How do you act in the scenario?
I street the trolley, killing the lone man.
78.9% (30)
78.9% (30)
I steer the trolley, killing fthe five-man working-team.
2.6% (1)
2.6% (1)
I do nothing.
13.2% (5)
13.2% (5)
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Poll: The Trolley Problem

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A classic though-experiment in ethics, which I now share with you.
Imagine that you are the driver of a runaway tram which you can only steer from one narrow track on to another; five men are working on one track and one man on the other; anyone on the track you enters is bound to be killed. The real driver is nowhere to be found and it is up to you (no other passenger is in sight, nor do you have time to go find one) to decide the outcome.
Which is the "moral-optimum" action in this scenario? Do you steer to save the five men at the cost of the one man? Vice versa?
Perhaps you do nothing at all, since both cases lead to unwanted consequences, and without acting you can not be said to have been implied in the outcome at all (thus "absolving" you of guilt). You simply let the tram take whatever track it will.

What do you do?

Aren't there any breaks on the tram? Isn't there a horn on the tram? Can't the workmen on the tram tracks see there's a tram heading their way? Is this in Amsterdam?

But for the sake of arguement, I'd do nothing. I probably put my hands over my eyes and wait until the screaming is done.

Oh, sure, I could have been all heroic and cold and calculating, but I know myself, and I know that in a situation as extreme as that, I'd break down.

And I don't like this "ethics 101" you've been buggering about with. You lot make things always a lot more complicated then it is.

I'd always kill the chunk, even in the version where you push him in front of the tram.

Only in the hypothetical though, because I am certain that it will save the other five and that there is no other way. In the real world neither of those would be true, so I wouldn't.

Bassik:
Aren't there any breaks on the tram? Isn't there a horn on the tram? Can't the workmen on the tram tracks see there's a tram heading their way? Is this in Amsterdam?

But for the sake of arguement, I'd do nothing. I probably put my hands over my eyes and wait until the screaming is done.

Oh, sure, I could have been all heroic and cold and calculating, but I know myself, and I know that in a situation as extreme as that, I'd break down.

No, no, and no. It's a thought-experiment, so stop trying to derail it by appealing to factors not in the experiment.

Fair enough (I'd probably break down too), but that's not the point. Assume you do not break down, what would you do?

Realitycrash:

Bassik:
Aren't there any breaks on the tram? Isn't there a horn on the tram? Can't the workmen on the tram tracks see there's a tram heading their way? Is this in Amsterdam?

But for the sake of arguement, I'd do nothing. I probably put my hands over my eyes and wait until the screaming is done.

Oh, sure, I could have been all heroic and cold and calculating, but I know myself, and I know that in a situation as extreme as that, I'd break down.

No, no, and no. It's a thought-experiment, so stop trying to derail it by appealing to factors not in the experiment.

Fair enough (I'd probably break down too), but that's not the point. Assume you do not break down, what would you do?

Leave this philosophy class because I detest pseudo-intelecualism?

Bassik:

Realitycrash:

Bassik:
Aren't there any breaks on the tram? Isn't there a horn on the tram? Can't the workmen on the tram tracks see there's a tram heading their way? Is this in Amsterdam?

But for the sake of arguement, I'd do nothing. I probably put my hands over my eyes and wait until the screaming is done.

Oh, sure, I could have been all heroic and cold and calculating, but I know myself, and I know that in a situation as extreme as that, I'd break down.

No, no, and no. It's a thought-experiment, so stop trying to derail it by appealing to factors not in the experiment.

Fair enough (I'd probably break down too), but that's not the point. Assume you do not break down, what would you do?

Leave this philosophy class because I detest pseudo-intelecualism?

You never answered last time what "intellectualism" actually is, so I have no idea what you mean by the "pseudo"-prefix.

And oh. you entered freely. So the entire point of you entering was to say "No, I quit, this sucks"?

Edit: (But I get your point, thought-experiements are far too often far too constrictive to make any real sense)

Realitycrash:

Bassik:

Realitycrash:

No, no, and no. It's a thought-experiment, so stop trying to derail it by appealing to factors not in the experiment.

Fair enough (I'd probably break down too), but that's not the point. Assume you do not break down, what would you do?

Leave this philosophy class because I detest pseudo-intelecualism?

You never answered last time what "intellectualism" actually is, so I have no idea what you mean by the "pseudo"-prefix.

And oh. you entered freely. So the entire point of you entering was to say "No, I quit, this sucks"?

Yes, but only because it is tueseday.

