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Earlier drafts not for circulation are available upon request.



The need for a unified response to a common external threat is one of the most powerful drivers for forming a social compact. The present world affected by a pandemic stands more divided than before, not only precluding an expedient crisis response, but also the development of global and national social compacts that could address future threats. I will argue that a recent increase in intra-social ideological division is a major threat to a democratic social compact. Empirical evidence shows external threats often produce increased social cohesion and strong social institutions. However, the current pandemic has revealed a contrasting situation.  To explain why, I will present evidence of democratic erosion by increased ideological division over the last decade, and assert that democracy’s fragile state has played a significant role in our failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Next, I will introduce a theoretical framework to analyse intra-social ideologies, suggest new technologies play an important role in recent ideological divisiveness and argue current institutions are unfit for dealing with the problem. I will propose two avenues for solutions informed by moral psychology: traditional institutional reform and technological interventions.



Many would intuitively agree with the claim that human morality is complex. I will formalise this claim, give three strong reasons for believing in it, address objections and tentatively list consequences of the unusual complexity of human morality. I will argue that a proper account of human moral traits will have an unusually large degree of complexity. I will present as support for this claim the intricate causal history of moral traits, their propensity to paradoxical effects and various epistemic difficulties. The complexity of human morality has bleak consequences for hopes of manipulating our moral traits using biomedical interventions, be it in the treatment of diseases or in the prospect of fixing our moral failings.

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