Monday, April 6, 2020

Can We Morally Judge the Past? On Williams's Relativism of Distance




Caligula, Genghis Khan, Hitler. These are some of history’s greatest moral monsters: Leaders whose deeds are widely reviled and condemned. In my experience, people enjoy sitting in moral judgment of the past. It’s a mode of thinking they find it easy to slip into. This makes sense. We are constantly sitting in judgment of our contemporary peers. Why can’t we do the same when we look to our historical peers?

This finds support in the typical mode of historical education. When we are taught history, particularly in school, we are often taught it from a moral perspective. I remember this quite well from my own history education in Ireland. I’m not if it is still the same, but I certainly remember being frequently reminded of the cruelty and oppression visited upon us by our colonial masters (the British). The moralisation wasn’t always explicit, but I often went away from those history lessons with the sense that I was supposed to be morally outraged about what was done to my ancestors.

But is it right to judge the past in this way? I have had arguments about this before. Some of my colleagues think it is wrong to judge the past, particularly the remote past. They believe that the past is — to use a clich√© — another country: the moral norms and standards were different back then. It is best not to sit in judgment. It is better simply to try to understand it. What did the people back then think they were doing? What were the moral, political, economic and social forces being brought to bear on their decision-making? We must understand the context, not judge the deeds.

This is a view that has found favour among some philosophers, perhaps most notably Bernard Williams who, in several articles, seemed to support the view that we shouldn’t moralise the past — to do so was, in some sense, a practical and epistemic mistake. In his article ‘Value Pluralism vs Relativism in Bernard Williams’s “Relativism of Distance”’, George Crowder critiques this aspect of Williams’s work. In what follows I want to make sense of the argument between Williams and Crowder.


1. Value Pluralism and Historical Relativism
To start off we need to understand some of the theoretical background to this dispute. Ethical theorists can be divided into two camps. First there are the monists. These are people who think that all ethical values and rules can be reduced to one single ‘master’ rule. Classical utilitarians are perhaps the best example of this in action: they believed that all ethical values were reducible to the psychological states of pleasure and pain. According to monists, ethical decision-making is simple in theory, even if it is difficult in practice. Whenever you are forced to make a choice between two options, you just compare those options along the single ethical metric provided to you by the master rule.

Second, there are the pluralists. These are people who think that there are many discrete ethical values and rules at play. You cannot reduce these discrete values and rules to one single master rule. Freedom is not the same thing as equality, which is not the same thing as fairness, which is not the same thing as well-being. They are all distinct ethical concepts. Sometimes we have to decide between them and trade one value off against another. This does not mean that we compare these values along a single metric. Such a metric is impossible. The discrete values are, to use the technical jargon, incommensurable: not capable of being measured in the same terms. Isaiah Berlin was, perhaps, one of the most famous proponents of ethical pluralism. Bernard Williams also endorsed this idea.

I have a soft spot for pluralism myself, but pluralists face a common enemy: the ethical relativist. According to the relativist, ethical systems of thought are culturally self-contained and cannot be meaningfully compared or contrasted with one another. For example, some cultures favour a highly individualistic ethics; other cultures favour a more communitarian approach. Which culture gets it right? The relativist says you cannot answer that question. There is no single universal standard you can use to assess the relative merits of the different approaches. You can only evaluate ethical systems internally, using their own rules. This might sound innocuous at first glance but then you realise that it means that you cannot easily judge other cultures for systematic human rights abuses, unless you first determine that they share an ethical system with you.

On the face of it, ethical relativism sounds a lot like pluralism. But many pluralists would like to avoid the crude ‘anything goes’ kind of relativism. They want to be able to judge some ethical systems to be worse than others. How can they do this? Crowder argues that they can do it by making a distinction between analytic forms of pluralism and holistic forms of pluralism:


Analytic Pluralism: It is specific values or rules that are plural and discrete (e.g freedom is discrete from equality) not entire ethical systems.

Holistic Pluralism: It is entire ethical systems that are plural and discrete.

Holistic pluralism is the equivalent of relativism but analytic pluralism is not. If you are an analytic pluralist, you can still hold out the hope of rationally choosing between values, e.g. prioritising freedom over equality in some cases, without assuming that it is possible to measure both values in the same terms. To put it another way, you can believe that, on some occasions, there is a ‘decisive reason’ to favour one course of action over another, without this implying that those reasons are reducible to some kind of cardinal ranking of options.

