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morality in judgment

Discussion in 'TRIBE Main Forum' started by Locke, Mar 18, 2002.

  1. Locke

    Locke TRIBE Member

    Hello, I am new... blah blah

    This has been filling my mind lately:

    Trolley dilemma:
    A runaway trolley is headed for five people who will be killed if it proceeds on its present course. The only way to save them is to hit a swetch that will turn the trolley onto an alternate set of tracks where it will kill one person instead of five.

    Should you turn the trolley in order to save the five people at the expense of one? OK now for another dilemma

    Footbridge dilemma
    As before a trolley threatens to kill five people. You are standing next to a large stranger on a footbridge that spans the tracks, in between the oncoming trolley and the five people. In this scenario, the only way to save the five people is to push this stranger off the bridge, onto the tracks below. He will die if you do this, but his body will stop the trolley from reaching the others .

    Should you save the five others by pushing this stranger to his death?

    Most people say yes to the first dilemma and no to the second, but note in both you are making a decision that will kill an individual to save five, and in many ways there is little difference between the two, but most people will feel so strongly about not saving (and not killing) in the second scenario.

    What is the difference & what would you do in both situations???
    Curious to hear what a larger population thinks about this.

    This has been going through my mind.

    BTW I didn't think this up (not that smart) but you can read a really neat-o study about it, Science 293: 2105

  2. air-bag

    air-bag TRIBE Member

    i'm sooo on this thread!! but i have to goto classes now
    please - do not hijack it!
  3. swenard

    swenard TRIBE Member

    I would use my super human strength to save everyone.

    shawn<---watched too many cartoons as a kid!
  4. Guest

    Guest Guest

    It depends on what your conscience says.

    Conscience is the fear of being caught.
    -Lukas Buck
  5. Chris

    Chris Well-Known TRIBEr

    It is logical...
    The needs of the many outweigh...
    The needs of the few....
    Or the one...
  6. Chris

    Chris Well-Known TRIBEr

    oh, but then again depends on who that one is doesnt it?
    Now that poses a problem.
    Flip a coin? heads the train goes, tails the one person bites it?
  7. Locke

    Locke TRIBE Member

    Yes but would you favour the distance felt from of flipping a switch over the physical act of pushing someone to their death, each with the same outcome? people seem to feel that there is a world of difference between the two. Is there?
  8. stir-fry

    stir-fry TRIBE Member

    i'd just let all 12 people die and screw the philosophical and social discussion
  9. Chris

    Chris Well-Known TRIBEr

    Physical distance is the difference by far.

    Read On Killing : The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War
    by Col. D Grossman.

    Evidence of the this is Airforce pilots being to disassociate themselves from any of the actions they did, or caused because they couldn't really get close to see their "enemy", thus not suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, than their "brothers" in the other combat arms.
  10. kurtz

    kurtz TRIBE Member

    utilitarinism is by far the most unhuman ethical philosohy... mill was such a british wanker (same goes for the logical positivists - AJ Ayre)!!!!

    i respect kant's ethics by far.. he tries to universialze ethics into moral duty for all rational beings (categorical imperatives) by being a non-consequentialist.... madd props!!! :D
  11. Temper Tantrum

    Temper Tantrum TRIBE Member

    ChrisD is completely on the right track here with both his statements.

    From a utilitarian perspective (the outcome that produces the greatest good is always the 'right' moral choice. Ie. the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few) you should sacrifice the life of that one stranger, wether in the trolley dilemna or in the pushing someone of the cliff dilemna.

    In both cases from a merely statistcal aspect there IS no difference. Your actions are resulting in the loss of one life and the saving of five others. However in a practical application there is a huge difference.

    In one - as others have already mentioned - You are removed from the killing. You press a button and don't physically (I assume) see the person killed, nor actually have contact with them. Your not touching their shirt as you push them to their death. Your not hearing their screams. etc. etc. This would be much less traumatic for many people, thus being removed from the killing would make it easier, if no morally different then the trolley dilmena.

    What we ethically aspire too in terms of morality is much different then the practical application to life. Take the death penalty. A lot of people I know who are in favour of the death penalty for capital crimes, or crimes they deem deviant enough, would probably radically change their tune if they ahd to administer the lethal injection themselves. It's easy to subscribe to a theory that you believe brigns about the greatest amount of good, but actually DOING it is something different.

    Thus being removed from the killing would make it easier for many people to perform the action.

