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Philosophical Problem! What would you do?

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posted on Jan, 29 2011 @ 06:16 PM

Originally posted by eight bits
Perhaps your Harvard Professor may be Josh Greene?

It's interesting to think of this as a psychology problem, rather than a morality problem.

BTW, my answers:

Maybe boringly, I am not bound, IMO, by Asimov's laws for robots, which include "Do not, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm." I certainly do not defer to arithmetic where the action is murder with a possible "competing harms" defense.

(1) Fate will take its course either way. I won't flip the switch, assuming I am not the cause of the trolley being out of control, and assuming that I have no special duty to any of the six workers. It is not my prerogative to murder anyone.

(2) I would do nothing and save nobody (the only danger to the fat man is that I might murder him, choosing not to murder somebody can hardly be called "saving" him.). For the same reasons as in (1).

(3) Yes. Although I do have a special duty to the five patients, and maybe the sixth, our relationship is that I am their physician, not their paid assassin.

On (1), you would be murdering by not acting. You can't escape the situation you were put into, so make the best of it. Even the one guy that didn't die would probably look at the decision as odd.

posted on Jan, 29 2011 @ 09:53 PM
First ponder on the chances of this happening before being bothered to even waste your time thinking about this. This requires situational thought, rather than pre thought. Since your always in thought, what you say now will differ if this 1 in billion chance scenario even happened.

posted on Jan, 30 2011 @ 05:44 AM

On (1), you would be murdering by not acting.

According to your morality. According to my morality, I have no obligation to intervene in situations that I have not caused. I do, however, have an obligation not to kill passerby. Also, according to the law of the country in which I reside, none of my choices would be murder.

You can't escape the situation you were put into, so make the best of it.

I think you are confusing the valid point, that whichever way I choose to act, it is a choice and an act, with the disputable point, that whichever way I choose to act, the chosen act is murder.

I disagree with the latter analysis. I am avoiding an act which I view to be immoral, and performing an act which I view not to be immoral. Other views are possible, of course.

Even the one guy that didn't die would probably look at the decision as odd.

I don't think that it's OK for me to kill people because they would probably find it odd if I didn't. Furthermore, in scenario (2), the Fat Man can jump in front of the train if he likes. I am not stopping him. If he is unaware of the situation, fine. If I have time to wrestle with him, then I have time to point and ask him whether he'd like to jump.


First ponder on the chances of this happening before being bothered to even waste your time thinking about this.

The point may be that these sceanrios abstract elements of real decision problems. Make scenario (3) that the "traveler" is a healthy convicted felon with two kidneys. Can you offer a parole if the felon gives up a kidney that some other person needs? Military commanders make "train switch" decisions as part of their job. And so forth.

You think about simple and clear cases to help work out more complicated and realistically muddy cases. At least that's what philosophy professors say when cashing their pay checks.

posted on Jan, 30 2011 @ 12:07 PM
reply to post by NeverAcquiesce

(1) Oh gosh...this one is the hardest, for me. I would like to think I could run faster than the trolley, and that I'm not the only one on the trolley...I'd have someone else switch the track to the one person track and then jump faster than a speeding bullet toward the potential victim, screaming like a banshee all the way (and hopefully anyone else in the trolley would help make some noise)...and if the person didn't hear me(us) and see the trolley, then hopefully I could tackle them, forcing them just barely out of the danger zone...In any event, I'd choose to switch the track and yell like a rape victim in a deserted field...and pray.

(2) I'd just start to scream and holler as loud as I could, and I'd do it right next to the fat man...if he didn't scream I'd yell at him to 'SCREAM'....jump up and wave our hands or something. I'd not push the fat man over the side of the bridge - first of all because I am not that big of a girl and secondly because it just ain't right. It would screw up karma more to kill someone to save another than to just try to save another and fail. It would be interfering with the fat man's karma and that is a big NO-NO.

(3) I definitely would not harvest organs from a stranger (or a friend, or even an enemy for that matter). Karma, again, like I mentioned in #2.

posted on Jan, 30 2011 @ 02:27 PM
Haven't read the responses yet, thought I would answer first and then see what others came up with.

Regarding the trolley - I would pull the switch that changes to another track slowly, or 'half way' - to cause an "incomplete" track switch and this may work as a brake and halt the trolley completely.

About the fat man - I don't think even the fattest of people could stop a trolley car.

Regarding the surgery patients / harvesting organs - I do believe doctors are to "do no harm" - thus - according to accepted ethics - I would not kill the "unknown traveler" to save the others.

Or - if that patient was compatible with the others - perhaps he could donate blood or bone marrow - which may improve the other sick people.

Actually, I find this question to be impossible or moot because it seems to me to be statistically impossible that a person would by chance wind up being organ compatible with 5 random others.

I think the correct answer would be not to kill the "unknown traveler" anyway because he/she might be a brain surgeon or something that is capable of "saving" thousands.

Just my thoughts.

Will see what everyone else said now

posted on Jan, 30 2011 @ 02:51 PM
Situation 1: I'd find and press the warning horn button, and pull the main breaker (most trolleys I've seen are electrically powered).

Situation 2:If a squishy 400 lb object would stop a runaway multiton trolley train or anything similar, your world is governed by different physics than mine. Wouldn't consider a push for a nanosecond. However, if the fat guy was Rush Limbaugh, or of similar ilk the push might be considered a public service even if it didn't work.

Situation 3: tougher than the others, since it would depend on whether we're talking about one good person versus five evil people or vice-versa. but generally speaking, the five would be SOL. properly so.

posted on Jan, 31 2011 @ 08:40 AM
The point of the question was not really to ponder on what the probabilities of the scenario occurring were, because realistically they are very minimal.