Williams endorsed analytic pluralism in his work, though he did believe that when we choose between different values it always leaves an ethical ‘remainder’ (i.e. an ineliminable ethical taint to our choices). He also felt that there were good reasons to reject holistic pluralism. It assumes, implausibly, that there are bright-lined boundaries between different ethical communities and traditions. In reality, there is often some overlap or sharing of values across traditions. This makes cross-comparison possible.


2. The Case for Historical Relativism

Williams’s position on the pluralism-relativism debate sounds reasonable. But then it raises something of a puzzle. Why does Williams reject relativism when it comes to cross cultural comparison but endorse it when assessing the past, particularly the remote past? As Crowder observes in his article, Williams doesn’t stake out a clear and consistent position on this point. Nevertheless, there are some discernible arguments at play.

For starters, it is worth noting that Williams’s historical relativism (or ‘relativism of distance’ to use his term) applies primarily to the remote past and not to the recent past. This makes a certain amount of sense. It makes sense to continue to morally condemn the actions of the Nazis, certainly while some of them are still alive and while their tradition continues to have some ideological pull. Why? Because doing so allows us to blame and punish those that are still alive and attempt to change the behaviour of those who might still be influenced by those beliefs. In other words, in this case, judging the past still has moral relevance for the present and the near-future.

But it makes much less sense to do this when dealing with the remote past. The moral worldd inhabited by the Ancient Greeks or the Medieval Knights are dead to us. We cannot meaningfully hold them to account for their actions. Furthermore, our present moral world is so different from theirs — so bound up with new moral ideas and norms — that we cannot properly evaluate what they were doing. Our moral judgments of their actions are, in a sense, like a naive form of fantasy role-playing. They have no relevance for our modern lives.

It might even be worse than that. In our eagerness to morally judge the past we might actually prevent ourselves from fully understanding it. We might, for example, be so quick to morally condemn the imperialistic bluster of Alexander the Great that we fail to understand why he acted the way he did. What was the political and economic significance of his warmongering? Why was it valued in the culture at the time? Why was glory and honour in battle a significant concern for so many? Approaching history with righteous indignation may prevent us from getting the answers to these questions.


3. The Problems with Historical Relativism
I think we can agree that we should try to understand the past. This may well mean that we must first get ‘inside’ the moral systems that were operative in the past and not rush to judge those systems based on our current norms and practices. Still, there are lots of problems with Williams’s proposed relativism of distance. Crowder discusses several of them in his article. On my reading, there are three main objections to it.

First, embracing historical relativism would force us to hold onto some counterintuitive and inconsistent views. For example, why should chronological distance be so important when it comes to ethical assessment? Why treat it any differently to cultural or geographic distance? It could be that some, contemporary, ethical cultures are so different from our own that we struggle to judge them in the same way that we struggle to judge the norms of ancient Sparta. It could also be that some historical ethical cultures are quite similar to our own and so it makes sense to judge them. Furthermore, even if we accept that chronological distance matters we can rightly wonder where the cut off line should be. There are no bright lines in the past either.

Second, it is not correct to assume that sitting in judgment of the past has no practical relevance in the present. It is true that we cannot hold people to account if they are long deceased, but that’s not the only practically important thing we can do through moral assessment of the past. We can use this practice to gain greater self-understanding, both at an individual level and a community level. For example, when the Jewish community adopted the slogan of ‘never again’ in relation to the Holocaust they weren’t just blaming the Nazis for what they did. They were using the horror of the Holocaust to assist with the process of moral education and developed. They were saying that we shouldn’t ever let ourselves or our societies slip back into that horror ever again. We could do this by both understanding and morally rejecting the ideology that allowed it to happen.

It seems pretty obvious to me that we are always doing this with the past: it is a constant source of moral guidance in the present. Crowder argues that this sometimes results in a two-way evaluation: we evaluate the past from the present and we evaluate the present using the past. We see how we might have improved from the past and how we might have disimproved. It’s true that mining history for its moral lessons can sometimes distort the process of historical understanding but this just means we need to be careful when moralising the past.

