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Irishman
2006-Jan-16, 02:59 AM
I ran across an interesting morality quiz with some ramifications I am having trouble sorting out. I thought I'd share the quiz, and then later post the dilemma for consideration. Here goes.

Consider the following three scenarios. For each, fill in the blank with morally "obligatory", "permissible", or "forbidden".

1. A runaway trolley is about to run over five people walking on the tracks. A railway worker is standing next to a switch that can turn the trolley onto a side track, killing one person, but allowing the five to survive. Flipping the switch is __________.
[For the sake of clarity, the one person is not the railway operator who can throw the switch, but some other person.]

2. You pass by a small child drowning in a small pond, and you are the only other person around. If you pick up the child, she will survive and your pants will be ruined. Picking up the child is ___________.

3. Five people have just been rushed into a hospital in critical care, each requiring an organ to survive. There is not enough time to request organs from outside the hospital. There is, however, a healthy person in the hospital's waiting room. If the surgeon takes this person's organs, he will die, but the five in critical care will survive. Taking the healthy person's organs is _____________.


I would like some responses from others, and will post later with more discussion and the second part of the topic, the dilemma.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 03:05 AM
1) Obligatory.
2) Obligatory.
3) Forbidden.

I'm going to assume that your dilemma is the fact that you consider situations 1 and 3 to be very similar but their moral implications to be diametrically opposed. Situation 1 is intuitively solved by Utilitarianism, but this is not sufficient for situation 3. It leaves you feeling dirty, even though you have saved five people by killing one.

Correct?

If this is the case, the dilemma can be dealt with quite handily. The theory of Rule Utilitarianism states that we are obliged to pursue rules that result in the greatest happiness overall, not individual actions that result in the greatest happiness in a certain situation. The reason for this is that sometimes following individual acts can create the greatest happiness in that situation, but not the greatest happiness overall. In situation 3 of your quiz, Act Utilitarianism dictates that the surgeon harvest the organs, resulting in the most happiness in that one case. But then what happens? A precedent has been set: don't go to a hospital, the doctor will cut you up and distribute you. You can imagine what harms would result from that. Rule Utilitarianism anticipates this. The five would have to die in situation 3. This is less than optimal in that individual case, but overall, greater good is done. You can trust doctors. Hospitals can function.

I am of course assuming that this is your dilemma.

Chuck
2006-Jan-16, 04:02 AM
#1 isn't so obvious. The lone person might have a legitmate reason for being on the track and had previously checked to make sure that it wasn't scheduled to be used at that time. The other five might be a bunch of twits playing on the track to show off how brave they are. Is it fair to kill one person to save five who are intentionally putting themselves at risk?

#3 is similar. Is it fair to sacrifice one person who took good care of himself to save five who didn't?

I'd say: forbidden obligatory forbiddenunless we know more about the circumstances.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 04:05 AM
I'd say the circumstances are irrelevant. But you're coming at the problem from a Deontological point of view (assuming the one killed by the trolley has a reason to be there, you assign him a greater individual right to not be run over than five idiots), while I'm coming at it from a Utilitarian point of view (which makes no distinction as to rights, just the greatest happiness produced by a course of action). Neither is more right than the other, both are just opinion and belief.

Vaelroth
2006-Jan-16, 04:13 AM
1. Permissible
2. Obligatory
3. Forbidden

I'm going off of my own bias here, but after reading the responses in the thread I changed my first answer from Obligatory to Permissible as sacrificing one person instead of letting 5 die is no better than letting 5 die and allowing one person to live for whatever reasons.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 04:19 AM
Out of curiosity (and if it isn't too personal) may I ask why?

Chuck
2006-Jan-16, 04:33 AM
I'd say the circumstances are irrelevant. But you're coming at the problem from a Deontological point of view (assuming the one killed by the trolley has a reason to be there, you assign him a greater individual right to not be run over than five idiots), while I'm coming at it from a Utilitarian point of view (which makes no distinction as to rights, just the greatest happiness produced by a course of action). Neither is more right than the other, both are just opinion and belief.

People care about their own rights, so rights matter. The rest of society might be far happier knowing that the right of one person to live will be respected even if others foolishly choose to risk their lives. Happiness might be maximized by letting the five die. If I had to make such a choice I'd do them the courtesy of letting them be responsible for their own predicaments. I might decide differently with different information.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 04:36 AM
Alright, now I see what you're saying, sorry. I find myself in agreement. But the intent of the question seems to be that all six people are in the exact same circumstance. (i.e., one of them isn't going to be the next Hitler, nor the next Gandhi)

Vaelroth
2006-Jan-16, 04:36 AM
Its not too personal at all. My personal beliefs are essentialy that of Utilitarianism, but I make exceptions for situations that have no clear answer and need to be worked with in multiple ways before a compromise between different philosophies is found. I'm still in HS and still learning the names and labels for a lot of things, but I understand a lot of philosophies of which I don't know the names for (as in Utilitarianism, thats a new name with which I can label a philosophy with).

In the case of #1, Permissible is the better answer because it shows concern for the life of the person who will die. The answer of Obligatory is too cold and machine like, almost as if you calculated the chances of survival for both options and chose the one with the greatest rate of survival. That idea is what turned me off to the answer of Obligatory. Also, the answer of Permissible states that the choice to save the five lives at the expense of one is still made.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 04:41 AM
I see. To me, though, "permissible" means that the choice to flip the switch and the choice to not flip the switch are morally equivalent; it is not a given that it will be flipped.

Also, ironically, Utilitarianism was intended as a way of literally calculating which decision in a moral dilemma would be the right one. One would compare the utility (happiness or goodness) resultant from the choices. The choice with the greatest utility always wins. Concern is given to the one life, but more (in fact, exactly 5 times) is given to the five lives. Thus, according to Utilitarianism, the choice to flip the switch is obligatory. Unless, of course (and thanks to Chuck for pointing this out) the circumstances are such that the value of the one life is more than that of the five (i.e. the guy will cure cancer in five years). In that case, Utilitarianism obliges you to not flip the switch. So in that sense, "obligatory" is calculating, but not cold. On the contrary, it is an attempt to ensure that the best possible outcome occurs.

Also, to be clear, I'm not trying to convince anyone here. Just explaining my answers and Utilitarianism to boot. I find it all fascinating.

Chuck
2006-Jan-16, 04:42 AM
Alright, now I see what you're saying, sorry. I find myself in agreement. But the intent of the question seems to be that all six people are in the exact same circumstance. (i.e., one of them isn't going to be the next Hitler, nor the next Gandhi)
They're not quite in the same situation. Five of them have made a very dangerous decision. One has made a somewhat less dangerous decision. That's seems important to me.

Vaelroth
2006-Jan-16, 04:46 AM
I completely understand. I may have been able to word what I said better, I'm sure. But I'm not quite sure how to phrase it so that Permissible works better than obligatory. I think its that Permissible allows emotion to be added to the Utilitarianist view, while retaining the choice that Utilitarianism concludes.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 04:48 AM
Chuck: No, it's the same situation. We just disagree as to what overrides the five peoples' right to live. You say their idiocy is enough. I say that it isn't. They'd have to be collectively worth less to humanity as a whole than the other person is (and I know that there is no way to quantify this; that's where our disagreement stems from).

Vaelroth: I see what you mean as well. "Permissible" is a softer word than "obligatory." "Obligatory" seems like it precludes free will; you do what you must without caring about the consequences because it is right. Right?

Vaelroth
2006-Jan-16, 04:55 AM
Exactly Supreme. You've got my drift.

Chuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:02 AM
Chuck: No, it's the same situation. We just disagree as to what overrides the five peoples' right to live. You say their idiocy is enough. I say that it isn't. They'd have to be collectively worth less to humanity as a whole than the other person is (and I know that there is no way to quantify this; that's where our disagreement stems from).

Vaelroth: I see what you mean as well. "Permissible" is a softer word than "obligatory." "Obligatory" seems like it precludes free will; you do what you must without caring about the consequences because it is right. Right?

A straight count of lives doesn't seem like the best way to decide. Rights and responsibility for one's own actions are important too. I don't think that a driver should kill me on the sidewalk to avoid killing five drunken jaywalkers. But, as you say, it's a difference of opinion.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:03 AM
Vaelroth: And I agree that "obligatory" is harsh. The decision is harsh. But you are morally compelled to do it because it is right, even if you fell crummy doing it. That's where the compassion comes in: you feel for the person you kill (and likely you'll feel guilty until the day you die) but it was still the right thing to do.

Chuck: And that's why ethics intrigue me so. ;)

Anyway, I'm not advocating a straight count of lives. That's just one factor in determining who dies. I just give the right to life a lot of weight in how I decide. There are a lot of grey areas. In the scenario you give, for example, I would say that the driver is right to avoid hitting the drunks but that the drunks are wrong for running out into the street. The driver is not morally responsible for your death because he was doing his moral duty. The drunks are responsible for your death because they caused the driver to swerve while not doing their moral duty. That's where I'd slot responsibility in.

Vaelroth
2006-Jan-16, 05:05 AM
Well, consider that all six persons were drunk and just messing around on the tracks. The five guys are together messing around and the one person on the other tracks is also drunk and messing around by his lonesome.