More importantly is the concept and what you believe is the best way to solve them, i.e. when can you justify murder? In what situations would murder be morally accepted?

A number of people, including myself, have stated that in (1) they would kill the one to save the five.

It is comparable how they try to make us feel about the 'War on Terror' today, and how we are told thats it's either 'them' or 'us'. Lets kill the minority to save the majority.

Don't think of this as a literal problem because it will be drowned in pointlessness; more importantly is the concept behind it and what it tells you about yourself.

posted on Jan, 31 2011 @ 09:00 AM
reply to post by NeverAcquiesce

The needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the few. I know, this is from Star Trek, but it is a spot on philosophy to me.

posted on Jan, 31 2011 @ 10:07 AM
Hey btw, the Harvard Professor is Michael Sandel...

Looks like a fun and interesting class to be in!

posted on Jan, 31 2011 @ 10:16 AM
1) This is difficult to answer because the results of any decision you make are already known which makes it hard to justify any one of them. I would assume any fast moving vehicle has some sort of loud mechanism which you trigger in order to warn people of its approach, so before I decided to change the tracks I would frantically search for that trigger. Once I did not find that trigger, I would have to kill that one man, regardless of who he is and what he could have been. 5 is five times greater than 1, and I since we have no other option but to choose which track we will ride along on, I would have to take the least deadly one.

2) The fat man is really just like the lone man on the tracks, except this time the murderous aspect of my choice really stands out as compared to the first scenario because I probably would not have the same sense of urgency as I would feel if I were on the death trolley. Since I am just an observer and not necessarily a participant, I don't think I have the right justification or the balls to purposefully kill one man to save five. The best I could do is scream to the workers and let fate decide the conclusion. If the fat man offered his body, well then...

3) In this scenario I would have to say I would have to let the other five patients die. Man's intervention in biological processes requires a certain amount of self-righteousness I think. Meaning that these 5 patients in another time would have been dead regardless of the healthy man next door, and to kill that man now that we have the technology to save them seems unnatural, too self-imposing. Surely if the man wanted to donate his organs that's another story, and I would definitely have a chit chat with him about it. But if he refused to sacrifice his life, and there was no other way to obtain the organs for the patients, well I would have to let nature takes its course and offer the terminals' a gracious ending for so much as I could. It is my responsibility to offer them the best treatment I possibly can, but if the resources are not available in time, I cannot force the issue, especially when the resources are coming from another live human. If one of the five patients wanted to hire an assassin to murder the healthy man, then yeah, I would harvest his organs for them. Just don't tell me about how or why he died.

posted on Jan, 31 2011 @ 10:37 AM
Both sides have some good points. I suppose it might come down to what you'd feel best about after.
edit on 31-1-2011 by ghaleon12 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 31 2011 @ 10:40 AM
reply to post by NeverAcquiesce

So basically this is to see? And to decide either is basically death for some so I think the real answer has to be answered during experience. It is a good way to determine a thought process as to decide who lives and who doesnt live..

posted on Jan, 31 2011 @ 11:40 AM
reply to post by Ophiuchus 13

A valid point
We never really know what we would do in a situation until it actually presented itself...

So for now we can only really speculate with a rational mind based on our morals and principles.

Good luck!

posted on Dec, 18 2011 @ 01:36 PM
Speculate no more. The results are in. Yes "we" would.

Would You Kill One Person to Save Five? New Research on a Classic Debate By John Cloud | @JohnAshleyCloud | December 5, 2011

Imagine you are a train-yard operator who sees an out-of-control boxcar running down a track that five workers are repairing.

The workers won’t have time to get out of the way unless you flip a switch to change the car to another track.

But another worker is on the second track.

You have just seconds to make a decision: let the five workers die — or kill the one.

What do you do?

This dilemma is a famous philosophical conundrum that was originally called the “trolley problem.”

Now a team from Michigan State University’s psychology department has used virtual-reality technology to test how we respond psychologically and physiologically when faced with this problem.

I just discovered this myself and here are some interesting recent findings:

Would you kill one person to save 5? The answer appears to be YES.

However - I am sick to death of regurgitating the ('we' vs the individual) argument in another thread
about a woman getting torched by a psychopath - When studies like this say most of us that does not mean YOU personally. It means "you" collectively - as a part of a whole society. A duh. I know it should not need a detailed explanation but for some people I guess it does.

In the Michigan State study, led by psychologist David Navarette, the 147 participants made their choice while wearing a head-mounted virtual-reality device that projected avatars of those who could die. (Watch a simulation here.) One chilling factor of the test: the potential victims were screaming as the boxcar approached. The 147 subjects also had electrodes attached to their skin in order to measure their autonomic responses, the involuntary nervous-system responses that can spike when we are faced with stress. Navarette and his team found that, once again, 90% of us would kill the one to save the five. Among the 147 participants, 133 pulled the switch. Read more:

edit on 18-12-2011 by newcovenant because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 19 2011 @ 11:47 AM
Turn the trolley to kill the one man an save the five,,Turns out the one man was a genious an would have cured cancer an H I V,,,,,In saveing the 5 you condem millions to suffer...An those Five men you saved are terorists about to derail the train.

posted on Dec, 19 2011 @ 12:04 PM
There can not be any morally wright or wrong in a system that is not natural to begin with. We can not have wright and wrongs in a system that is totally wrong to begin with.

In this case we can only chose between how wrongly we want it to end.
edit on 27.06.08 by spy66 because: (no reason given)

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