster.

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