Does that make things work out any better?

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:10 AM
They are then all in the same condition (assuming all else is equal). So I'd flip the switch. But then I would anyway.

From my understanding of Chuck's viewpoint, he would as well since all six are doing equally idiotic things; all are equally responsible for being there. In that case, a strict count of lives takes over. Yes?

Chuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:17 AM
I couldn't assume that the one not in danger made the same decision as the other five.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:21 AM
Well, it's a hypothetical. But if it weren't, what would you do, not knowing that he was in the same state as the five? Some decision has to be made.

Edit: Oh, I see. They're more reckless since they're on the track that the trolley will go down if no change is made. But what if neither group was aware which track was more dangerous? Is the recklessness an objective thing or is it a subjective thing (i.e. it's only more reckless because they know it is)?

Chuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:21 AM
I'd say the driver is wrong to kill me to avoid hitting the drunks because they took the risk of incapicitating themselves and disobeying traffic laws. I should not have be the one to suffer the consequences of their action no matter how many of them there are.

Chuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:23 AM
Well, it's a hypothetical. But if it weren't, what would you do, not knowing that he was in the same state as the five? Some decision has to be made.I would let the 5 die. They might all be in the same condition except for location but I'm not going to kill someone just in case.

Chuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:26 AM
People are ultimately responsible for their own safety. In spite of that, I'd save someone in danger anyway, but I wouldn't kill someone else to do so, even if it meant more death.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:26 AM
Hm. Interesting. If the situation were changed so that by pulling the lever you would avoid killing one person but kill five also result in you not pulling the lever? (I know, weird question, but I think I'm going somewhere)

Edit: Which was dealt with perfectly by your last post. I still have to disagree, but again, that's just opinion speaking.

Chuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:28 AM
No, I would still not pull the lever.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:30 AM
Yep, I gathered that. Sorry that I didn't see your post before I submitted mine.

Chuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:30 AM
That's if I understand your question correctly. I read it again and now I'm not sure I do.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:30 AM
Exactly the same as in the OP, but the positions of the two groups of people (one of five, one of one) are switched.

Chuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:32 AM
Then I wouldn't pull the lever. It doesn't seem right to save people who have endangered themselves if it means killing someone who hasn't.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:36 AM
But what if they had no way of knowing that they were endangering themselves?

Chuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:45 AM
If I knew that for sure then it would be different. Someone on railroad tracks with a train approaching looks a lot like he's endangered himself. Trains are dangerous.

snarkophilus
2006-Jan-16, 05:48 AM
I ran across an interesting morality quiz with some ramifications I am having trouble sorting out. I thought I'd share the quiz, and then later post the dilemma for consideration. Here goes.

Consider the following three scenarios. For each, fill in the blank with morally "obligatory", "permissible", or "forbidden".

1. Flipping the switch is __________.

2. Picking up the child is ___________.

3. Taking the healthy person's organs is _____________.


It's so nice not to have a defined set of morals, and thus to be totally untroubled by such questions.

1. I'd flip the switch, unless I thought the one guy was more important to the well-being of the world than the five, in which case I'd think it my responsibility to keep that guy alive

2. Obviously I'd pick up the kid. Several million years of evolution would kick in at that point. My pants are not necessary to the survival of the race. (Actually, I rarely wear pants, but that's another matter entirely :) )

3. Murder. That doesn't mean it's wrong necessarily, but I'd say it is if the healthy guy had a reasonable expectation that his organs weren't going to be harvested when he went in. On the other hand, if they lived in a society where that was a normal thing, then the guy should have stayed away from the hospital if he valued his life. The only way I would think it's wrong is if there was an unexpected deception involved. (That is, you can't change the rules in the middle of the game, unless that game is Calvinball.)

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:54 AM
Chuck: I see. So the recklessness is subjective, not objective. I was just wondering where the right to life outweighed other considerations from your point of view.

Snarkophilus: But having trustworthy doctors and hospitals that you can go to without fear of getting cut up and given away benefits society, doesn't it? It allows people to get medical care rather than stay away due to fear. So wouldn't the murder be wrong as it harms society by harming the view of hospitals as safe?

I love this stuff. :)

Chuck
2006-Jan-16, 05:59 AM
I can't evaluate every possible situation in advance. The one given in this problem is kind of obvious. Others might require that I decide on the spot.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 06:03 AM
Yes, that is a problem, isn't it?

farmerjumperdon
2006-Jan-16, 02:01 PM
I don't think a person is ever obligated or forbidden to save another's life, not in the strictest sense of the words; and primarily because I think that the underlying "morals" that would lead to such a conclusion are a human invention - not absolute truths to which we must adhere. They are a more like a social contract, and the most I should expect from saving or killing someone is that I should not be surprised if others were to treat me the same.

That being said, my answers come from 2 ideals - personal liberty and being practical/pragmatic. I wouldn't touch the switch - not my call to say who lives and dies in that situation if the setup dictates that someone must die. I'd save the child - not practical to save my pants instead of the kid. And the healthy person would be safe - it's a matter of personal liberty. In addition, the harvestee has the right to kill anyone who tries to take their innards by force.

I have no trouble with these kinds of quizzes; primarily because I don't give a whole lot of value to human-created "morals." They are too plastic to be revered. They change from culture to culture and over time.

hhEb09'1
2006-Jan-16, 02:35 PM
They are then all in the same condition (assuming all else is equal). So I'd flip the switch. But then I would anyway.I'm still trying to figure out--if we have so much time that we can actually switch the trolley onto another set of tracks--why we wouldn't yell at them and tell them to jump off the tracks. The tracks aren't that wide, are they? :)

mickal555
2006-Jan-16, 02:43 PM
I'm still trying to figure out--if we have so much time that we can actually switch the trolley onto another set of tracks--why we wouldn't yell at them and tell them to jump off the tracks. The tracks aren't that wide, are they? :)]

You are the train control station and you are watching a video camera of it then...

Argos
2006-Jan-16, 02:48 PM
Obligatory, obligatory, forbidden.

SeanF
2006-Jan-16, 02:52 PM
In the scenario you give, for example, I would say that the driver is right to avoid hitting the drunks but that the drunks are wrong for running out into the street. The driver is not morally responsible for your death because he was doing his moral duty. The drunks are responsible for your death because they caused the driver to swerve while not doing their moral duty. That's where I'd slot responsibility in.
Nothing personal, but you ought not to have a driver's license. :)

I'm curious why you draw a different conclusion in this case than in the hospital case. Don't you think that it's better for society if we can expect vehicles' drivers to restrict themselves to the roads and not be driving on the sidewalks?

Numbers 2 and 3 are definitely obligatory and forbidden, respectively. I'm still thinking about number 1, but I'm leaning toward obligatory. :)

Doodler
2006-Jan-16, 02:56 PM
I ran across an interesting morality quiz with some ramifications I am having trouble sorting out. I thought I'd share the quiz, and then later post the dilemma for consideration. Here goes.

Consider the following three scenarios. For each, fill in the blank with morally "obligatory", "permissible", or "forbidden".

1. A runaway trolley is about to run over five people walking on the tracks. A railway worker is standing next to a switch that can turn the trolley onto a side track, killing one person, but allowing the five to survive. Flipping the switch is __________.
[For the sake of clarity, the one person is not the railway operator who can throw the switch, but some other person.]

2. You pass by a small child drowning in a small pond, and you are the only other person around. If you pick up the child, she will survive and your pants will be ruined. Picking up the child is ___________.

3. Five people have just been rushed into a hospital in critical care, each requiring an organ to survive. There is not enough time to request organs from outside the hospital. There is, however, a healthy person in the hospital's waiting room. If the surgeon takes this person's organs, he will die, but the five in critical care will survive. Taking the healthy person's organs is _____________.


I would like some responses from others, and will post later with more discussion and the second part of the topic, the dilemma.

1. Forbidden. By doing nothing, nature takes its course. By flipping the switch, he's a murderer.

2. Obligatory. No explanation needed.

3. Forbidden. Triage sucks, doesn't it?

hhEb09'1
2006-Jan-16, 03:09 PM
Numbers 2 and 3 are definitely obligatory and forbidden, respectively. I'm still thinking about number 1, but I'm leaning toward obligatory. :)I'm still trying to get more clarification. :)

If we're watching this on video camera, how do we know that the people on the track aren't getting ready to get off the track? Are they having a picnic? Why didn't we notice that before?

Roy Batty
2006-Jan-16, 03:11 PM
1. Can't decide between obligatory or permissable.. leaning towards former.
I don't see the 'nature takes its course' argument at all. By inaction then surely you are a murderer of five people instead of one?

2. Obligatory.

3. Forbidden. But then I open myself up to what I said in 1, except 3. seems a lot more premeditated than 1. which seems more a split second decision from the description. I'm also a bit of a Utilitarianist it seems :)

This is all very interesting & so are all the responses so far!