Finally, it is implausible to suggest that there are no shared moral traditions or norms across time, even long stretches of time. To state the obvious example: religious traditions are highly moralised and continue to exert considerable influence over contemporary moral theories. We still live with Christian, Islamic and Buddhist moral values and concepts, to at least some extent. Thus we can call upon these values to morally assess the past. It is not a completely alien world. Indeed, Williams’s own work seems to support this claim. In books like Shame and Necessity Williams showed how the moral concepts used by the Ancient, pre-Socratic Greeks were more sophisticated than we tend to think and still had resonance today. But if that is right then a strong form historical relativism is not sustainable: we can engage in a meaningful moral dialogue with the past.

In conclusion then, unless we are willing to embrace a more radical form of moral relativism, the suggestion that we should not moralise the past is implausible. This doesn’t mean that sitting in moral judgment of the past is straightforward or that it can’t hinder proper understanding of the past. It just means that it can be a epistemically meaningful and practically important practice.




Friday, April 3, 2020

73 - The Ethics of Healthcare Prioritisation during COVID 19

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We have a limited number of ventilators. Who should get access to them? In this episode I talk to Lars Sandman. Lars is a Professor of Healthcare Ethics at Link√∂ping University, Sweden. Lars’s research involves studying ethical aspects of distributing scarce resources within health care and studying and developing methods for ethical analyses of health-care procedures. We discuss the ethics of healthcare prioritisation in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic, focusing specifically on some principles Lars, along with others, developed for the Swedish government.

You download the episode here or listen below. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple, Stitcher and a range of other podcasting services (the RSS feed is here).


Show Notes

  • The prioritisation challenges we currently face
  • Ethical principles for prioritisation in healthcare
  • Problems with applying ethical theories in practice
  • Swedish legal principles on healthcare prioritisation
  • Principles for access to ICU during the COVID 19 pandemic
  • Do we prioritise younger people?
  • Chronological age versus biological age
  • Could we use a lottery principle?
  • Should we prioritise healthcare workers?
  • Impact of COVID 19 prioritisation on other healthcare priorities
 

Relevant Links



Monday, March 30, 2020

72 - Grief in the Time of a Pandemic

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Lots of people are dying right now. But people die all the time. How should we respond to all this death? In this episode I talk to Michael Cholbi about the philosophy of grief. Michael Cholbi is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. He has published widely in ethical theory, practical ethics, and the philosophy of death and dying. We discus the nature of grief, the ethics of grief and how grief might change in the midst of a pandemic.

You can download the episode here or listen below. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple, Stitcher and a range of other podcasting services (the RSS feed is here).


Show Notes

Topics discussed include...
  • What is grief?
  • What are the different forms of grief?
  • Is grief always about death?
  • Is grief a good thing?
  • Is grief a bad thing?
  • Does the cause of death make a difference to grief?
  • How does the COVID 19 pandemic disrupt grief?
  • What are the politics of grief?
  • Will future societies memorialise the deaths of people in the pandemic?
 

Relevant Links



FUTURES Podcast - Cyborg or Virtual Utopia?


It's probably time for a short break from all the COVID-19 related posts. So here's a new podcast interview I did with Luke Robert Mason from the Futures Podcast. This was recorded in a hotel room in London back in early January of 2020 -- back when the world was a very different place. It's not really my place to say this but I think it is one of the better interviews I did about my book Automation and Utopia.

It mainly focuses on the ideas from the last two chapters of the book. Luke clearly took the time to familiarise himself with the nuances of the book and asks some great questions as a result. I'm grateful to him for taking the time to put this together.

You can listen here or in the video above.






Wednesday, March 25, 2020

71 - COVID 19 and the Ethics of Infectious Disease Control

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As nearly half the world's population is now under some form of quarantine or lockdown, it seems like an apt time to consider the ethics of infectious disease control measures of this sort. In this episode, I chat to Jonathan Pugh and Tom Douglas, both of whom are Senior Research Fellows at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics in Oxford, about this very issue. We talk about the moral principles that should apply to our evaluation of infectious disease control and some of the typical objections to it. Throughout we focus specifically on some of different interventions that are being applied to tackle COVID-19.

You can download the episode here or listen below. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple, Stitcher and a range of other podcasting services (the RSS feed is here).