I'm sorry, I was still a bit pissy from another thread you made, and I really, really don't like thought experiments like this.
I willingly tried to derail your thread, sorry about that.

That was very immature of me.

Bassik:

Realitycrash:

Bassik:

Leave this philosophy class because I detest pseudo-intelecualism?

You never answered last time what "intellectualism" actually is, so I have no idea what you mean by the "pseudo"-prefix.

And oh. you entered freely. So the entire point of you entering was to say "No, I quit, this sucks"?

Yes, but only because it is tueseday.

I'm sorry, I was still a bit pissy from another thread you made and willingly tried to derail this one.
That was very immature of me.

Fair enough. But why feel pissy about the last thread? Did it hurt you in some way, or violate some standing principle? (Trying to convery genuine confusion here, not sarcasm).

I'd try to find a reversing railroad switch so I can run over the five while going backwards. Carmageddon has taught me that doing this gets you extra style.

Do I know anyone? And in that case do I like that person? In that case, whichever track that person is on that is the one I save. If they are complete strangers, 5 lives > 1 life.

it may be a classic but it is a terrible question.

the problem is the choice is suppose to be 5 deaths with you having no involvement or 1 death saving 5 lives with your involvement, but because of the situation making it clear you have the chance to change tracks then not doing anything and killing the 5 is a concious choice and you are now involved in those deaths. basically the question assumes inaction = no responsibility for the deaths, in reality that simply is not the case.

Ok, the correct action is to kill the one and save the other, but I don't know if I'd be capable of doing so...be very easy to freeze until too late to avoid taking action.

Realitycrash:

Fair enough. But why feel pissy about the last thread? Did it hurt you in some way, or violate some standing principle? (Trying to convery genuine confusion here, not sarcasm).

Fair enough. It was the one about morality - why bother?
I can't really explain why that ticked me off, maybe because you made it a lot more complicated then it should be, and I detest making things complicated. But that's only part of it.

Bassik:

Realitycrash:

Fair enough. But why feel pissy about the last thread? Did it hurt you in some way, or violate some standing principle? (Trying to convery genuine confusion here, not sarcasm).

Fair enough. It was the one about morality - why bother?
I can't really explain why that ticked me off, maybe because you made it a lot more complicated then it should be, and I detest making things complicated. But that's only part of it.

The point was (as is the point of this thread) to start people thinking about if it really IS as clear-cut as we think it is. Yes, I could have started by saying "If you're an ass, noone will play with you, and a society of asses won't function", but that wouldn't have clearly answered the actual question.
So, I guess you find theoretical questions frustrating because...? Because it's hard to see a real-life application?

The logical thing to do would be to send the trolley onto the track with the one guy on it. But in that situation, you wouldn't act logically. I'd probably stand on the bridge, screaming and yelling to try and notify them and then the five guys would die.

reonhato:
it may be a classic but it is a terrible question.

the problem is the choice is suppose to be 5 deaths with you having no involvement or 1 death saving 5 lives with your involvement, but because of the situation making it clear you have the chance to change tracks then not doing anything and killing the 5 is a concious choice and you are now involved in those deaths. basically the question assumes inaction = no responsibility for the deaths, in reality that simply is not the case.

Yes, while you would be responcible under law for the deaths you caused by changing the direction of the trolley, you would be morally responcible no matter what action you take.
So one then asks: what is the correct ethical act?

Realitycrash:

Bassik:

Realitycrash:

Fair enough. But why feel pissy about the last thread? Did it hurt you in some way, or violate some standing principle? (Trying to convery genuine confusion here, not sarcasm).

Fair enough. It was the one about morality - why bother?
I can't really explain why that ticked me off, maybe because you made it a lot more complicated then it should be, and I detest making things complicated. But that's only part of it.

The point was (as is the point of this thread) to start people thinking about if it really IS as clear-cut as we think it is. Yes, I could have started by saying "If you're an ass, noone will play with you, and a society of asses won't function", but that wouldn't have clearly answered the actual question.
So, I guess you find theoretical questions frustrating because...? Because it's hard to see a real-life application?

Not at all, I am all for theoretical questions, but in the other thread you ommited biology completeley from your stance, while recently it is being revealed that morality has it's roots in biology.

Realitycrash:

reonhato:
it may be a classic but it is a terrible question.

the problem is the choice is suppose to be 5 deaths with you having no involvement or 1 death saving 5 lives with your involvement, but because of the situation making it clear you have the chance to change tracks then not doing anything and killing the 5 is a concious choice and you are now involved in those deaths. basically the question assumes inaction = no responsibility for the deaths, in reality that simply is not the case.

