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  1. #1
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    Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Scenario: A trolley with five people aboard is quickly rolling down the tracks. You are standing on a bridge that goes over the tracks and can see up ahead around a bend that there is a fallen tree across the tracks. You know that the trolley won't be able to stop in time and that all people aboard are going to die when the trolley collides with a tree.

    (1st Situation) There is a lever next to you that--when pulled--can divert the trolley onto another set of tracks and will thus avoid the tree and save the five people. However, there is a man standing on those second set of tracks and he will surely be killed by the trolley if the lever is pulled.

    (2nd Situation) There is large man standing on the bridge with you (no lever). You know that if you push him off the bridge into the path of the trolley that it will safely stop the trolley, save the five people, but surely kill the man.


    What would you do? Would you:

    1. Pull the lever in the 1st situation and push the man off the bridge in the 2nd situation?

    2. Pull the lever in the 1st situation and not push the man off the bridge in the 2nd situation?

    or,

    3. Not pull the lever in the 1st situation and push the man off the bridge in the 2nd situation?

    Edit: I'm sorry for changing the options around after presenting the OP. I realized afterward my mistake in the original OP. Newbie here still trying to figure things out correctly.


    No other options are being considered in this discussion such as not taking any action or jumping in front of the train yourself. And, I'm looking for your first gut reactions.

    I took this scenario (with some modifications in the inconsequential details) from National Public Radio's Radiolab (a show with thought-provoking, entertaining podcasts).

    You can directly listen to the podcast here. The trolley scenario is the first topic they talk about.

    Please explain why your answer is the best one. (Again, these 4 are the only options being presented, no others will be considered as better options).
    Last edited by Idunno; April 24th, 2009 at 10:28 AM. Reason: cuz i'm a dumbbutt
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  2. #2
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Before I comment, hasn't someone brought this subject up before? I recall reading something months ago about the exact same thing...
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  3. #3
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarja Turunen View Post
    Before I comment, hasn't someone brought this subject up before? I recall reading something months ago about the exact same thing...
    It is possible Tarja, but for the sake of this debate you can continue.
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  4. #4
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    ^ someone will find it and drag it up.

    I would not pull the lever. I would allow the cart to continue on its natural course. Yes, people will die, but at least I would not be actively responsible for their deaths. By pulling the lever, I am basically deciding who will live and who will die, and thats not something I could do.

    2nd situation, I would still let the cart travel on its course and not pull the lever, for the same reasons stated above.
    Frozen In Time Yearning Forbidden Wishes Damned And Divine
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  5. #5
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    A thread with the same dilemma has be discussed at length here:

    http://www.onlinedebate.net/forums/s...ad.php?t=15175
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  6. #6
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Quote Originally Posted by Idunno View Post
    Scenario: A trolley with five people aboard is quickly rolling down the tracks. You are standing on a bridge that goes over the tracks and can see up ahead around a bend that there is a fallen tree across the tracks. You know that the trolley won't be able to stop in time and that all people aboard are going to die when the trolley collides with a tree.

    (1st Situation) There is a lever next to you that--when pulled--can divert the trolley onto another set of tracks and will thus avoid the tree and save the five people. However, there is a man standing on those second set of tracks and he will surely be killed by the trolley if the lever is pulled.

    (2nd Situation) There is large man standing on the bridge with you (no lever). You know that if you push him off the bridge into the path of the trolley that it will safely stop the trolley, save the five people, but surely kill the man.


    What would you do? Would you:

    1. Pull the lever in the 1st situation and push the man off the bridge in the 2nd situation?

    2. Pull the lever in the 1st situation and not push the man off the bridge in the 2nd situation?

    3. Not pull the lever in the 1st situation and not push the man off the bridge in the 2nd situation?

    or,

    4. Not pull the lever in the 1st situation and push the man off the bridge in the 2nd situation?
    I would choose (1). If I was put in that unfortunate situation where I could save 5 lives by ending 1. It seems like the right thing to do.

    (Also, if the man in scenario 2 is big enough to stop a trolley with 5 people in it, chances are he's obese and will have a shorter life anyway. jk)
    .::The Swindall::.

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  7. #7
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Quote Originally Posted by Tarja Turunen View Post
    ^ someone will find it and drag it up.

    I would not pull the lever. I would allow the cart to continue on its natural course. Yes, people will die, but at least I would not be actively responsible for their deaths. By pulling the lever, I am basically deciding who will live and who will die, and thats not something I could do.

    2nd situation, I would still let the cart travel on its course and not pull the lever, for the same reasons stated above.

    Ok, so you pick option 3. Crap. I really didn't want that one to be an option at all. So my mistake. I'll edit it. If you could entertain the remaining options I'd like to know which of the other three you would make...
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  8. #8
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Idon't like those people on the trolley. They talked smack about my momma. Screw'em. I'm not killing anyone to save them. Maybe they have good jumping skills.

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  9. #9
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    My gut reaction is I'd pull the lever but not push the man.