Show Notes

Topics covered include:
  • Methods of infectious disease control
  • Consequentialist justifications for disease control
  • Non-consequentialist justifications
  • The proportionality of disease control measures
  • Could these measures stigmatise certain populations?
  • Could they exacerbate inequality or fuel discrimination?
  • Must we err on the side of precaution in the midst of a novel pandemic?
  • Is ethical evaluation a luxury at a time like this?

Relevant Links


   

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

70 - Ethics in the time of Corona


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Like almost everyone else, I have been obsessing over the novel coronavirus pandemic for the past few months. Given the dramatic escalation in the pandemic in the past week, and the tricky ethical questions it raises for everyone, I thought it was about time to do an episode about it. So I reached out to people on Twitter and Jeff Sebo kindly volunteered himself to join me for a conversation. Jeff is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Affiliated Professor of Bioethics, Medical Ethics, and Philosophy, and Director of the Animal Studies M.A. Program at New York University. Jeff’s research focuses on bioethics, animal ethics, and environmental ethics. This episode was put together in a hurry but I think it covers a lot of important ground. I hope you find it informative and useful. Be safe!

You can download the episode here or listen below. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and many over podcasting services (the RSS feed is here).


Show Notes

Topics covered include:
  • Individual duties and responsibilities to stop the spread
  • Medical ethics and medical triage
  • Balancing short-term versus long-term interests
  • Health versus well-being and other goods
  • State responsibilities and the social safety net
  • The duties of politicians and public officials
  • The risk of authoritarianism and the erosion of democratic values
  • Global justice and racism/xenophobia
  • Our duties to frontline workers and vulnerable members of society
  • Animal ethics and the risks of industrial agriculture
  • The ethical upside of the pandemic: will this lead to more solidarity and sustainability?
  • Pandemics and global catastrophic risks
  • What should we be doing right now?
 

Some Relevant Links




Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID-19 and the Impossibility of Morality




[Note to future readers: this was written in the midst of the 2020 Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.]

The stories coming out of Italy over the past two weeks have been chilling. With their healthcare system overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases, Italian doctors are facing tragic triage decisions on a daily basis. In severe cases of COVID-19 patients need ventilators to survive. But there are only so many ventilators to go around. What if you don’t have enough? Who should you save? The 80 year old with COPD and other medical complications or the slightly healthier 50 year old without them? The 45 year old mother of two or the 55 year old single man? The 29 year old healthcare worker or the 38 year old diabetes patient?

Questions like these might sound like thought experiments cooked up in a first year ethics class, but they are not. Indeed, decision-making of this sort is not uncommon in crisis situations. For example, infamous tales are told about what happened at the Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. With rising flood waters, no electricity and several critically ill patients who could not be evacuated, medical workers at Memorial had to make some tough decisions: abandon patients and leave them die in agony or administer euthanizing drugs to end their suffering more quickly? The suspicion is that many chose the latter course of action.

And medical decisions are just the tip of the iceberg. As we are all now being asked to isolate ourselves for the common good, many of us will find ourselves confronting similar, albeit less high stakes decisions. Which is more important: my duty to care for my elderly parents or my duty to protect them (and others) from potential transmission of disease? My duty to work to ensure that other people have the essential services they need or my duty to myself and my family to protect them from illness? We may not like to ask these questions, but we cannot avoid them.

But what are the answers? What should people do in cases like this? I don't know that I have much in the way of specific guidance to offer, but I do have a point that I think is worth making. It's at times like this that the essentially tragic nature of much moral decision-making reveals itself. This tragedy lurks in the background most of the time, but it is brought into sharp relief at times like this. Once we are aware of this ineluctable tragedy we might be inclined to change some of our common moral practices. We might be less inclined to blame others for the choices they make; and we might be more conscious of the pain of moral regret.

Let me explain what I mean.


1. Do Moral Dilemmas Exist?
One way to get at the point I wish to make is to consider whether or not genuine moral dilemmas exist. This is a topic that Lisa Tessman has addressed at some length in her work. Tessman argues that there is a distinction to be drawn between moral conflicts and moral dilemmas:

Moral Conflict: This is any situation in which two or more moral obligations appear to be in tension with each other in such a way that it is not possible to satisfy both obligations. Nevertheless, it is possible that one of the obligations overrides and cancels out the other.

