Decency. It sounds so simple: "Please" and "thank you," "have a nice day" and "yes, you, too." But what does it mean to be decent during a pandemic? 

In Albert Camus's The Plague, about a plague outbreak in North Africa, physician Bernard Rieux says: "There's no question of heroism in all this. It's a matter of common decency. That's an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is—common decency." 

Earlier this year, the book saw an influx of sales in Europe. And this winter, Courtney Campbell, a professor in the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion, is teaching a class called "Pandemics, Plagues, and Philosophies: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides?" Among other things, the class looks at Camus's 1947 novel to explore meaning and morals during a pandemic. 

This week on Footnotes, we spoke with Campbell about The Plague, philosophy, and human nature. 

 

Guests

Where to Buy The Plague


About Footnotes

Every Friday we break down our most important stories with the writers, contributors, and editors who crafted them. Hosted by Portland Monthly digital editor Gabriel Granillo, Footnotes provides clarity on complex stories with intimate and informative interviews.

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