Ilya
2006-Jan-16, 03:18 PM
1. A runaway trolley is about to run over five people walking on the tracks. A railway worker is standing next to a switch that can turn the trolley onto a side track, killing one person, but allowing the five to survive. Flipping the switch is __________.
[For the sake of clarity, the one person is not the railway operator who can throw the switch, but some other person.]
#1 is ridiculously oversimplified. How do I know the person will REALLY hit the switch in correct direction? I may kill him for nothing. How do I know he won't overpower me and throw ME onto the rails? Or perhaps he will grab onto something as he falls, neither kill me nor die himself, and I am then charged with attempted murder? Come to think of it, I could be charged with murder here in any case.

My point is, overwhelming majority of humans will NOT actually push someone in this situation -- not out of moral reasoning, but out of self-interest and uncertainty.

Doodler
2006-Jan-16, 03:23 PM
1. Can't decide between obligatory or permissable.. leaning towards former.
I don't see the 'nature takes its course' argument at all. By inaction then surely you are a murderer of five people instead of one?

2. Obligatory.

3. Forbidden. But then I open myself up to what I said in 1, except 3. seems a lot more premeditated than 1. which seems more a split second decision from the description. I'm also a bit of a Utilitarianist it seems :)

This is all very interesting & so are all the responses so far!

My response to #1 shouldn't be construed as black and white, its a gray area to be sure. The way I see it, inaction leads to a fatal accident. Action would save their lives, however, it would end up taking the life of someone who would otherwise not have died. Knowing this ahead of time and still acting upon it is second degree murder. Its not premeditated, but it is still the willful taking of a life that would not otherwise have been lost. I wouldn't see that as permissible and definitely not obligatory, because no one should have the right, nor should they be obligated, to play God.

Roy Batty
2006-Jan-16, 03:27 PM
Well I'd prefer for the law & god to be taken out of the debate since neither necessarily have anything to do with the ethics/morals under discussion :)

Doodler
2006-Jan-16, 03:31 PM
Well I'd prefer for the law & god to be taken out of the debate since neither necessarily have anything to do with the ethics/morals under discussion :)

Law is definitely a factor here, because it is an aspect of self preservation to avoid trouble with authorities. Self preservation is definitely a factor in ethical and moral decisions because it is one way of quantifying the risks involved. My reference to "playing God" was not religious, only a way of expressing that no one should be forced into a position where they are required to decide who lives and who dies (Triage nurses, doctors and soldiers excepted).

Argos
2006-Jan-16, 03:31 PM
About #1, isn´t there a horn in that darn train? :)

hhEb09'1
2006-Jan-16, 03:38 PM
Come to think of it, I could be charged with murder here in any case.Right. If you're watching it on video camera, then you probably were asleep when they walked on to the rails, unless there is unlimited access--but then there would be unlimited egress too.

About #1, isn´t here a horn in that darn train? :)Another detail! :)

Roy Batty
2006-Jan-16, 03:43 PM
Lol Argos :)
Sorry Doodler, didn't mean to imply you meant it religiously. And yes the law is a very important part of societies ethical framework. I think the questions were meant to be taken at a fairly simplistic level though ie no horns:) or prior knowledge that one person is Hitler/Gandhi etc.
But I do respectfully disagree with your stance as I understand it. I agree no one Should be forced into that position. But we are dealing here with a hypothetical (but still possible) situation, where I see Inaction to be just as important as Action & not just some sort of null option.

Roy Batty
2006-Jan-16, 03:51 PM
Oh where is Irishman to respond to this can of worms? (http://www.comixfan.com/xfan/images/columns/canworms_logo.jpg) he's opened :D ;)

R.A.F.
2006-Jan-16, 03:51 PM
#1 doesn't provide enough information to make an "informed" judgement.

#2 Pants?? It is possible that person could be held responsible if they didn't help...though the choice between saving a child's life and pants is a "no-brainer".

#3 The first rule of medicine...do no harm. There would be harm in taking a healthy person's organs.

SG-1 Fan
2006-Jan-16, 03:55 PM
1. Permissible, but there is just not enough information to make a decision. For example, are the 5 people that are walking down the tracks really a group of 4 assailants stalking a potential victim or a group of school kids that have gotten lost? Is the one person on the side track a person that is “supposed” to be there for some/any reason or a vagrant? There are so many scenarios that would alter the "correct" answer (IMO) that it is impossible to know...

2. Obligatory

3. Forbidden

Disinfo Agent
2006-Jan-16, 03:58 PM
If pressed, I would answer "obligatory", "obligatory", and "forbidden", but I have a few caveats:

- Situation 1 seems highly improbable, fortunately.

- For Situation 3, there should be rules of professional ethics, if not legislation, to determine the proper course of action. Which is not to say that we can't discuss it.

- My decision in each of the situations might change, if I knew something more about the people involved.

Roy Batty
2006-Jan-16, 03:58 PM
R.A.F. ... since I live in the UK not only my pants would get wet, but my trousers too! unacceptable! ;)

mickal555
2006-Jan-16, 03:59 PM
What if they were nice pants: I mean really nice pants.

Argos
2006-Jan-16, 04:05 PM
If we somehow knew the 5 people on the track were a bunch of bandits, would we still have the right to keep the train on its way?

Roy Batty
2006-Jan-16, 04:07 PM
What if they were nice pants: I mean really nice pants.

Really really really nice expensive Gucci pants & a really really really nasty snotty nosed kid.

Hmmm ... methinks we have all been debating the wrong questions !! :D

soylentgreen
2006-Jan-16, 04:17 PM
1. I myself would have to follow the assumptions made by some here that for the first question to work, you would have to be in FIRST-a position of informed omnipotence concerning how trolley tracks work and SECOND-and more importantly, a position well removed from the vicinity of both the individual and the group.
As evidenced from a multitude of species on this planet, when a danger approaches the most primal instinct is not one of choosing a rescuee, but to sound a general alarm(for the benefit of the 'herd').

-If it were a question of my being at the track split and within earshot of all potential victims I would scream at the top of my lungs...I would like to think that simply hearing a bloodcurdling shriek would be enough to get the people to at least turn and see what was up(understanding what I might be trying to scream, I would imagine, would be inconsequential)
-If one of either choice, the group or the sole walker, were out of earshot I would scream to the one(s) within earshot, hope they respond instinctively, and throw the switch to send the trolley on their track.
-If all were out of earshot, I would throw the switch to the track with the individual and exert all effort to sprint close enough to alert him in time.

Ultimately, this proves that there is not enough information in the question to give an honest informed answer. The situation could not arise without quite a bit more details concerning circumstances. All of which would effect the decision no matter how spontaneous.



1. Forbidden. By doing nothing, nature takes its course. By flipping the switch, he's a murderer.


1.
I don't see the 'nature takes its course' argument at all. By inaction then surely you are a murderer of five people instead of one?


Mr Batty(skinjob ;) ) makes a very good point. Every time I hear New Yorkers cheer for themselves as being one big tough family I'm reminded of the people who listened to Catherine Genovese's screams for help as she was being stabbed, saw her left for dead and then stood still while she was finished off by the murderer who returned five minutes later.

I wonder how those humanitarians would have answered these questions...the test doesn't give "I didn't want to get involved" as an option.


2. Obligatory. I don't think obligatory is a fair answer to have to choose, at least as far as I'm concerned. I know it's impossible to prove that I would be motivated 100% by humanistic altruism(I didn't say 'my humanistic altruism' because I hope everyone has some, the Genovese story above notwithstanding) and not, in any way, by some abstract obligation conditioned into me by my social environment. I do belive that I would be acting as many animals on the planet would, 'save the life' not 'do my duty'!
In many cases, I imagine I would be prone to doing the same for any animal caught in such a circumstance. Though that would be tempered by a consideration of effectiveness versus futility. I know I could rescue a child successfully. I don't know that I could rescue a drowning elk successfully.


3. Forbidden. ...but hmmm... Turn the question around and it gets a little more intriguing.
"If YOU were the healthy individual in the waiting room and five people clinging to life were wheeled in, desperate for an organ you could supply, how about stepping up to the plate?"
What about if you're 30 and the recipients are all 15? What if you're 30 and they are 50?


None of these are easy question, obviously. They foster dialogue one normally doesn't find "around the water-cooler." Engaging, sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately introspective, they go beyond answering Supreme Canucks queries and make one, even for a few minutes, look at the person that, after all the growing and schooling, they've ultimately become.

Unless you're DOODLER( ;) ), who can simultaneously channel Charles Darwin and Richard III.

Sorry this was a bit wordy, but I felt I just couldn't be glib. :o

mickal555
2006-Jan-16, 04:23 PM
2. Obligatory. I don't think obligatory is a fair answer to have to choose, at least as far as I'm concerned. I know it's impossible to prove that I would be motivated 100% by humanistic altruism(I didn't say 'my humanistic altruism' because I hope everyone has some, the Genovese story above notwithstanding) and not, in any way, by some abstract obligation conditioned into me by my social environment. I do belive that I would be acting as many animals on the planet would, 'save the life' not 'do my duty'!
In many cases, I imagine I would be prone to doing the same for any animal caught in such a circumstance. Though that would be tempered by a consideration of effectiveness versus futility. I know I could rescue a child successfully. I don't know that I could rescue a drowning elk successfully.



You're missing the point...

I mean theese are really, really, really nice pants.

soylentgreen
2006-Jan-16, 04:25 PM
You're missing the point...

