Hope and Resentment


A common challenge for both health-care providers and policymakers is to deal with people as people, rather than merely as biological or social problems to be managed. In terms introduced in P. F. Strawson's much-discussed essay "Freedom and Resentment" (1962), the difficulty is to maintain a reactive "participant stance," rather than a solely objective perspective, toward those with whom they have difficulties. Vaccine resistance and refusal provides a particularly pointed instance of this challenge: there is evidence that suggests standard methods of rational persuasion tend to be ineffective, even counter-productive, in easing skepticism about the safety, effectiveness, or appropriateness of vaccines and vaccine regimens. If clear and vivid information about relative risks is not compelling, the temptation to manipulate rather than convince skeptics may be hard, or even seem wrong, to resist. Mark Navin's recent Values and Vaccine Refusal (2016) can be read as a reminder of the importance—and the difficulty—of maintaining a participant stance toward vaccine deniers or resisters.