Pandemic Dating?

Dear Aristotle,

What are the ethics of dating in a pandemic? If I want to date someone, should I do it, or should I wait until things get better?


Dear Devin,

Presumably, at the heart of your questions is what ethical factors related to dated are different in pandemics compared to dating in ordinary times. I will begin by saying that this question gets at what it means to be an respectable member of your social and political community. Perhaps dting as usual during the pandemic would pose no risk to either yourself, the person you are dating, or your family. However, it still might pose a risk to the community at large. Good members of the political community want to do their role to contribute to a society in which all are treated fairly and have the opportunity to flourish. So good citizens will consider the broader community’s needs when dating, and not just the needs of themselves and those close to them. 

Dating during the pandemic is about risks and trade-offs. There are always risks when we leave the confines of our home and enter out into the broader world. Just walking outdoors puts us at risk of injury and being injured might mean we use limited healthcare resources that could go to other community members. But of course, if we took no risks at all none of us could live our lives. So the question is this: what risks would a virtuous person take, and what risks are too much? 

Generally speaking, we consider risks acceptable when consenting adults agreed to take them. The more problematic risks are those imposed on persons who did not consent. So if you are dating, you might impose risks on the person you date. But if they are of sound mind and consent to those risks, that is not too problematic. What is more problematic is risks you might impose on others. So a relevant question might be: do you or the person you are dating live or interact with those at a high risk of COVID? The more that you or your partner might interact with high risks groups, the less acceptable dating in person might be. However, if it is possible to date while taking precautions and imposing very little extra risk on others, then dating might be acceptable. After all, humans are social creatures. Dating is part of a worthwhile and flourishing life. The longer the pandemic goes on, the more need there will be to learn to engage in the important parts of life while minimizing risk as much as possible. So in the end, what you should do depends on your situation. Maybe you should get to know your potential date online for quite some time before meeting in person. Maybe you can date in person if you take appropriate risk—minimizing actions. But what is clear in all cases is that the virtuous member of the community will proceed with caution, and seek to do their part at minimizing COVID risk amongst the wider population. 



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