I mean theese are really, really, really nice pants.


do you mean "Z. Cavaricci" nice? ;)

mickal555
2006-Jan-16, 04:30 PM
I mean nice nice

They make strong men cry in train stations.

Doodler
2006-Jan-16, 04:39 PM
Mr Batty(skinjob ;) ) makes a very good point. Every time I hear New Yorkers cheer for themselves as being one big tough family I'm reminded of the people who listened to Catherine Genovese's screams for help as she was being stabbed, saw her left for dead and then stood still while she was finished off by the murderer who returned five minutes later.

That is a substantially different scenario. He'd either kill me too or I'd be sitting on his unconscious body waiting for the police to arrive looking every man in the crowd that gathers directly in the eye and profanely questioning the integrity of their spine and their right to membership in our gender.

Going back to scenario #1, I'd also question the intelligence of five people who would stand on the tracks in the face of an oncoming vehicle. I'm assuming we're not dealing with deaf victims here...

farmerjumperdon
2006-Jan-16, 05:11 PM
You're missing the point...

I mean theese are really, really, really nice pants.

If the only thing getting wet is the pants, then the water is probably less than 3 feet deep. For a kid to be bad enough, conciously bad enough, bad with intent to be bad; then they are almost certainly going to be old enough (and big enough) to not drown in less than 3" of water.

Actually, the point of my post is to emphasize that the questions are hypothetical. So you have to answer with just the facts given, and you are only saying what you THINK you would do. The point of the discussion is to explore what you think. No way to KNOW what you would actually do unless the situation presented itself exactly (and in the limited fashion) as described here.

So answer based on what you know. Forget about who they are or what you would like to know about them or screaming for them to move or all that. Just answer the question based on what was given. Think of it as a little game.

As far as how we would behave if one of these situations actually arose; #1 seems the only tricky one. Most don't really KNOW what they'd do. Kind of like people who KNOW what they'd do if they won the lottery. With no exposure to anything like such an experience, they don't know - they are only guessing. If you need proof, consider that something like 50 to 75% of $1M+ winners are broke in 2 years. Wonder how many of them had that in their KNOWN plans?

farmerjumperdon
2006-Jan-16, 05:14 PM
I mean nice nice

They make strong men cry in train stations.

Could be cause for consideration. I've never owned anything that nice.

SeanF
2006-Jan-16, 05:26 PM
Actually, the point of my post is to emphasize that the questions are hypothetical. So you have to answer with just the facts given, and you are only saying what you THINK you would do. The point of the discussion is to explore what you think. No way to KNOW what you would actually do unless the situation presented itself exactly (and in the limited fashion) as described here.
The choices of "permissible," "obligatory," and "forbidden" suggest more than just what I think I would do, though, don't they? To me, they suggest what I think society expects me to do, or what I would expect others in that situation to do.

In 2 I'd attempt the rescue. In 3 I'd leave the healthy patient's organs in their original container. In 1, I'd probably end up letting the five get hit because I'd be paralyzed with indecision. :)

X-COM
2006-Jan-16, 05:32 PM
1. This is the really hard one. It cannot be obligatory since that would be to force someone to commit murder. Let's assume that none of the people are supposed to be on the tracks. Trains always have the raight of way on the railroad even if the time table hasn't listed anything at that time. You may flip the switch (permissable). However, if the one person is a worker who do maintenece work on a time that he was assured to be safe, then he got the right to keep living. In this case, do not flip the switch (forbidden), there is no real difference between 1 & 3 in that case, it's the same thing.

2. obligatory

3. forbidden

Actually, a moral dilemma could be even worse if you are forced to kill some people or all will die, like if you are in an enclosed space with oxygen running out faster then help can arrive. Let's also say that none will survive if you die since you are the only one who knows how to operate some critical machinery. So whould you take up that wrench and start smashing in skulls? A key point would be that the longer you delay before you start breaking skulls, the more you would have to kill. This could be even more interesting if all the other people are kids.

An alternative could be if you are to decide if you want to nuke a city or a terrorist in the city may have time to disperse a bio weapon capable of wiping out humanity. Sure, you could try to find and capture the terrorist but the only way to be sure of getting rid of the bio weapon in time would be to nuke the city. It could be even more interesting if there is a possibility that your intelligence is faulty and there is no bio weapon at all, it may even be a rumor created by a terrorist in hope that you would nuke a city.

Sometimes, an inability to do horrible things may result in even greater horrors. Are we ready to do the dirty work or do we prefer to stand by ignoring the comming disaster?

Disinfo Agent
2006-Jan-16, 05:37 PM
A key point would be that the longer you delay before you start breaking skulls, the more you would have to kill. This could be even more interesting if all the other people are kids.You have a twisted mind. :p

X-COM
2006-Jan-16, 05:54 PM
You have a twisted mind. :p

I do indeed....

Roy Batty
2006-Jan-16, 06:08 PM
Have you seen Fail-Safe (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058083/) X-COM? :)

Roy Batty
2006-Jan-16, 06:11 PM
I mean nice nice

They make strong men cry in train stations.

Errm... maybe they're too tight then? ;)

Roy Batty
2006-Jan-16, 06:14 PM
{Snip}.
Actually, the point of my post is to emphasize that the questions are hypothetical. So you have to answer with just the facts given, and you are only saying what you THINK you would do. The point of the discussion is to explore what you think. No way to KNOW what you would actually do unless the situation presented itself exactly (and in the limited fashion) as described here.

So answer based on what you know. Forget about who they are or what you would like to know about them or screaming for them to move or all that. Just answer the question based on what was given. Think of it as a little game.

As far as how we would behave if one of these situations actually arose; #1 seems the only tricky one. Most don't really KNOW what they'd do. Kind of like people who KNOW what they'd do if they won the lottery. With no exposure to anything like such an experience, they don't know - they are only guessing. If you need proof, consider that something like 50 to 75% of $1M+ winners are broke in 2 years. Wonder how many of them had that in their KNOWN plans?

One of my points but you said it a lot better!
Btw, not really wanting to derail the topic (groan.. but is that an option for no. 1 ?!:)), is that true about the lottery winners? ... I KNOW I wouldn't be broke.. I think... ;)

X-COM
2006-Jan-16, 06:36 PM
Have you seen Fail-Safe (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058083/) X-COM? :)

As a matter of fact I have, I saw it on the TV a while ago. An interesting movie that tuched a subject few filmmakers dare to. It doesn't chicken out of the problem, the world is saved but at a huge cost whe the president is forced to destroy one of his own cities.

Argos
2006-Jan-16, 07:26 PM
The classic movie 'Abandon Ship' with Tyrone Power also raises interesting questions about choices we have to make sometimes.

Gillianren
2006-Jan-16, 07:28 PM
A few years ago, I watched Some Mother's Son in a college class. (Not actually my own class, but that's another story.) Afterward, there was a class discussion about the choice our main character was presented with: do you sacrifice your child to their own beliefs, or do you step in and let them live, knowing they may never speak to you again after?

What I found interesting was that, for the most part, it was the parents in the group who didn't know what they would do. Not only that, but the person I distrusted most seemed surprised that there could possibly be any debate. I maintain to this day that, until you're in the situation, you don't know how you'd act in any time of crisis.

farmerjumperdon
2006-Jan-16, 07:48 PM
A few years ago, I watched Some Mother's Son in a college class. (Not actually my own class, but that's another story.) Afterward, there was a class discussion about the choice our main character was presented with: do you sacrifice your child to their own beliefs, or do you step in and let them live, knowing they may never speak to you again after?

What I found interesting was that, for the most part, it was the parents in the group who didn't know what they would do. Not only that, but the person I distrusted most seemed surprised that there could possibly be any debate. I maintain to this day that, until you're in the situation, you don't know how you'd act in any time of crisis.

Not surprising at all. The parents have lived through more situations and are more likely to recognize that until you are faced with something extraordinary, you really don't know. The younger you are (more accurately, the fewer situations you've lived thru), the more likely you are to think you know what you would do.

Recognizing the uncertainty of your own behaviors is the beginning of awareness that leads to wisdom. It is true about the lottery, which makes sense. It's a situation where someone is experiencing something totally out of context with the life they've lived up until that moment (for almost all winners - rich people rarely play the lottery).

Another good example are professional athletes. The rate of drug abuse, violence, criminal activity, etc is way out of line from the general population. It's exactly what you'd expect when people suddenly find themselves in a situation for which their life experiences provided them very little preparation. You just can't be sure what you'll do until you do it.

Sign in our local Dairy Queen:

Hire a teenager,
While they still know everything.

(How come my smilies end up in the title bar instead of where I click them?)

Titana
2006-Jan-16, 08:28 PM
#1 Would be Permissable, because no matter what or who the people were, most anyone would want to save five then one.


# 2 Obligatory....very obvious answer.


#3 Forbidden. Because i believe an organ can be donated only if it does not endanger the donors life.



Titana.

Titana
2006-Jan-16, 08:30 PM
(How come my smilies end up in the title bar instead of where I click them?)


Maybe because you click them before inserting any text?