    Why? I trust the lever will work to save 5 people and I'll make the trade for the guy on the tracks. I don't trust pushing a guy will stop the Trolly (even if you say it will) and it would be me actively killing him and not the Trolly. (the guy on the tracks is on the tracks after all)

  10. #10
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Quote Originally Posted by Idunno View Post
    Ok, so you pick option 3. Crap. I really didn't want that one to be an option at all. So my mistake. I'll edit it. If you could entertain the remaining options I'd like to know which of the other three you would make...
    Now I cant make sense of the OP. Do my choices mean that someone has to die? Either the five people or the other man?
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  11. #11
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    First scenario, I would pull the lever and scream as loud as I could so the person on the tracks would move.

    Second scenario, I would close my eyes and let the guy I could have pushed off tell me what happened. I rather not murder the guy, and yet at the same time, I don't want to see the trolley hit the tree. So I just won't look...
    "You can do anything you want, but be prepared to take responsibility for your actions."

  12. #12
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Same reply as Swindall, but for different reasons.

    Pull the lever, not push the man.

    In the first situation, there is still a chance that the man on the tracks won't be killed....maybe he'll see the trolley coming and jump to the side. At least there's a chance. You can't directly say you're responsible for his death.

    That's also why I wouldn't push the man in the second scenario.
    "Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we're the imagination of ourselves." --Bill Hicks

  13. #13
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Quote Originally Posted by Idunno View Post
    (1st Situation) There is a lever next to you that--when pulled--can divert the trolley onto another set of tracks and will thus avoid the tree and save the five people. However, there is a man standing on those second set of tracks and he will surely be killed by the trolley if the lever is pulled.
    Absolutely I pull the lever (given of course that I have no other option).

    Quote Originally Posted by idunno
    (2nd Situation) There is large man standing on the bridge with you (no lever). You know that if you push him off the bridge into the path of the trolley that it will safely stop the trolley, save the five people, but surely kill the man.
    Again, assuming that you have no third option, I would in fact push him.

    I prefer for a reason that I can't seem to nail down the first option, though both appear to be the same. The clear difference in number of lives saved makes the decision not too difficult a one to make, though I suppose that kind of cold math is somewhat more familiar to me than many.
    The truly problematic part is the innocent (presumably) nature of the lone man. That morally is quite different than a knowing sacrifice or a personal sacrifice, and that is what would probably be what would haunt most people.
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions. -G.K. Chesterton
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  14. #14
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    I prefer for a reason that I can't seem to nail down the first option, though both appear to be the same. The clear difference in number of lives saved makes the decision not too difficult a one to make, though I suppose that kind of cold math is somewhat more familiar to me than many.
    The truly problematic part is the innocent (presumably) nature of the lone man. That morally is quite different than a knowing sacrifice or a personal sacrifice, and that is what would probably be what would haunt most people.
    First, why should we even assume that the lives of 5 outweigh the life of 1? What if those 5 are Nazis, and the 1 is Albert Einstein?

    Second, pushing sacrificing an unwilling innocent person's life is the pinnacle of cowardice. You want to stop the trolley? Jump in front of it yourself.
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  15. #15
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    First, why should we even assume that the lives of 5 outweigh the life of 1? What if those 5 are Nazis, and the 1 is Albert Einstein?
    The OP gave us no such information, nor presumably would you have it. You simply have 5 lives and 1 life.

    Quote Originally Posted by cs
    Second, pushing sacrificing an unwilling innocent person's life is the pinnacle of cowardice. You want to stop the trolley? Jump in front of it yourself.
    Clive I think you know me well enough to know that that is exactly what I would do, but remember that the OP specifically prohibited such action. Further, within the limits of the OP, standing by and letting five or fifty people die because you are unwilling to have blood on your hands is much more cowardly.
    Last edited by Squatch347; September 15th, 2009 at 09:04 PM.
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions. -G.K. Chesterton
    Also, if you think I've overlooked your post please shoot me a PM, I'm not intentionally ignoring you.


  16. #16
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatch347 View Post
    The OP gave us no such information, nor presumably would you have it. You simply have 5 lives and 1 life.
    Right, but those variables might drastically change our conclusion.

    Clive I think you know me well enough to know that that is exactly what I would do, but remember that the OP specifically prohibited such action. Further, within the limits of the OP, standing by and letting five or fifty people die because you are unwilling to have blood on your hands is much more cowardly.
    Inaction is better than evil action. Good ends do not justify murder.
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    Right, but those variables might drastically change our conclusion.
    Agreed, but decisions are made based on the information available.

    Quote Originally Posted by CS
    Inaction is better than evil action. Good ends do not justify murder.
    Based on what? The morality of an action is tied to the outcome it produces.
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions. -G.K. Chesterton
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  18. #18
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Committing murder is not right, period. You just don't know if the people on the train are going to die or not.

  19. #19
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Quote Originally Posted by KevinBrowning View Post
    Committing murder is not right, period. You just don't know if the people on the train are going to die or not.
    Not according to the OP, in the OP it is clear they are going to die.
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions. -G.K. Chesterton
    Also, if you think I've overlooked your post please shoot me a PM, I'm not intentionally ignoring you.


  20. #20
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    Re: Moral Dilemma: To Kill Him or not to Kill him

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatch347 View Post
    Not according to the OP, in the OP it is clear they are going to die.
    And the OP presents an impossible scenario. We could never know in real life if they are going to die, with 100% certainty. We only know for certain someone is going to die, if we kill him.

 

 
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