Yes, while you would be responcible under law for the deaths you caused by changing the direction of the trolley, you would be morally responcible no matter what action you take.
So one then asks: what is the correct ethical act?

I don't think there is a correct way to act. You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

Skeleon:
The logical thing to do would be to send the trolley onto the track with the one guy on it. But in that situation, you wouldn't act logically. I'd probably stand on the bridge, screaming and yelling to try and notify them and then the five guys would die.

A friendly warning: That's not the "logical" thing to do, because "logic" does not work that way or has anything to do with the case ^^ (It's friendly in the fact that I am informing you before some rage:er shows up and screams "U FAIL LOGIC FOREVAR!!!!").
Logic is a conclusion that follows the premisses. Well, premisses of "what is the right action?" depends on what your view of the world is.
An Utilitarian would support your views. Others might not.

Bassik:

Realitycrash:

reonhato:
it may be a classic but it is a terrible question.

the problem is the choice is suppose to be 5 deaths with you having no involvement or 1 death saving 5 lives with your involvement, but because of the situation making it clear you have the chance to change tracks then not doing anything and killing the 5 is a concious choice and you are now involved in those deaths. basically the question assumes inaction = no responsibility for the deaths, in reality that simply is not the case.

Yes, while you would be responcible under law for the deaths you caused by changing the direction of the trolley, you would be morally responcible no matter what action you take.
So one then asks: what is the correct ethical act?

I don't think there is a correct way to act. You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

You might have guilt no matter what you do (you will have taken a life), but damned?
Why shouldn't we save the five over the one? And if we should, then it's the correct way to act, and ths you are not damned.

Realitycrash:

Bassik:

Realitycrash:

Yes, while you would be responcible under law for the deaths you caused by changing the direction of the trolley, you would be morally responcible no matter what action you take.
So one then asks: what is the correct ethical act?

I don't think there is a correct way to act. You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

You might have guilt no matter what you do (you will have taken a life), but damned?
Why shouldn't we save the five over the one? And if we should, then it's the correct way to act, and ths you are not damned.

Who are you to decide who lives or dies? Maybe the one was a doctor with no borders, while the five where nazi pedophiles.

What about the next of kin of the one person? Would they agree with your decision? Would the courts? Would anyone?

Bassik:

Realitycrash:

Bassik:

Fair enough. It was the one about morality - why bother?
I can't really explain why that ticked me off, maybe because you made it a lot more complicated then it should be, and I detest making things complicated. But that's only part of it.

The point was (as is the point of this thread) to start people thinking about if it really IS as clear-cut as we think it is. Yes, I could have started by saying "If you're an ass, noone will play with you, and a society of asses won't function", but that wouldn't have clearly answered the actual question.
So, I guess you find theoretical questions frustrating because...? Because it's hard to see a real-life application?

Not at all, I am all for theoretical questions, but in the other thread you ommited biology completeley from your stance, while recently it is being revealed that morality has it's roots in biology.

Let me be clearer then: Say you are born with a birth-defect. Does this mean you will let it define you? Does it make you who you are by necessity? No. You can make whatever you want with your life, though this defect may in some cases hold you back.
Now it might be hard, and it might not be worth the trouble, but ignoring morality (even if it is genetic) is really the same thing. Just because we are born in a certain way (alstruistic, for instance) it really does not follow from this premiss that we thus should act this way. It simply doesn't (and the same scienticst that have done the research will agree). There is no logical connection.
Thus, as I pointed out, it became an issue of pragmatics (it's easier to live this way. Far easier), but is in no way compelling.

Bassik:

Realitycrash:

Bassik:

I don't think there is a correct way to act. You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

You might have guilt no matter what you do (you will have taken a life), but damned?
Why shouldn't we save the five over the one? And if we should, then it's the correct way to act, and ths you are not damned.

Who are you to decide who lives or dies? Maybe the one was a doctor with no borders, while the five where nazi pedophiles.

What about the next of kin of the one person? Would they agree with your decision? Would the courts? Would anyone?

I am the man in charge of the situation, the only one who CAN decide who lives or dies here. I make similar decisions several times a day (where I spend my money, what charity I donate to, etc), affecting society around me.
Now, you are right that these people might be nazi-molesters, and the sole man a hero, but statistics clearly beg the differ. I will have to act on the information I have at hand.
I know, this reduces the ethical question to something akin to math, and it upsets a lot of people.

Realitycrash:

Bassik:

Realitycrash:

You might have guilt no matter what you do (you will have taken a life), but damned?
Why shouldn't we save the five over the one? And if we should, then it's the correct way to act, and ths you are not damned.

