joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 04:56 pm
dlowan wrote:
Who says I think killing one or five is morally equivalent? I think the opposite. And I think inaction is wrong.

I apologize if I misinterpreted your previous remarks. You had written: "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." I took that to mean that action or inaction were both "choices," and thus were indistinguishable.

dlowan wrote:
I would attempt to do the least harm that I could do ie, on the available info, kill the one. Hypothetically. In reality, I'd prolly just close my eyes and freeze....

The least harm, I presume, would mean switching to the right-hand track and killing the one person there?
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 05:04 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
Craven de Kere wrote:
joefromchicago wrote:

But you have suggested that the driver has some kind of obligation to choose, in that you've stated that the "right act" for the driver is to switch the trolley.


Incorrect. I did nothing of the sort.

Craven, here's what you wrote: "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" (emphasis added) I leave it to you to explain how, in your previous statement, you "said nothing of the sort."


Easy, I never said he had an obligation to choose what I consider to be the "right" choice.

For example, there are "right" lottery numbers and "wrong" ones. There is no moral obligation I know of to pick the "right" ones. Even though there is tremendous financial incentive to do so.

Now to cut this short let's be rid of the two logomachies.

There are two prevailing logomachies in our exchange. Number one is that "right" is a moral word vs. a word illustrating preference (perhaps individual) in an individual criteria. The other is the difference between something being justified and being justified.

That is, being just or being justified to others.

There should be justification for a preference, as you note, but there's no need for justification to others on such a thing as personal preference.

Quote:
Craven de Kere wrote:
I have already told you why I have that preference. You are still looking for "justifications" for this preference. <shrugs>

Yes, your preference is for "the least suffering for the most people," and a decision by the trolley driver is justified by reference to that criterion. But then that criterion is, itself, not justified -- or, at least, you refuse to provide any justification for it. It would be somewhat like saying "the driver should make his choice based on what most pleases God," without then explaining what exactly it is that is pleasing to God or why God-pleasing is relevant to the choice to be made.


Well Joe, it could go on forever. I have reasons for preferring that criteria but ultimately there has to be an axiom.

Ultimately there has to be a criteria. That's my axiomatic criteria.

I can explain why but will only do so for as long as it's not tedious.

For example, I do not like to suffer. This is typical of humans. This is also one reason the avoidance of suffering is in my criteria.

Now if you were to ask why I think suffering is a bad thing it could just go on forever.

So do you really not see that criteria as an acceptable axiom? If not let me know if you accept axioms at all. If not, there's no point in peeling away axioms. Ultimately there has to be an axiom.

Quote:
Now, Craven, if you steadfastly refuse to justify your "least suffering" criterion any further, that's fine. I have no problem with that. Just be aware that, by doing so, your argument ultimately rests on a logically insupportable ipse dixit -- a "sez me."


And as I expressed earlier, I am perfectly fine with my preference being a "sez me".

Similar in nature to the fact that I don't mind that my taste for strawberry flavor and my opinion that it is better than chocolate is a "sez me".

Now if this were not a personal preference and I tried to characterize it as a moral obligation then I think you'd have good reason to seek validation outside of "sez me".

But since it's just a personal preference in criteria that I expressed it can really easily lie on a sez me.

Me sez that's my personal preference in criteria.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 05:45 pm
Yes, Joe - on tha available info, kill the one.

I can see how my words were a bit confusing though.

"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." "

What I meant was that, in allowing the trolley to continue on its course without taking any action, one was, in effect, choosing to let five people die, rather than one. That is, that inaction is, in itself, a choice - and, in this example, if one COULD choose, and act effectively, the choice to remain inactive, is killing more people. I think you dirty your hands either way.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 05:49 pm
I mean, the driver does, not you personally.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 05:51 pm
If I were a good Buddhist I would probably say INaction was the more correct course, of course - ie that to act in the way I am indicating that I see as the less incorrect one (there isn't a good choice here) would be interfering with the working out of the karma of the people on the track.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 05:56 pm
Oh, Craven, back a ways, where I said the choice between the Pope and a bunch of criminals was easy, I meant I would kill the Pope - on the basis that this would be what he preferred, coming from HIS belief system.

I assume that, being Pope, he would see his eternal future as being fairly likely to be a good one, if he believes he has acted well as Pope, no?

The criminals, on the other hand, if one thinks as the Pope probably does, would die in a state of sin - having had all chance to see the error of their ways, and achieve a state of grace before their deaths destroyed.

Therefore, killing the Pope would, in his eyes, create an opportunity for the saving of five souls....
0 Replies
 
gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 05:57 pm
If I was the driver of the trolley, I would definitely take out the five. I would probably have my head thrown back and my maniacal laughter would fill the engine compartment. Watching the bodies pulverize would give me great pleasure and my only regret would be allowing that single fellow on the other track to get away.

All kidding aside, I would continue on and take out the five, because that's the way this particular hand was dealt. I am not going to kill that one innocent bystander just because the other five happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sorry folks.... train's a comin.
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  2  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 06:47 pm
My grandpa was a train machinist. During his craeer he killed 8 people by running over them.
All the times he blew the whistle. All the times he pulled the brakes as much as possible to avoid a derailment. I don't know of any of them in which an innocent bystander would die if he derailed the train (usually a freight train) on purpose. The victims were at the wrong place in the wrong moment (actually one of them was a suicide). My mother and grandmother say that every time such a thing happened, he was depressed for a few days, but went on joking after his personal mourning. He never had regrets. It was his job. That's the way trains work.

