Values as Hypotheses and Messy Institutions: What Ethicists Can Learn from the COVID-19 Crisis

Udo Pesch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


In this chapter, the COVID-19 crisis is examined as an episode that reveals various complications in the relation between values and institutions. I argue that these complications cannot be addressed satisfactorily by ethics, as this field is characterised by a gap between the identification of values worth pursuing and the effectuation of these values in society through politics. This chapter aims to bridge this gap between ethics and politics by outlining the dialectical relation between values and institutions. It will do so by first presenting values as collectively held understandings that emerge in public deliberation. Second, these values are safeguarded by setting up appropriate institutions, which, at the same time, also allows the further substantiation of these values. However, it also needs to be acknowledged that institutions are not mere instrumental solutions to further societal values. On the contrary, they have their own morally laden dynamics. As such, they should also be susceptible to adjustment following societal demand.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationValues for a Post-Pandemic Future
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-08424-9
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-08423-2
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePhilosophy of Engineering and Technology
ISSN (Print)1879-7202
ISSN (Electronic)1879-7210


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