Who are you to decide who lives or dies? Maybe the one was a doctor with no borders, while the five where nazi pedophiles.

What about the next of kin of the one person? Would they agree with your decision? Would the courts? Would anyone?

I am the man in charge of the situation, the only one who CAN decide who lives or dies here. I make similar decisions several times a day (where I spend my money, what charity I donate to, etc), affecting society around me.
Now, you are right that these people might be nazi-molesters, and the sole man a hero, but statistics clearly beg the differ. I will have to act on the information I have at hand.
I know, this reduces the ethical question to something akin to math, and it upsets a lot of people.

Because not everything is maths. There are things you can't quantify. If you could, you could make an equation for everything, even predicting the future of societies.
But you can't.
Morality is a lot deeper then mathmatics in people. It's as deep as emotion, speech, balance and all those nice little programs in our brains that are the result of millions of years of evolution.
You can pretend you are not an animal anymore all you like, but you are governed by your brain, making you feel a certain way to encourage certain behaviour. You can go against your programming, our intellect is developed enough to take charge, but it's not going to be easy, and you'll feel like crap most of the time.

Image my car is going straight at a mass of people. I cannot break anymore, and if I steer to the left or the right, I'll avoid the mass of people but still hit some people.

image

Is that not roughly the same situation? And isn't it common sense to try to steer away from the place where the most people are?

Realitycrash:

Skeleon:
The logical thing to do would be to send the trolley onto the track with the one guy on it. But in that situation, you wouldn't act logically. I'd probably stand on the bridge, screaming and yelling to try and notify them and then the five guys would die.

A friendly warning: That's not the "logical" thing to do, because "logic" does not work that way or has anything to do with the case ^^ (It's friendly in the fact that I am informing you before some rage:er shows up and screams "U FAIL LOGIC FOREVAR!!!!").
Logic is a conclusion that follows the premisses. Well, premisses of "what is the right action?" depends on what your view of the world is.
An Utilitarian would support your views. Others might not.

Sort of. Logic always depends on the "input", if you will, the premises as you said. If you value human life, then it's logical to try and prevent as many deaths as possible and choose the option with less deaths. If you value something different (like a Deontologist might), then sure, the logical thing would be something different as the input, as the most valued aspect will differ. But I think it's wrong to say logic doesn't have "anything to do" with this.
Now, sure, I could've said "based on my views, it's logical to..." or something along those lines, but quite frankly, that shouldn't be necessary considering it's my post with my particular answer to the dilemma.

Danyal:
Image my car is going straight at a mass of people. I cannot break anymore, and if I steer to the left or the right, I'll avoid the mass of people but still hit some people.

image

Is that not roughly the same situation? And isn't it common sense to try to steer away from the place where the most people are?

This I like a lot more, it's a much more realistic situation.
Still, steering into the smaller group of people is probably no more then a reflex, and not a conciouss decision.

I think this quote from a comedy series (yes) sums up why I dislike all the psychobabble on morality so much:

Holly:
"As the days go by, we face the increasing inevitability that we are alone in a Godless, uninhabited, hostile and meaningless universe. Still, you've got to laugh, haven't you?"

I'd aim for the one person but do everything in my power to get him to move out of the way.
Maybe even climb out to shout at him.
Though, if trams you're thinking of are the same I am, you'd really think that some guy would look out if there is a incoming vehicle before crossing the track but I'd be under too much guilt if I let darwin take it's course

Bassik:

Realitycrash:

Bassik:

Who are you to decide who lives or dies? Maybe the one was a doctor with no borders, while the five where nazi pedophiles.

What about the next of kin of the one person? Would they agree with your decision? Would the courts? Would anyone?

I am the man in charge of the situation, the only one who CAN decide who lives or dies here. I make similar decisions several times a day (where I spend my money, what charity I donate to, etc), affecting society around me.
Now, you are right that these people might be nazi-molesters, and the sole man a hero, but statistics clearly beg the differ. I will have to act on the information I have at hand.
I know, this reduces the ethical question to something akin to math, and it upsets a lot of people.

Because not everything is maths. There are things you can't quantify. If you could, you could make an equation for everything, even predicting the future of societies.
But you can't.
Morality is a lot deeper then mathmatics in people. It's as deep as emotion, speech, balance and all those nice little programs in our brains that are the result of millions of years of evolution.
You can pretend you are not an animal anymore all you like, but you are governed by your brain, making you feel a certain way to encourage certain behaviour. You can go against your programming, our intellect is developed enough to take charge, but it's not going to be easy, and you'll feel like crap most of the time.