Now, about Heeven's hypodermic needle thing.
That's sicko!
0 Replies
 
gustavratzenhofer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 07:33 pm
fbaezer, your grandpa sounded like a cool guy. I would have liked to have known him.
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 08:24 pm
Yeah, gustav, me too.
I was a baby when he died.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 09:00 pm
truth
Yes, Dlowan, you dirty your hands either way. And that's the nature of most ethical problems. We tend to think that the ethical decision is one that chooses the good and moral outcome over a bad and immoral one. The reality is that conditions are usually such that one's best effort leaves a mixed result.
0 Replies
 
Adrian
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 09:19 pm
That's what I was getting at JLN. If the result is mixed either way then what is better? The CONCIOUS CHOICE to kill one person, or letting what will be, be?
0 Replies
 
Adrian
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 10:16 pm
Quote:
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?


Joe, If Edward left home that morning with the INTENT to kill someone with his trolley, then OF COURSE killing five would be more heinous than killing one. To suggest otherwise is just sillly. In the question as posed there is no intent on the part of the driver. There is a failure in the trolley. Under THOSE circumstances the driver is best served by inaction. When investigated, the focus would be on what caused the failure in the trolley. Not on whether Edward chose to switch tracks or not. Also, even if his decision were investigated there is no way he could be said to be liable either way, no matter what he chooses. The only pain he will feel will be that which he inflicts on himself.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 12:35 am
Yep, JL - the dirty hands are a given - in most real situations - that is why I tend to couch my thoughts in "least bad" rather than "most good".
0 Replies
 
rufio
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 04:19 am
Adrian, not choosing is a choice, too. So it's not a choice between letting fate have its way or killing one person - it's a choice between killing one person and killing 5 people. Apathy does not render you innocent of what you chose to do (or not to do).
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 08:54 am
Craven de Kere wrote:
Easy, I never said he had an obligation to choose what I consider to be the "right" choice.

Oh, I see: so when you said that he had no "moral obligation," you meant that he had no obligation of any kind. I get it now.

Craven de Kere wrote:
Now to cut this short let's be rid of the two logomachies.

I think we've found Craven's latest favorite word.

Craven de Kere wrote:
There are two prevailing logomachies in our exchange. Number one is that "right" is a moral word vs. a word illustrating preference (perhaps individual) in an individual criteria. The other is the difference between something being justified and being justified.

That is, being just or being justified to others.

No, sorry for the confusion. I meant "justified" in the sense of being logically justified.

Craven de Kere wrote:
Now if you were to ask why I think suffering is a bad thing it could just go on forever.

No, it could end very quickly. A casual reading of Bentham or J.S. Mill would demonstrate that.

Craven de Kere wrote:
So do you really not see that criteria as an acceptable axiom? If not let me know if you accept axioms at all. If not, there's no point in peeling away axioms. Ultimately there has to be an axiom.

Of course I accept axioms, just not ones that are ultimately based on a "sez me," since those don't qualify as axiomatic.

Watch:

You say that the driver should prefer (I won't say that he should choose, since you seem to reject all notion of obligation here) a course that leads to less suffering over one that leads to more suffering. Consequently, you have a criterion that places special emphasis on "suffering."

Now, what is the reason for this emphasis? It can't be morality, since you have specifically rejected that. If you had said something like "suffering is economically inefficient," then we could at least base your criterion on an economic axiom. Likewise, if you had said that "suffering is contrary to evolutionary progress," then we could find some sort of socio-biological axiom to explain your position. Instead, you have responded: "Me sez that's my personal preference in criteria."

Actually, I think your response is fairly representative. A lot of people respond to this type of hypothetical situation on a more-or-less gut level. Asked to explain their choices, most would ultimately respond as you have done: "that's just my personal preference" -- in other words, "sez me." But, as I have mentioned in other threads, the only proper response to a "sez me" is an "oh yeah?"

And so, in summary, Craven, I leave you with this final rejoinder:

OH YEAH?
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 09:08 am
Adrian: The purpose of my question was to find out why, when the trolley driver doesn't act, his killing of five is equivalent to the killing of one, whereas when he acts with intent, the killing of five is "more heinous" than the killing of one.

Your response seems to suggest that, in the former case, the trolley driver is absolved of all responsibility because it was the trolley company's fault for letting the brakes fail. But surely the trolley driver had some responsibility: i.e. he was responsible for choosing whether to turn or not turn the trolley. As rufio and others have pointed out, even the decision not to choose is a choice.

You've said that inaction, in this instance, is the best course for the driver. But that course leads to the deaths of five people. Now, if the driver had intentionally killed those five, we would punish him more severely than if he had killed only one. Yet you are suggesting that if he had merely "let the five die," when he had it in his power to kill one rather than kill five, his action (or inaction) should merit no blame.

So, five killed intentionally is worse than one killed intentionally, but five killed through inaction is the same as killing one through inaction. How do you explain the discrepency?
0 Replies
 
Terry
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 04:19 pm
To put another perspective on the question, suppose the person on the right-hand track was someone you knew.

Would you choose to kill a friend to save 5 strangers?

Would you choose to let 5 people die to avoid killing a friend?

Would your answer be different if you saw your own child standing on the track?
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 06:02 pm
joefromchicago wrote:

Craven de Kere wrote:
Now to cut this short let's be rid of the two logomachies.

I think we've found Craven's latest favorite word.


People like dlowan were saying that was my favorite word 3 years ago. <shrugs>

Quote:
Of course I accept axioms, just not ones that are ultimately based on a "sez me," since those don't qualify as axiomatic.


Ultimately there is always a "sez me". Give your answer and I'll get you to a "sez me".
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  2  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 06:39 pm
Joe - I am sure this is a dumb question, but can you explain/give some examples of what you consider to be reasonable axioms(axia?)?

I am having trouble doing so based on your examples - it seems to me in the example you give "economically inefficient" can easily be reduced back to the "sez me" you accuse Craven of - it just takes a few more steps to get there?
0 Replies
 
 

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