Moral Dilemmas: These are situations in which two or more moral obligations appear to be in tension with each other in such a way that it is not possible to satisfy both obligations and neither obligation ceases to be an obligation just because you favour one over the other.

Moral dilemmas are, thus, a specific kind of moral conflict. They are a kind of moral conflict that is, in a critical sense, morally unresolvable. You may, as a matter of practical necessity, favour one obligation over the other but in doing so you do not eliminate the other. Your choice is, consequently, tragic because it necessarily entails some moral loss.

That's just to characterise the phenomenon. Do any genuine moral dilemmas exist? Some people argue that they do not. Such people typically fall into two different groups. The first group argue that basic principles of moral logic imply that moral conflicts cannot exist and so dilemmas cannot exist; the second group argue that conflicts do exist but none of them are genuine dilemmas.

The argument made by the first group can be quite complicated but the gist of it is easy to follow. It's best to use a concrete example to ground the discussion. Take the medical triage decisions now facing doctors with more patients than they have ventilators/respirators. Presumably we would ordinarily say that a physician has a duty to save any patient's life. So in the triage case, the following obligations would seem to apply:

Obligation A: You have a duty to save the 80-year-old patient's life.

Obligation B: You have a duty to save the 50-year-old patient's life.

Ordinarily, again, we would say that both obligations can be combined together into a single obligation stating that you have a duty to save both patient's lives. The problem is that, in the triage circumstances in which you find yourself, you cannot save both patient's lives. That's the root of the apparent moral conflict. But proponents of this first argument say that this conflict is not real because there is a general principle of deontic logic that stipulates that 'ought implies can'. In other words, you are only obligated to do that which it is possible for you to do. In the triage circumstances, it is impossible for you save both patient's lives. Therefore, you cannot be obliged to do so. Dilemmas cannot exist.

The second argument against dilemmas is the one favoured by moral consequentialists. They argue that moral conflicts do exist but that the tension between two or more moral obligations can be resolved, decisively, in favour of one obligation in most cases. As Tessman puts it, proponents of this argument believe that all moral obligations are defeasible or negotiable. So, although you might think you have an obligation to save someone's life, in the right circumstances that obligation can be outweighed by another weightier obligation. Take the triage case again. In that case you are weighing two lives against each other. Prima facie, it seems like you have an obligation to save both, but a closer inspection reveals that your obligation to save one life outweighs your obligation to save the other. How so? Well, a simple cost-benefit analysis makes it clear. The 80 year old has had a longish life anyway. They have an underlying chronic condition. Even if you save them from COVID-19 they will probably die in the not too distant future from that condition. The 50 year old has more life left in them. They are unlikely to die in the near future. If you save them, then you save more quality adjusted life years. The obligation to save the younger person's life clearly outweighs the obligation to the older person, at least in the difficult circumstances in which you find yourself.

Of course, it's not that simple. The cost-benefit analysis I just outlined is crass and, arguably, callous (although probably not that dissimilar from the kinds of decisions that doctors are now making in the wake of COVID-19). If we had the time, we might like to revisit some aspects of it. Is it really true that the 50 year old will live much longer? Could they have an underlying condition that has not yet been discovered? What have they done with their lives so far? Are they evil psychopathic killers? Might their death affect fewer people? The answers to these questions might push us in a different direction. Nevertheless, the basic point is clear enough: conflicts can be resolved if we examine the facts and likely consequences of our actions in a bit more detail.

In sum, these two arguments go against the claim I made in the introduction: that much moral decision-making is tragic in nature. They suggest that either (a) no moral decision-making is tragic because moral conflicts cannot (logically speaking) exist or (b) moral conflict is more apparent than real: moral obligations are negotiable and can be overridden in the right circumstances.


2. The Problem of Moral Remainders
It would be nice if those arguments worked. They wouldn't absolve us of the hard work of analysing apparent moral conflicts, but they would provide us with some reason to hope that this exercise is not in vain. They would suggest that it is possible to avoid moral wrongdoing when confronting difficult cases like this.