Titana.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 09:02 PM
I'm curious why you draw a different conclusion in this case than in the hospital case. Don't you think that it's better for society if we can expect vehicles' drivers to restrict themselves to the roads and not be driving on the sidewalks?

The hospital case has wider ramifications.

With the car case, the worst that can happen for society is that a precedent is set either to allow you to run people over to stay on the road or to allow you to run off the road to avoid collision.

With the hospital case, the worst that can happen is that a precedent can be set either to allow a doctor to let five people die just feet away from perfectly good organs or to allow a doctor to harvest those organs for the good of the five sick people.

Now, think about that last one. What's to stop that same doctor from going out into the street and murdering the first person he sees for his kidneys? This, to me at least, is morally equivalent to killing the healthy patient for his organs. And having no trust in doctors (even to to point of actively avoiding them outside of seeking helathcare -- who knows if they're about to bash your head in) is a heck of a lot worse for society than allowing cars to run off the road in an attempt to cause less damage than would otherwise be done.

There is also the consideration that the doctor is your guardian, if you are the healthy patient. He is obligated to protect you. Less so for the driver with regard to the one pedestrian. The patient isn't going to jump out of the way of the doctor like the pedestrian will jump out of the way of the car. There is a situation of explicit trust that should not be abused.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-16, 09:03 PM
(How come my smilies end up in the title bar instead of where I click them?)

The ones on the bottom put them in the corner of the post while the ones on the right side of the screen put them in the post. You may need to activate these smileys in the User CP. Activate the WYSIWYG Editor.

Doodler
2006-Jan-16, 09:19 PM
GAH!! Thank you!! I'd been wondering why the heck I wasn't getting all the old options on this forum software.
:doh::doh::doh::doh::doh::doh::doh::doh:

pasha582
2006-Jan-16, 09:24 PM
Part of what comes into play here are the histories of the five patients. They were in the unfortunate circumstance whereby they were injured. If there is a suitable replacement organ for them, or one becomes available, then they might be saved. Harvesting organs from a healthy person is vastly different from merely flipping a switch, smashing one person or five. There is more to consider yet--suppose the five people were all very old and senile, and the one was young and hale. Or suppose the five were beautiful models, all married to the person controlling the switch (in a country that allows polygamy) and the one was a convicted murderer and pedophile.

Transplant surgery is not 100% effective either. People frequently die within a few years after such major surgery. If each of these would live five years, but the one healthy person would be expected to live another 40 years, saving the five reduces the total human years.

Again, the healthy guy in the hospital did nothing to place himself in a situation where he might require organ transplant surgery, or get smashed by a runaway trolley.

GDwarf
2006-Jan-16, 09:47 PM
1. Obligatory.
I personally find death from inaction to be as bad as murder. If I threw the switch then 5 lives would be saved, if I didn't then 5 people die.

Just to elaborate on the above viewpoint, inaction that leads to death when the person knows that inaction will lead to death is, to me, murder. However, death due to inaction when the person not acting does not know what will happen is no where near as bad, in fact, depending on the circumstances it would likely be forgiven. If a tourist was standing by the aforementioned railway switch and knew nothing about it then they would not be responsible for the deaths.

2.Obligatory, no explanation needed really, to not save the child puts a price on human life, and it's a very small one.

3. I'm undecided, the great negotiator inside me wonders if we couldn't ask the guy to donate all the organs he can live with one of to save as many patients as possible, but I rather doubt that that's an option.

So now I have to decide, and it isn't easy. One life to save five, however, I think my conscience objects to ruining a healthy person's life to help the sick, it also has the feeling of greatly violating the person in the waiting room's rights. I might be more comfortable with it if he volunteered his organs to save them, however, then I get the dilemma about putting him in a situation like that, one with no real way to escape. If he says no then everyone regards him as a complete cad, he probably feels terribly for dooming 5 people to death, and his (mental) health and happiness go down. If he does choose to save them then he looses his life and I feel like I've just killed a man by giving him no choice, even if he could refuse.
However, we then reach the problem of the death through inaction that I despise so much, as to do nothing gives me 5 lives on my concince.

As this is getting horribly tangled I'll say how I feel about it, with a condition, if that's allowed.
Permissible, provided he is not pressured into giving up his organs, but merely offered the choice.

Lance
2006-Jan-16, 10:22 PM
I think we are all offered the choice in question #3 on a daily basis. People die every day because there are not enough donated organs to go around. When we are made more aware of this, it may prompt us to become organ donors, but I don't see a lot of people falling on swords to help save lives.

1. Permissible (Murder is a crime. You are not guilty of murder by not acting, though you may be if you do act.)

2. Obligatory

3. Forbidden

SeanF
2006-Jan-16, 10:33 PM
With the car case, the worst that can happen for society is that a precedent is set either to allow you to run people over to stay on the road or to allow you to run off the road to avoid collision.
I think you underestimate the effect of this precedent. What you're really establishing is the precedent of allowing pedestrians to, by walking out in the middle of a busy street, endanger the lives of those other pedestrians who stay on the sidewalks, rather than just endangering themselves.

You also serve to make walking on the sidewalk just as dangerous as walking down the middle of the highway.

You also serve to encourage drivers to swerve in an attempt to avoid an accident, thus likely losing complete control of their vehicle.

Sorry, but if you're cruising down the street and suddenly come upon five doofuses in the middle of the road, you bring your vehicle to a stop as quickly as is safely possible (which, given certain road conditions, may not be slamming on the brakes), without leaving the lane you're in. Even if - as far as you know - you've got clear space everywhere except where the five are. To do otherwise is to invite disaster. And to establish a precedent that doing otherwise is preferable is to invite chaos.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-17, 12:14 AM
And, well, I think you overestimate the effect of this precedent. We'll just have to disagree.

paulie jay
2006-Jan-17, 12:20 AM
As far as flicking the switch is concerned, I don't see why there should be an equivalence between "action" and "inaction". If I flick the switch, then I have caused a death. If I choose inaction I have not caused anything. There can be no equivalence between action and inaction otherwise every person would be expected by society’s morals to spend their whole life saving the lives of other people. I don't think that we are obliged to play Superman all day long.

For me – permissible.

worzel
2006-Jan-17, 01:07 AM
For those who'd flip the switch in #1, what if all six were on the tracks in the path of the oncoming train and the only acton available to you was to shoot one in the head thus casuing him to fall on the lever that will safely direct the train into a siding?

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-17, 01:13 AM
Well, assuming that it would work, I'd do it.

But since there's no way it would ever work, I wouldn't do it.

Vaelroth
2006-Jan-17, 01:16 AM
If I was a marksman capable of shooting someone in such a manner, then I would definately not be hanging around train tracks. I'd be in the woods impressing people with how well I can shoot and no trains would be around to disturb my prey.

worzel
2006-Jan-17, 01:27 AM
Well, assuming that it would work, I'd do it.

But since there's no way it would ever work, I wouldn't do it.
Well let's assume that you're a crack shot and well read in physics, so not only do you have a 99.9% chance of hitting them so they fall as you'd calculated, but you also understand the concept of thought experiments and didn't get bogged down at school with questions like How big is this chicken, that it's the same size as a bag of grain? (http://gaffor.diaryland.com/021227_10.html) :)

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-17, 01:38 AM
Hey, I did give two answers. ;)

HenrikOlsen
2006-Jan-17, 02:57 AM
1. Permissible, though I have no idea about what I'd actually do. I lean most towards not switching, it's their choice to be there.

2. Obligatory

3. Forbidden, first rule of medicine is "Do no harm".
Since noone has four of the same organs, it should be possible to take the one who dies first of the four and use his organs for the last three.

SirBlack
2006-Jan-17, 03:56 AM
Interesting discussion so far, though I think the original scenarios could have been written a little better...

In scenario 1, I'd have it so that all the individuals have been tied to the tracks against their will. So for anyone that was concerned about whether the individuals have some responsiblity for their own impending deaths, what would the answer be in this case?

Also, I'd rewrite scenario 2 to be similar to scenario 1: Five people are tied to a track and about the be run over by the train, but the other track is empty. Do nothing and they all die. Flip the switch and they all live. Now if it's not murder to do nothing in scenario 1, is it still not murder to do nothing in this scenario?

Halcyon Dayz
2006-Jan-17, 07:26 AM
#1. Derail the train.

#2. Call someone who knows how to swim.

#3. Invent artificial organs.

Try to find an alternative. I don't like one on one choices.

beskeptical
2006-Jan-17, 07:41 AM
#1 isn't so obvious. The lone person might have a legitmate reason for being on the track and had previously checked to make sure that it wasn't scheduled to be used at that time. The other five might be a bunch of twits playing on the track to show off how brave they are. Is it fair to kill one person to save five who are intentionally putting themselves at risk?

#3 is similar. Is it fair to sacrifice one person who took good care of himself to save five who didn't?

I'd say: forbidden obligatory forbiddenunless we know more about the circumstances.This is very odd reasoning and I think it's because you have added a considerable amount of your values into the questions that isn't really in the questions.

You could say the drowning victim might be the antichrist or something and change your answer accordingly. All this business about who deserves what. How do you know the organ donor in the hospital took care of himself for instance? And you have the whole story behind the track people that is totally made up and not in the question.

beskeptical
2006-Jan-17, 07:48 AM
...3. I'm undecided, ....What planet do you live on?

beskeptical
2006-Jan-17, 07:51 AM
Permissible and maybe even recommended.
Obligatory.
Prohibited.