    Myself, I don't think I could do either. I'm a fucking wuss.


    PS Utilatarianism does suck. Kant was where it's at.
  12. I-Drop

    I-Drop TRIBE Member

    natural selection would tell us that it is wrong to push the one man down onto the tracks to save the other five..

    as he was smart enough remain on the safe ledge, while the other 5 were stupid enough to hang out on trolley tracks in danger.. thus they deserve to die more than him

    i say.. leave the guy up top alone and go for a squeegee
  13. Locke

    Locke TRIBE Member

    I am not much on philosophy... very limited, but I find it funny that utilitarianism is considered an ethical philosophy, but in many accounts the end product is so far from being anything that is actually ethical.

    Don't want to mini-hijack my own thread here though, so if you were in both situations would you do both? why?

  14. Deep_Groove

    Deep_Groove TRIBE Member

    Kant sux

    I subscribe to what Nietzsche would probably say about this situation: Pull the switch or do nothing. Shove the guy or don't shove the guy. Whatever you do, there is no "more correct" action since God is dead and there can be no moral law. The only guide to action should be what satisfies your own "will to power". If you try to rationalize these competing moral impules, you're just a Wuss!


    - Deep_Groove
  15. xlr

    xlr TRIBE Member

    What a Dilema, myself I would choose to do nothing, at least I will have a clear conscience at the end of the day. However these factors would greatly influenced my decsion:
    1. I belive that everything happens becasue it is supposed to-predestination(not sure if thats an actullay world). If it is those 5 peoples turn to die then so be it.
    2. Who am I to determine what the value of life truly is? either the life of one is less important than those of five(maybe that one person that I just pushed was destined to find a cure for cancer?)
    3. What if that stranger is someone in your family or close circle of friends, would you choose to avenge his death?
    4. If you decided to push the stranger, would it eat you up inside for the rest of your life?

    To be crude, the life of those people involved is of no consquence to myself, I know it sounds terrible but thats just the way it is!

    P.S If actually in that situation I think that the vast majority of us would probely just freeze up, most peole probely could'nt make a decsion like that in split second.
  16. Smiley Jo

    Smiley Jo TRIBE Member

    Ha ha ha...

    Location: The van down by the river

    Too funny...

    Sorry, i'll go now. :p

    Joanna [​IMG]
  17. kodos

    kodos TRIBE Member

    i wouldn't do a thing... math shouldn't apply to sentient beings
  18. kurtz

    kurtz TRIBE Member

    Re: Kant sux

    With your first premise the argument looses all credibility and meaning in its context.
  19. Locke

    Locke TRIBE Member

    Oh smiley Jo

    don't make fun of my humble abode... I know its not much but it is a home after all [sniff].


    Dig the floaty smiley faces
  20. Skipper

    Skipper TRIBE Member

    But what if that one person was your child, and the five people were strangers?
  21. Guest

    Guest Guest

    You change the equation when you involve family & friends. It's obvious that people will help others when they're emotionally invovled.
  22. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Whatever choice you make you have to live with the consequences of your actions. You have to choose to what extend the greater good is. Your own feelings or the feeling of others. Who actually gets hurt?
  23. noisy

    noisy TRIBE Member

    Would you really have a clear conscience at the end of the day?

    Your choice in both situations is:

    1) An act that results in the death of one person

    2) An omission that results in the death of 5 people.

    Either way, you caused the result, whether by your act or by your failure to act. I personally couldn't choose either without regret, although I would probably just freeze.

    But, if I'm reading the footbridge problem correctly, there appears to be a third choice. If you're close enough to push the stranger off the bridge, presumably you're close enough to hurl yourself from the bridge instead, sacrificing your life in order to save the others. If that choice is available, it changes the ethical questions involved in choosing to push the stranger.
  24. Smiley Jo

    Smiley Jo TRIBE Member


    Sawee dude.
    Didn't know vans by the river had internet access.


    Joanna [​IMG]
  25. Skipper

    Skipper TRIBE Member

    Exactly...this is one of the bazillion reasons why utilitarianism is a garbage theory when applied to real life.

    Like the dilemma implies, every such situation involves human emotions - the reason why "most people" wouldnt push the man in front of the cart, but would push the switch that results in essentially the same outcome.

    People are always emotionally involved - we are emotional creatures by nature, which is why the mathematical nature of utilitarianism is good in theory, but only in theory.

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