International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)


Should we make war on Corona?

Blog article by Dr. Marcel Vondermaßen on problematic war metaphors

Politicians, journalists, and even scientists these days like to use the metaphor of war to describe the efforts that will now be necessary against the novel corona virus: "Sars-CoV-2 is our common enemy. We must declare war on this virus. That means countries have a responsibility to do more, to arm themselves and to strengthen themselves." (António Guterres in a guest article for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, 15.03.2020) At first glance, this drastic choice of words seems to make sense if one considers the restrictions and changes that this pandemic is imposing on us. Most of those who make these statements do so with good intentions: to conjure up the seriousness of the situation and emphasise the need to stand together against an external threat. But a focus on metaphors of war prevents us from focusing on those values that are indispensable for overcoming the crisis: personal responsibility, caring, empathy.