And the difference between 1 and 3 is through genetics and socialization #1 is acceptable and #3 isn't.

Chuck
2006-Jan-17, 07:54 AM
I said that I don't know why those 5 people are on the tracks. All I know is that they're at risk while the lone person is not. Whatever their reason for being there, they obviously haven't done as well at keeping themselves safe as the lone person. It's unfair to murder someone because of someone else's failure.

Halcyon Dayz
2006-Jan-17, 08:00 AM
I said that I don't know why those 5 people are on the tracks. All I know is that they're at risk while the lone person is not. Whatever their reason for being there, they obviously haven't done as well at keeping themselves safe as the lone person. It's unfair to murder someone because of someone else's failure.
Sounds like eugenics in sheep-clothes to me.
Sometimes there is a thing called bad luck, it happens to people.
You don't know why anybody is where they are.

beskeptical
2006-Jan-17, 08:35 AM
I said that I don't know why those 5 people are on the tracks. All I know is that they're at risk while the lone person is not. Whatever their reason for being there, they obviously haven't done as well at keeping themselves safe as the lone person. It's unfair to murder someone because of someone else's failure.I'm not saying your version is good or bad or that it is right or wrong. ;) I was just commenting that you added an awful lot of stuff to the scenario and that some things could be added arbitrarily which really change the question. And you weren't the only one adding things either.

Let me guess, you have a hard time with multiple choice and true false questions on tests.

worzel
2006-Jan-17, 09:41 AM
Let me guess, you have a hard time with multiple choice and true false questions on tests.
And I suppose you expect a simple yes/no answer to that one?

Tog
2006-Jan-17, 10:31 AM
A little getting to this one but here goes:

For #1, and assuming nothing about the people, I would say permissable. By doing nothing, 5 will die, by flipping the switch, 1 will die. It is more likely that the one will see or hear the train in time to get clear, whereas the 5 may get in each others' way while trying to get off of the tracks. Legally, I think that flipping the switch is more likely to get you prison time than not flipping it, and that is a big factor for a lot of people. Look at the number of idiots that lead the police on high speed pursuits because they had expired licence plates, or forgot their driver's licence. When they get caught, they almost always say, "I didn't want to get in trouble".

#2 Obligatory to save the kid. (see bottom)

#3 Forbidden. Do no harm applies. I see this as slightly different than situation 1, because generally speaking, a hospital waiting room should carry a higher degree of safety than being on a railroad track. Any of the 6 on the rail track should realize on some level that there is a risk in what they do. The guy in the waiting room would have no reason to feel he was in any more danger than bing at home, or a library.

True story: While working at a grocery store a few years back I became involved in a few fights between customers and helped to catch (sometimes by tackling) a number of shoplifters. I mention this because I KNOW there are some situations I will involve myself in despite the risk. I also know that not everyone will do that. When we got a new guy on the stocking crew I would ask them if they were comfortable in getting involved with a fight, should one happen. If they said no, then I told them it would be their job to call the police.

One day (about 2 PM) we got word that there was a fight in the parking lot. When I got out there it was over, but I got the story from the victim. It was a woman who had pulled into the lot and was then attacked by a man. While she was being beaten, another shopper walked by and did nothing to help her. He did not want to be involved, and I can understand a person not wanting to step into a fight in progress. What was inexcusable to me, was that once safely inside the store, he did not tell anyone what was happening. He was so 'not involved' that she could have been killed while he was shopping. I don't understand how a person can be so selfish as to see someone being beaten, and NOT report it to at least SOMEONE, if doing so will not place them in any harm whatsoever.

snarkophilus
2006-Jan-17, 10:32 AM
How do you know the organ donor in the hospital took care of himself for instance?

You don't need to know it. In the long run, so long as everyone sticks with the consistent strategy that unhealthy people end up dying naturally more often than healthy people, it all averages out for the best. That's how evolution works, no? :)

Of course, if we're sending our strongest and smartest off to a prolonged war, and they're the ones getting hurt while the weak and stupid stay at home... maybe then we have to rethink the strategy.

Disinfo Agent
2006-Jan-17, 10:57 AM
I've just thought of a solution to question nr. 2! :dance:


2. You pass by a small child drowning in a small pond, and you are the only other person around. If you pick up the child, she will survive and your pants will be ruined. Picking up the child is ___________.Take your pants off, and then jump in the pond to save the little brat. :p :lol:

GDwarf
2006-Jan-17, 12:09 PM
What planet do you live on?
Read all of my answer to 3, despite how it starts off it was never a choice between obligatory and permissible, but rather between forbidden and permissible, and I concluded that it would only be permissible if the person volunteered their organs under no pressure, they were just informed of the situation.
I agree that taking organs by force is forbidden.

Doodler
2006-Jan-17, 01:43 PM
I've just thought of a solution to question nr. 2! :dance:

Take your pants off, and then jump in the pond to save the little brat. :p :lol:

Then listen to the mother go off about how you're a sex offensive pervert? No thanks.

Chuck
2006-Jan-17, 03:13 PM
I'm not saying your version is good or bad or that it is right or wrong. ;) I was just commenting that you added an awful lot of stuff to the scenario and that some things could be added arbitrarily which really change the question. And you weren't the only one adding things either.

Let me guess, you have a hard time with multiple choice and true false questions on tests.
I was speculating on their purpose for being on the tracks to see if I could justify killing someone to save them. I couldn't come up with any reasonably likely excuse. There was no sign that they were being kept there at gunpoint and it's hard to believe that they didn't realize that the tracks were there. Someone from Mars might not realize that tracks are dangerous but the problem didn't say they had green skin or antennae so I must assume they're members of our society and not ignorant of rail travel.

People are ultimately responsible for seeing to their own safety. I don't owe them any saving. I would do so anyway, maybe even at risk to myself, but I don't have the right to kill someone else to save others who have chosen riskier activities. There's nothing wrong with taking risks if that's what you like to do. There's more to life the pure duration and some might choose to risk making theirs shorter in order to make it more interesting. That's fine with me. If they die early it was by their own choices. Others might choose safer lifestyles in order to live longer. The risk takers should not expect such people to die early along with them or instead of them.

The five people are on dangerous tracks and there's no indication that they're there against their will. That's risky. Maybe they didn't know the specific risks on that particular stretch of track but they should have found out or had an escape plan. I'm not killing someone else to save them.

hhEb09'1
2006-Jan-17, 03:14 PM
I'm not saying your version is good or bad or that it is right or wrong. ;) I was just commenting that you added an awful lot of stuff to the scenario and that some things could be added arbitrarily which really change the question. And you weren't the only one adding things either.The point is that there is a lot of stuff left out of the question. All else being equal, I think we all agree that 5 is simply better than 1, but nothing in life is ever so simple. Or so equal.

Let me guess, you have a hard time with multiple choice and true false questions on tests.High 700s, low 800s :)

PS: Keith, where are you? I know you like to post in January...

SeanF
2006-Jan-17, 03:26 PM
And, well, I think you overestimate the effect of this precedent. We'll just have to disagree.
You can disagree with me if you want, but you're wrong. ;)

Seriously, it's not just me. Check with your local law enforcement. I bet they'll tell you that if you take the sidewalk, you'll be going up on manslaughter charges, maybe worse. You, not the five people in the road, because the collision was a result of you being where you weren't supposed to be. If you'd stayed on the road and hit the five, the accident would've been a result of them being where they weren't supposed to be, and you wouldn't be held at fault.

And if you then ask why the law is set up that way, they'll give you an answer that will pretty much jibe with the "establishment of precedent" explanation I gave above.


I would do so anyway, maybe even at risk to myself, but I don't have the right to kill someone else to save others who have chosen riskier activities.
But, not knowing any additional information, how do you conclude that the five have chosen any "riskier" activities than the one has chosen? :)

Oh, and somebody mentioned derailing the train, but don't we have to assume there's an engineer on board who will likely be injured if not killed in a derailment?

I'm going to go back to my same logic regarding swerving out of a lane when you're driving and say that - knowing nothing else than what's presented in the OP - you leave the train on its set course towards the five, and you do it specifically because you don't know enough to conclude that switching would be better. Switching tracks is "forbidden."

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-17, 03:40 PM
You can disagree with me if you want, but you're wrong. ;)

Seriously, it's not just me. Check with your local law enforcement. I bet they'll tell you that if you take the sidewalk, you'll be going up on manslaughter charges, maybe worse. You, not the five people in the road, because the collision was a result of you being where you weren't supposed to be. If you'd stayed on the road and hit the five, the accident would've been a result of them being where they weren't supposed to be, and you wouldn't be held at fault.

And if you then ask why the law is set up that way, they'll give you an answer that will pretty much jibe with the "establishment of precedent" explanation I gave above.

I don't know. I think the real distinction is that in the hospital case, the act is specific and premediatated. In the car case, it isn't. In all likelyhood, you'll swerve to avoid the five people and the one other guy. If you happen to hit the one guy, that sucks. But it's better than hitting the five guys. And then there's always the chance that you'll luck out and miss everyone.

