Moral Conundrums/Updates

Everyone’s probably heard of the typical moral dilemma: trolley hurtles down the track.   You have the opportunity to steer the trolley in another direction as the driver, but you will kill one person.  If you do nothing, the trolley will end up killing five other workers.  What option do you take?  What is considered the right option, the moral option?

It can be fun to deconstruct the instinctive reactions to these situations.  Many people seemed to choose to save the five people at the cost of one person.  But with a simpler alteration of the situation, it becomes more difficult to have a concrete answer….

What if you weren’t the driver? Instead you’re just a bystander on a bridge.  You see a portly person. You could pull a lever, revealing a trapdoor, which would cause him to fall.  He would die, but he would be large enough to stop the train.

Obviously, these situations aren’t particularly realistic.  They make very controlled situations, without much acknowledgment for other variables.   Nevertheless, I think it highlights some of the flaws of beliefs such as utilitarianism.  What does it really mean to have “the greatest happiness for the greatest number”?

I feel that it takes years to develop of personal moral code.  There are certain things which can be fallacious;  just because it’s in nature, or is in our instincts, doesn’t automatically make it “right”.   Then again, “right” is very difficult to define.

Anyway, I’m glad to be back in action.  This is actually the first post of the year for me, and I have some other ideas in the works.

  1. #1 by Albertonykus on March 8, 2012 - 3:45 pm

    I’ve read about these scenarios before. I think in the second one the majority thought that it’d be “wrong” to use the fat man to save the others (and on impulse I’d agree), the difference being that he is actually being used to avert the misfortune of others rather than “just” collateral damage.

    • #2 by dawnemperor on March 9, 2012 - 3:13 am

      Yeah, the point was to highlight that inconsistency. We discussed this in class, and some of my classmate retorted that “as a bystander, you don’t have the responsibility to save them, unlike the driver”. I think that’s also runs against a wall, because the indifference attitude doesn’t always work (China is an example).

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