True, I can't do it. I can't quantify everything. Because I suck at math. But I can aim at the most likely scenario, and go form there. It won't be 100% correct all the time, but I can't be demanded to do more.

Yes, you are correct, we have some barriers in grained (from evolution and from social conditioning), but just because it's hard, doesn't mean it isn't the right thing to do.
One can, however, then argue that "but such a morality is futile! We need a more depenadable one, one that falls in alignment with our common intuitions about morality, so that we don't go around and feel like crap because we made the right choice!", and that's fine, but then one needs to structure a new set of rules that govern not by math, but by abstract principles and objective values.
and that, my friend, has equally many problems.

Skeleon:

Realitycrash:

Skeleon:
The logical thing to do would be to send the trolley onto the track with the one guy on it. But in that situation, you wouldn't act logically. I'd probably stand on the bridge, screaming and yelling to try and notify them and then the five guys would die.

A friendly warning: That's not the "logical" thing to do, because "logic" does not work that way or has anything to do with the case ^^ (It's friendly in the fact that I am informing you before some rage:er shows up and screams "U FAIL LOGIC FOREVAR!!!!").
Logic is a conclusion that follows the premisses. Well, premisses of "what is the right action?" depends on what your view of the world is.
An Utilitarian would support your views. Others might not.

Sort of. Logic always depends on the "input", if you will, the premises as you said. If you value human life, then it's logical to try and prevent as many deaths as possible and choose the option with less deaths. If you value something different (like a Deontologist might), then sure, the logical thing would be something different as the input, as the most valued aspect will differ. But I think it's wrong to say logic doesn't have "anything to do" with this.
Now, sure, I could've said "based on my views, it's logical to..." or something along those lines, but quite frankly, that shouldn't be necessary considering it's my post with my particular answer to the dilemma.

Never underestimate what others will imply from a post you thought were clear and concise.

I made a similar thread to this back in January and I found it interesting to see how many people either insisted that they would choose inaction, since the situation has "nothing to do with them", or flatly refused to answer the question. I can only chalk this up to some kind of "head in the sand" reaction, a distancing or disassociating tactic to deny complicitness in the situation. I can understand this: if it's a lose-lose situation then of course it's an undesirable situation to be put in. But inaction is still a choice and inaction still has consequences.

I'd sacrifice one guy to save five.

Realitycrash:
Never underestimate what others will imply from a post you thought were clear and concise.

Point taken. ^^

Steer it into one person.

Without any other factors to judge by, five lives are worth five times as much as one life and causing the death of one person is a significantly better outcome than causing the death of five. Driving it down the track with one problem is the correct solution, as causing the death of five people is just stupid if we don't have any additional knowledge about them (Eg five Nazis vs one nun) and avoiding making a decision and letting the tram go down a path by chance avoids the opportunity to mitigate potential harm.

This of course supposes a composed decision. If this were to actually happen I'm sure a fair amount of us would just go into a panic, cry and shit ourselves or try hopelessly to just turn the brakes on.

Hmm, a comparison.

Or for a real example (ish), you've got a plane that's been hijacked by terrorists planning to fly it into a major building full of people, and you have fighter aircraft capable of shooting it down over some uninhabited (or mostly uninhabited) area.[1]

Now, in this case, the people on the plane are dead no matter what, whereas in the OP, at least one person dies either way, it's just not the same one person.

Does it make a difference if the person you are killing would die anyway, or is it just the number of people dying that matter?

[1] IIRC, the US did have a policy of shotting them down set up for this sort of thing, they just were too slow in putting it into effect.

The only "moral" action in this scenario I see is tracking down whoever put me in it and giving him a piece of my mind, then have him hauled away because it's clear he's one sick, sick man. For the record, such "third option" answers are pretty much guaranteed from me whenever the scenario proposed is grossly unrealistic, because I don't consider "morality" to have any value in an imaginary situation.

Now, if, if, I found myself in such a situation by some kind of a contrived coincidence without it being the fault of anyone but the whole cosmos hating on me, then...then I have no clue what I'd do. I would do something, but I just don't know what, you see, since the circumstance would not allow for a rational and careful analysis, so I can't pretend, can't imagine myself in such a situation.

Then again if the entirety of cosmos is hating on me, I might as well try to crash through the front windows and derail the blasted thing using my own mortal coil cause there's no way it's letting me walk away.. Who knows, it may work. You can't really talk about morality when it comes to decisions made on a whim, under duress, in a split-second. They're not rational.

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