Chuck
2006-Jan-17, 03:52 PM
You can disagree with me if you want, but you're wrong. ;)

Seriously, it's not just me. Check with your local law enforcement. I bet they'll tell you that if you take the sidewalk, you'll be going up on manslaughter charges, maybe worse. You, not the five people in the road, because the collision was a result of you being where you weren't supposed to be. If you'd stayed on the road and hit the five, the accident would've been a result of them being where they weren't supposed to be, and you wouldn't be held at fault.

And if you then ask why the law is set up that way, they'll give you an answer that will pretty much jibe with the "establishment of precedent" explanation I gave above.


But, not knowing any additional information, how do you conclude that the five have chosen any "riskier" activities than the one has chosen? :)

Oh, and somebody mentioned derailing the train, but don't we have to assume there's an engineer on board who will likely be injured if not killed in a derailment?

I'm going to go back to my same logic regarding swerving out of a lane when you're driving and say that - knowing nothing else than what's presented in the OP - you leave the train on its set course towards the five, and you do it specifically because you don't know enough to conclude that switching would be better. Switching tracks is "forbidden."


The only information I have is that the 5 are at risk and the 1 is not. That's what I'm basing my decision on.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-17, 04:02 PM
So what would you do if the train will randomly pick a direction (50/50 chance) to go when it reaches the switch unless you choose a direction for it?

farmerjumperdon
2006-Jan-17, 05:35 PM
Some days you just can't get a straight answer to a hypothetical question.

And this is probably about as tough a crowd there is for trying to do so.

Doodler
2006-Jan-17, 05:38 PM
Some days you just can't get a straight answer to a hypothetical question.

And this is probably about as tough a crowd there is for trying to do so.

Given that this was started in Babbling, I'm impressed its still on the OT after four pages. :P

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-17, 07:47 PM
Speaking of, I wonder what the original dilemma is.

Chuck
2006-Jan-17, 09:33 PM
So what would you do if the train will randomly pick a direction (50/50 chance) to go when it reaches the switch unless you choose a direction for it?

If I might be accused of murder by taking action then I'd do nothing. The original problem doesn't specify that anyone would even know that I was there so I'll assume that nothing happens to me in either case.

Original question: Do nothing and let the 5 die.

50-50 question: Make sure the 5 survive.

pasha582
2006-Jan-17, 10:07 PM
The point of the question is that you are killing a person to save five. Whether pulling a lever controlling a track switching mechanism or releasing a hammer to drive a bullet through someone's brain--is there really any difference in how one chooses to commit murder? Does the victim (or survivors) care whether you killed the lone person by switching tracks or by shooting someone in the head?

"My act of murder was ok, because I did it by pulling a lever. Your act of murder was bad, because you used a rifle." Big whoop.

Suppose you have a rifle in your hands, and you witness a car speeding towards a group of children. Do you try to shoot the driver, or do you just watch the mayhem unfold?

Suppose you have a rifle in your hand, and you see a fellow in a clock tower picking off children one by one. Do you try to shoot him, or do you just count the little bodies piling up?

Vaelroth
2006-Jan-17, 10:30 PM
If I might be accused of murder by taking action then I'd do nothing. The original problem doesn't specify that anyone would even know that I was there so I'll assume that nothing happens to me in either case.

Original question: Do nothing and let the 5 die.

50-50 question: Make sure the 5 survive.

You could also be accused of murder through inaction and thereby have five deaths to stand trial for instead of one.

paulie jay
2006-Jan-17, 10:42 PM
Also, I'd rewrite scenario 2 to be similar to scenario 1: Five people are tied to a track and about the be run over by the train, but the other track is empty. Do nothing and they all die. Flip the switch and they all live. Now if it's not murder to do nothing in scenario 1, is it still not murder to do nothing in this scenario? That's right, it's still not murder to stand there and do nothing. Responsibility for other people's lives just can not be dumped into one's lap like that.

Irishman
2006-Jan-17, 10:44 PM
Thanks for all the good responses. Sorry so late in getting back to this.

First, I rated them as follows:
1. Permissible: taking action reduces the number of deaths, but either way is a moral conundrum that will probably affect you for life. Either you took action that killed someone, or else you could have taken action to save people but didn't.

2. Mandatory. Even in my favorite pair of pants.

3. Forbidden.

And The Supreme Canuck hit the moral dilemma right out of the bag. Cases 1 and 3 look very similar on the face of them, and so the reason for the difference in ratings strikes me as odd, and this is me rating them myself. I wanted help in framing the difference.

There's a lot of good information, and of course the quiz is simplistic and thus any in depth analysis requires making assumptions. Immediate flaws stand out, such as why they don't hear the trolley/train and move themselves, and the realities of organ transplants and the inherent risks to the recipients. But it bugged me that if you treat both case 1 and 3 in the ideal terms, they get different answers but seem very close to the same thing.

That Rule Utilitarianism sounds very useful. Ask "What is the long-term effect of general application of that principle?" I had posed the question to someone else, and she responded similarly regarding the medical ethics and "First do no harm", and regarding the condition of trust with the doctor. But this helps me grasp the concept in a more general fashion.

Chuck also makes a very valid point about the role of responsibility, and what is known about the 6 people in case 1. Were their actions deliberate, unintentional, beyond their control? Did they exert any effort to minimize their risks, have any reason to think they would be safe? Have a legitimate reason to be there? All of those are complications to the moral situation. The moral conclusion often has to be reached by the information available at the time to the one making the decision, not necessarily the full story.

Vaelroth
2006-Jan-17, 10:45 PM
Err, its quite feasible to be convicted of murder through inaction in the U.S. I don't know about elsewhere, so this may be different for people from other countries.

beskeptical
2006-Jan-17, 11:01 PM
Adding all sorts of scenarios and what if this or that to the question assumes the story matters and the basic question wasn't the issue alone.

You have a choice to take an action that kills 1 and saves 5 or no action that allows 5 to die.

You could answer the question as is, or start discussing all the circumstances that would make your choice different. Some of us assume the question is deciding whether or not to take an action that results in you being the one to decide who lives & who dies, or to not take an action which also results in deciding who lives and who dies. In which scenario, acting or not acting do you become responsible for anyone's death? The idea of 5 vs 1 and acting vs not acting is the moral dilemma, not whether someone deserves the death penalty for stupidity.

Of course, if it seems to you that different circumstances warrant different actions, then you'd likely do as one person suggested, be paralyzed with indecision until it was too late to act anyway.

Irishman
2006-Jan-17, 11:02 PM
Originally Posted by Irishman
1. A runaway trolley is about to run over five people walking on the tracks. A railway worker is standing next to a switch that can turn the trolley onto a side track, killing one person, but allowing the five to survive. Flipping the switch is __________.
[For the sake of clarity, the one person is not the railway operator who can throw the switch, but some other person.]

#1 is ridiculously oversimplified. How do I know the person will REALLY hit the switch in correct direction? I may kill him for nothing. How do I know he won't overpower me and throw ME onto the rails? Or perhaps he will grab onto something as he falls, neither kill me nor die himself, and I am then charged with attempted murder? Come to think of it, I could be charged with murder here in any case.

My point is, overwhelming majority of humans will NOT actually push someone in this situation -- not out of moral reasoning, but out of self-interest and uncertainty.

Your explanation confused me. The case as described is that there are 5 people on one track, 1 person on the other. None of those people is close to the switch. There is a seventh person, the operator (could be you) that must make the decision.

But you do make a valid point about people freezing or opting for inaction our of uncertainty and self-interest. Thus the question of legal ramifications comes into play. Of course, if the situation were morally cut-and-dried, one might expect the legal situation to be crystal clear and in line with that moral evaluation. Legality is basically an attempt to constrain actions to those determined by society to be morally best. With no moral ambiguity, there's no need to worry that your moral actions will conflict with the law.

Irishman
2006-Jan-17, 11:04 PM
Regarding the organ donation, I would think a more appropriate response than cutting up a healthy person in the waiting room would be to triage the 5 incoming patients and scrape together what you can from that. "Hey, we've got enough parts for 3 and a half people!" Yeah, there are rules for that, and I'm not advocating changing them. Just looking at the moral position.

beskeptical
2006-Jan-17, 11:15 PM
That's right, it's still not murder to stand there and do nothing. Responsibility for other people's lives just can not be dumped into one's lap like that.Some states have Good Sam laws that can make it a crime for a trained health care provider not to intervene though I doubt you'd get a manslaughter charge out of it. Some Good Sam laws don't require a medical person to intervene but release them from liability for error unless it's really gross negligence or acting outside of one's scope of practice.

Many states have a law requiring everyone to render aid which usually applies to getting help for an injured person. I do not believe all states have such laws though. Sometimes such laws are only written after someone leaves some injured person to die and it is discovered there is no law against it.

It might be illegal to kill someone on a sidewalk because you drove up there to avoid killing more people in the street but I bet you'd be hard pressed to find a case where the prosecutor actually filed the charges and even more hard pressed to find a conviction.

