Thursday, May 12, 2011

Of Trolleys and Trains


Consider the following thought experiment:

A trolley (a tram or a streetcar) is running out of control down a track. In its path are five people who have been tied to the track by a mad philosopher. Fortunately, you could flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. Should you flip the switch or do nothing?

Of course, while one can argue either way, consider this one:

As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by dropping a heavy weight in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you - your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?

Now go to MercatorNet and read A Streetcar Named Moral Confusion by Zac Alstin.

And while you're there, also check out Tactical Intimidation by Matthew J. Franck.

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