JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Feb, 2004 06:00 pm
truth
Being a hypothetical problem we have plenty of time to decide our course of action. If it were a real problem I would probably, in my existential squeeze, probably just die screaming.
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Adrian
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Feb, 2004 06:02 pm
That's the problem with this problem. To get a real answer out of anyone you need to pose the problem verbally and only give a few seconds for the person to respond.
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rufio
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2004 01:29 am
Without knowing who the people are, I'd say go right and hit the one. You can't say that that's more of a conscious choice that staying on the same path, because deciding not to choose is a choice too.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2004 07:04 am
Hmmm - I do not see a difference, really, in allowing five to die through choosing not to dirty your hands by action - and choosing to act to kill them rather than the one.
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Heeven
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2004 07:58 am
I found it interesting once, when confronted with a car accident about to happen, I chose to slam on my brakes and not swerve out of the way of a head-on collision. I am not saying I did or didn't do the right or wrong thing. My instinct at that very moment was to avoid making a bad situation worse. I had traffic to my left and a drop to my right so, as it happens, it was the least damaging decision. However, when the truck crossed to my side of the road (swerving to avoid a vehicle that pulled out in front of him) and I watched him come at me head-on, I knew I would be unable to avoid a crash. If anyone had asked me before, I would have said that I would have swerved to get away from him, but when I was in the situation, I did not. Strange.

How about this for a scenario? Same situation but there is no person on the other track? Edward is not thinking straight and doesn't turn onto the empty track, thus killing all five people. How is Edward judged then? By doing nothing he may not feel the wrath of public opinion - we might simply say he didn't have time to do anything. However if the original scenario happens and Edward kills either one or five people, others judge him for his course of (or lack of) action.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2004 09:22 am
Craven de Kere wrote:
Joe said "if the trolley driver decided not to switch the trolley, would we be justified in saying that he did wrong?"

I don't think so. But I would say he did the wrong thing.

Can you explain the difference between "doing wrong" and "doing the wrong thing?" I'm not clear on the distinction.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2004 09:25 am
rufio wrote:
Without knowing who the people are, I'd say go right and hit the one. You can't say that that's more of a conscious choice that staying on the same path, because deciding not to choose is a choice too.

Indeed, both are "choices," even if one course of action involves a "lack" of action.

But if the trolley driver should -- i.e. is morally obligated to -- switch to the right-hand track, rufio, what do you see as the basis for this moral obligation?
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2004 09:32 am
Heeven wrote:
How about this for a scenario? Same situation but there is no person on the other track? Edward is not thinking straight and doesn't turn onto the empty track, thus killing all five people. How is Edward judged then? By doing nothing he may not feel the wrath of public opinion - we might simply say he didn't have time to do anything. However if the original scenario happens and Edward kills either one or five people, others judge him for his course of (or lack of) action.

Surely Edward is a trolley driver by profession, and part of his professional duties would be to "think straight" while operating the trolley. Thus, if his confused thinking contributed to the deaths of the five, while a person in similar circumstances who was thinking clearly would have managed to avoid any fatalities, then we could very easily say that Edward was negligent, and therefore morally culpable.

If, on the other hand, he was not negligent -- i.e. he did not fall below the standards of professional competence -- then it would be difficult to say that his lack of quick thinking (as opposed to his lack of clear thinking) led to the accident.
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Heeven
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2004 10:26 am
I don't think it would be fair to say Edward was negligent by not thinking fast enough. Edward is employed as a trolley driver because his abilities are suitable to presumably the regular abilities required in operating the equipment. He is no stunt-man or professional safety expert and, although he may have received cursory safety training, this does not automatically mean that he will know exactly what to do when a traumatic event arises. We expect a certain level of ability but I don't expect a trolley driver to be a rocket scientist who can analyze a situation within a few second timeframe. This is why, when an ordinary person achieves a good result during a traumatic event, we are apt to call them "Hero". Your regular guy who does not quite save the day can be forgiven for being "human". A sad tragedy.

As for leading to the accident, I don't believe Edward caused the brakes to fail. If anyone is negligent, the fault may lie with the trolley company for failing to maintain the equipment - checking the brakes properly or in a timely manner.
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2004 10:32 am
joefromchicago wrote:

Can you explain the difference between "doing wrong" and "doing the wrong thing?" I'm not clear on the distinction.


I was playing with words. I don't think the driver has a moral obligation to act. But I think that not acting would be the wrong choice.