But it doesn't really feel like this, does it? Many times the conflict seems real and unresolvable. Bernard Williams once wrote an article that examined this problem in some detail. In it, he argued that you have to compare moral conflicts with two other kinds of conflict: conflicts of belief and conflicts of desire.

Suppose I believe that I got married on a Friday and I also believe that I got married on the 18th of November 2017. Suppose now that the 18th of November 2017 wasn't a Friday: it was a Saturday. Clearly, my beliefs conflict. But when I learn of the conflict, and of the underlying facts, one of the beliefs clearly wins out. My belief that I got married on a Friday must be wrong. The knowledge that the 18th November was, in fact, a Saturday cancels out this earlier belief. Nothing of that belief remains after the conflict is resolved.

Contrast that with a conflict of desire. Suppose I would really like to go to Aruba on my summer vacation but I would also really like to spend my summer on a visiting fellowship at New York University. I cannot fulfil both desires at the same time. In the end, I choose to go to Aruba. Does this mean that my desire for New York dissipates or ebbs away? Not at all. It lingers as a regret. I'll always be inclined to ask: What if I had chosen the other path?

As Williams describes it, the point here is that conflicting desires leave 'remainders' no matter how you resolve the conflict. And moral conflicts are much more like conflicts of desire than they are like conflicts of belief. When you are confronted by the triage case, and when you decide to save one life over the other, the sense that you violated your obligation to the life not saved lingers. It is a perpetual source of moral regret. It leaves a moral remainder.

This is an appealing line of thought and certainly resonates with my own experiences. Whenever I have had to resolve a moral conflict, I often find myself plagued by the sense that I violated an obligation. But apart from the intuitive appeal of Williams' comparison is there anything more to be said in favour of the idea that resolving a moral conflict often leaves a moral remainder? There is and Tessman says much of it in her book Moral Failure. Her position is a complex one and I cannot do justice to it here, but there are two facets of morality to which I would draw your attention that support the idea of a persistent moral remainder.

1. Value pluralism: We value many different things. We value freedom and equality; security and privacy; life and well-being; health and happiness; and so on. Although some people argue that these different values are reducible to something else (e.g. pleasure) many people reject that idea. They believe that each of these values is a different thing. They cannot be reduced to one another, nor can they be measure along a single scale of value. They are, to use the technical jargon, incommensurable. If we were asked whether freedom was more important than well-being, we would have a hard time coming up with an answer. If that's right, then any moral conflict involving a clash of different moral values will leave a moral remainder. Why? Because resolving the conflict in one direction doesn't mean that the neglected moral value is unimportant or cancelled out by the weight of the other value. It's just not really possible to make those kinds of comparisons

2. The Uniqueness of Persons: It is a common presupposition of moral thought that each human person is both unique and equally valuable. That is to say, no one person's life takes precedence over another's and all human lives are distinct. This implies that human lives are not fungible or interchangeable. This creates problems for any moral conflict involving competing duties to unique persons. Since every person is unique, you cannot trade your obligation toward them with an obligation toward another person. That obligation lingers, no matter what you do.

But, when you think about it, both of these features of morality are pervasive features of our daily moral lives. We owe obligations to many, distinct people -- our children, our friends, our colleagues, our partners and our fellow citizens -- and we work with competing values all the time. So many moral choices leave remainders, not just the kinds of radical dilemmas beloved by ethics professors.


3. Moral Remainders and COVID-19
This brings me back to my opening point. We are now in the midst of a global health crisis of historic proportions. People are dying on a daily basis because of this rapidly spreading disease. We are forced to make choices we don't want to make; to trade lives and values off against each other. The speed at which we are forced to decide is what makes the tragedy so apparent. Whenever we confront clearly limited resources, both temporal and physical, we can perceive moral conflicts in a starker way. Ordinarily, we live with the illusion that we can postpone hard choices or reverse/correct them if we make a mistake. In the midst of a crisis, this illusion is unsustainable.

What does all this mean? I'm not sure. We have to make choices, and we have to trade lives and values off against each other. I don't know of any way to do this without resorting to something like a consequentialist analysis of the probable outcomes of our choices. But we shouldn't be too confident in the power of that consequentialist analysis. It will sometimes rely on arbitrary and unjustifiable preferences. The people who make such decisions will have to live the moral remainders that result.

Correction: we will all have to live with them.