On Kantian tendencies during the early corona pandemic in Germany

Mind and Society 20 (2):221-227 (2020)
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Abstract

Based on an ad hoc online survey about risk perception and preventive behaviours, we describe three chronological phases related to how people in Germany perceived the Corona pandemic between March 22 and May 10, 2020. In general, participants reported to be less concerned about their own risk than about the risk faced by others. However, a good portion of those who thought that they themselves were low risk actually wrote about their belief that they nevertheless had a responsibility to behave in ways that benefited others, even if it came at a cost to themselves. In loose reference to Immanuel Kant’s notion that humans have a rational duty to act in a socially responsible manner, we interpret people’s comments about other-regarding behaviour as an initiation of a Kantian tendency during the Corona pandemic. Based on these findings, we suggest that policy makers may do better in times of crisis than nudging, incentivizing, or compelling the public by law. They can perhaps accomplish more by nurturing people’s innate sense of the need for socially responsible action to be taken in order to meet the daunting challenges of present and future crises.

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