As in, I think the "right" choice is to act.
0 Replies
 
Heeven
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2004 10:35 am
Now, if on the other hand, Edward was impaired in any way - for example, if he had been drinking or taking medication that made him less alert - then there might be a cause for some negligence to attach to him.
0 Replies
 
Heeven
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2004 10:39 am
OMG - I just passed the 1000 posts mark and have been upgraded from an Enthusiast to a Seasoned Member - YAY!
0 Replies
 
OCCOM BILL
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2004 10:57 am
Adrian wrote:
I agree with Joe, as soon as the driver makes a CHOICE to switch tracks he is doing the wrong thing. The death of the five will not be his fault, the death of the one would be.

Whatever will be, will be.
Adrian wrote:
True Craven, but people die everyday because of my inaction. That's something I've learnt to just accept. Having someone die due to an action of mine is something I couldn't accept. When faced with two bad options, it is better to do nothing.
Just a curious aside Adrian; have you seen the Edmund Burke quote in my signature line?
0 Replies
 
Adrian
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Feb, 2004 03:42 pm
Yes. I don't agree.
0 Replies
 
Adrian
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Feb, 2004 07:44 pm
This is sorta what I think.

Quote:


Source.
0 Replies
 
soserene
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 Feb, 2004 11:59 pm
Heeven wrote:
Besides, the first instinct in situations of danger is to swerve to avoid what is directly in your line of sight. If this is like any other traffic accident I presume that there is not enough time to make such specific decisions in ascertaining how many people are in each track and which way to go. If you throw a rock at someones head, they will automatically duck. If time is of the essence the decision may be made purely instinctually and not with regard to which is the best decision. The first danger may be avoided only to find (after switching) there is danger also on the other track. If any more time is available for Edward to really think on the situation, then presumably ALL of the parties have enough time to get themselves off the tracks and out of the way.



I was already figuring out what I was going to say in my reply when I came across this... Beautifully put.

You can philosophize things to death, but unless you keep it realistic, you're wasting precious brainpower Smile
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 09:20 am
For Adrian, dlowan, and anyone else who thinks that, in this hypothetical, killing one or killing five is morally equivalent: what if Edward the trolley driver was acting intentionally? Let's suppose that Edward decided, that morning, to kill someone "just to watch him die." Edward, driving his trolley, races down the track when he reaches the switch, and he sees that he can either wipe out five innocent victims or only one. He chooses to kill the five, and is arrested and prosecuted for murder. Now, should his penalty be more severe for killing five than if he had killed only one? And if so, how can this result be justified, in light of your belief that, had Edward acted without intent, his killing of five would have been equivalent to his killing of one?

For rufio and anyone else who thinks that, in this hypothetical, Edward should turn the trolley to kill the one person on the right-hand track: what rationale justifies Edward's choice, such that we can say that his act in switching the trolley was morally praiseworthy?
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 09:27 am
Heeven: I appreciate your desire to bring extraneous factors into this equation, but that's not how these hypotheticals work. According to the fact situation I laid out, Edward has perfect knowledge of the situation, is unimpaired in his thinking, has time enough to act intentionally, but has no ability to warn. Thus, he is to be held responsible for whatever choice he makes. Furthermore, the cause of the trolley's brake failure, although it may be relevant to the trolley company's liability, is immaterial with respect to Edward's potential responsibility.

Craven: You wrote:
Quote:
I was playing with words. I don't think the driver has a moral obligation to act. But I think that not acting would be the wrong choice.

As in, I think the "right" choice is to act.

I still have no idea what you're trying to say here. If "acting" means switching the trolley to the right-hand track, then are you saying that Edward would be "right" to do so? And if it is the "right" choice but not a "moral obligation," what is it?
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 10:37 am
Joe,

There are things that are not moral obligations but still the better choice than an alternative.
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Heeven
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 11:03 am
So we are not talking about reality then?

Well if the situation is exactly as you state
Quote:
Heeven: I appreciate your desire to bring extraneous factors into this equation, but that's not how these hypotheticals work. According to the fact situation I laid out, Edward has perfect knowledge of the situation, is unimpaired in his thinking, has time enough to act intentionally, but has no ability to warn. Thus, he is to be held responsible for whatever choice he makes. Furthermore, the cause of the trolley's brake failure, although it may be relevant to the trolley company's liability, is immaterial with respect to Edward's potential responsibility.


then Edward should throw himself off the trolley to avoid his own injury or death. If there is no option other than the unavoidable killing of the others on the tracks then maybe he should start to think about his own survival. There again that is not an entirely realistic option either but then if the whole scenario is not realistic then this is all just a waste of time. We can argue he should do this or do that, but if the options are crossed off the list one-by-one what you are really asking is ... is it right to let one person die or five people die when only those two options are allowed.

I found The Book of Questions asks similar questions to what you are trying to get at here.
0 Replies
 
 

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