Civil lawsuits might be more common in such circumstances but then you'd need to know whether it was really the insurance company being sued or the driver. Your insurance company might decide to not cover the injured pedestrian unless the state had a no fault insurance law. Then the suit wouldn't really be because of the driver's decision but because of the insurance company's decision.

worzel
2006-Jan-17, 11:31 PM
Seriously, it's not just me. Check with your local law enforcement. I bet they'll tell you that if you take the sidewalk, you'll be going up on manslaughter charges, maybe worse. You, not the five people in the road, because the collision was a result of you being where you weren't supposed to be. If you'd stayed on the road and hit the five, the accident would've been a result of them being where they weren't supposed to be, and you wouldn't be held at fault.
Well as we're into nitpicking on this thread, aren't we supposed to limit our speed when driving such that we can always stop within the visible distance? (or even half the distance on a road with no center line)

The only way it could be the drunks fault (here I am defending drunks again) is if they jumped out in front of you. Not sure how you'd stand legally if you panicked due to their sudden leaping into your path, swerved to avoid them, and hit someone else on the sidewalk. But if you just happened across some drunks in the middle of the road and had to swerve to avoid them then surely you must have been going too fast.

Lance
2006-Jan-18, 01:33 AM
Nit Pick:

A homicide is the taking of a human life by another. A murder is the criminal act of doing so. Not all homicides are murders. In the case at hand, while you would definitely be committing a homicide if you took the actions specified, whether or not it would be considered a murder is left to be decided. (And beyond the scope of the examples given)

Tog
2006-Jan-18, 07:12 AM
Well as we're into nitpicking on this thread, aren't we supposed to limit our speed when driving such that we can always stop within the visible distance? (or even half the distance on a road with no center line)

The only way it could be the drunks fault (here I am defending drunks again) is if they jumped out in front of you. Not sure how you'd stand legally if you panicked due to their sudden leaping into your path, swerved to avoid them, and hit someone else on the sidewalk. But if you just happened across some drunks in the middle of the road and had to swerve to avoid them then surely you must have been going too fast.

This actually happened in my town in last couple of weeks. A man popped out from between two cars and was struck by a car that was travelling around the posted speed limit. According to the news, no charges were filed against the driver of the car, as there was nothing he could do in that amount of time.

If, instead of a drunk in the middle of the road, it was a car that pulled into the lane unexpectedly (driver B), and driver A swerved out of reflex, going up onto a sidewalk or into a parked car, wouldn't the law determine that Driver B was the one at fault for impropper lookout?. If so, then wouldn't a drunk in the middle of the street be just as at fault? If he was in the middle of the road, he was jaywalking. If it were at a crosswalk, then he either staggered against the light, or the driver ran the red light. In either case, I think the law would cite the one who was at fault as having caused the accident.

X-COM
2006-Jan-18, 10:08 AM
True story: While working at a grocery store a few years back I became involved in a few fights between customers and helped to catch (sometimes by tackling) a number of shoplifters. I mention this because I KNOW there are some situations I will involve myself in despite the risk. I also know that not everyone will do that. When we got a new guy on the stocking crew I would ask them if they were comfortable in getting involved with a fight, should one happen. If they said no, then I told them it would be their job to call the police.

One day (about 2 PM) we got word that there was a fight in the parking lot. When I got out there it was over, but I got the story from the victim. It was a woman who had pulled into the lot and was then attacked by a man. While she was being beaten, another shopper walked by and did nothing to help her. He did not want to be involved, and I can understand a person not wanting to step into a fight in progress. What was inexcusable to me, was that once safely inside the store, he did not tell anyone what was happening. He was so 'not involved' that she could have been killed while he was shopping. I don't understand how a person can be so selfish as to see someone being beaten, and NOT report it to at least SOMEONE, if doing so will not place them in any harm whatsoever.

We have an angoing scandal here thease days. A bussdriver witnessed someone being beat up by several people outside his bus. So he left the bus and tried to talk some sense into the assiliants. THis didn't work so attacked them to force them to stop. This apperantly worked (I belive they fled) and he thus saved a person fro serioues injury and maybe even his life. An everyday hero? His employer doesn't think so and they gave him a written warning that they would fire him if he ever did something like that again. Bad PR for the buscompany I would say and many people, including the police supports his actions. I have yet to se an apology from the buscompany for their warning to their employe.

Tog
2006-Jan-18, 10:47 AM
We have an angoing scandal here thease days. A bussdriver witnessed someone being beat up by several people outside his bus. So he left the bus and tried to talk some sense into the assiliants. THis didn't work so attacked them to force them to stop. This apperantly worked (I belive they fled) and he thus saved a person fro serioues injury and maybe even his life. An everyday hero? His employer doesn't think so and they gave him a written warning that they would fire him if he ever did something like that again. Bad PR for the buscompany I would say and many people, including the police supports his actions. I have yet to se an apology from the buscompany for their warning to their employe.

That sort of thing happens here a lot as well. In our case, it stems from the company making a policy that employees to not perform certain hazardous things which are outside of thier job description. In the case you mentioned, it could have turned really ugly if the attackers ahd jumped into the now driverless and (presumeably) idling bus full of people to make their escape.

At the store, we had two employees from two different stores in the chain get stabbed in different incidents in a very short time. This prompted a policy change that said that the only thing we could do when confronting a thief was try to talk them into waiting while we called the police. (this actually worked a lot of the time, since they didn't know they just tell us to 'shove off' and walk out the door.) Under no circumstances were we to ever try to grab them, or even stand in the way. Nor could we leave the bulding in pursuit of them. A few months later, we confronted a kid in the store who had placed some meat in a bag. (Once an item in placed in a bag or pocket, and it out of view, a theft has occured, whether they have left the store or not.) We got him a cart so he could carry it outside of the sack, and made it clear we were watching him. He gathered a bunch of other items, including a large pack of fireworks which he lit as he grabbed his bag and ran from the store. I tried to detain him physically, but he broke free and ran. Because he didn't try to hit me, I couldn't legally hit him, but the fact that I grabbed him at all meant I could have been fired. Right next to where he set off the fireworks was a display of charcoal lighter fluid. It had a serious potential for a lot of damage.

paulie jay
2006-Jan-18, 01:44 PM
Many states have a law requiring everyone to render aid which usually applies to getting help for an injured person. I do not believe all states have such laws though. Sometimes such laws are only written after someone leaves some injured person to die and it is discovered there is no law against it.


snip

emphasis mine

That I can agree with, but it doesn't really apply to the situation in example 1 though. If a person is obliged to flick switches any time there is a perception of trouble there's no end to the ridiculous lengths that kind of interpretation can go. Eg - do we blame the deaths of every soldier in WWII on the people who didn't enlist? After all, they could have been there to prevent those deaths. I know, I know, it's a stupid extension of logic, but I think it makes my point :)

Fram
2006-Jan-18, 02:36 PM
Closer to the problem at hand. You have to pull the switch to save the five people (helping people in peril). But then you have to pull the switch for the person on the other track. Etcetera.
I can understand people that prefer to save 5 than 1, but I can just as well understand people that prefer witnessing five people die by an accident than witnessing 1 person die because you actively sent a train his way. I think I would be in the last group, but who knows how he/she would react in such a situation?

SeanF
2006-Jan-18, 03:28 PM
Well as we're into nitpicking on this thread, aren't we supposed to limit our speed when driving such that we can always stop within the visible distance? (or even half the distance on a road with no center line)

The only way it could be the drunks fault (here I am defending drunks again) is if they jumped out in front of you. Not sure how you'd stand legally if you panicked due to their sudden leaping into your path, swerved to avoid them, and hit someone else on the sidewalk. But if you just happened across some drunks in the middle of the road and had to swerve to avoid them then surely you must have been going too fast.
Good point. When I said it would be the drunks' fault if you hit them, I was assuming they moved out suddenly in front of your car. If they were just milling around in the street, you should've seen them in plenty of time to stop before hitting anybody.


It might be illegal to kill someone on a sidewalk because you drove up there to avoid killing more people in the street but I bet you'd be hard pressed to find a case where the prosecutor actually filed the charges and even more hard pressed to find a conviction.
Probably true. Most courts are pretty lenient towards swerving to avoid an accident anyway, especially if the driver (or pedestrians, in this case) who forced you to swerve has no defense for whatever they were doing, but it's still not technically legal. The real question is, what do you do if the driver who forced you to swerve claims that they were forced into your lane by somebody/something else, which then fled the scene?

If doing something (like swerving into another lane) is only legal if you're doing it to avoid something else, and we maintain "innocent until proven guilty," almost nobody would ever be at fault for an accident because they could almost always make a reasonable assertion that they were "forced" to do what they did by a phantom driver.

beskeptical
2006-Jan-18, 06:02 PM
That I can agree with, but it doesn't really apply to the situation in example 1 though. If a person is obliged to flick switches any time there is a perception of trouble there's no end to the ridiculous lengths that kind of interpretation can go. Eg - do we blame the deaths of every soldier in WWII on the people who didn't enlist? After all, they could have been there to prevent those deaths. I know, I know, it's a stupid extension of logic, but I think it makes my point :)I never implied the law I cited would apply to the situation of the train. I merely pointed out what laws existed since there was much discussion about law without citing what the laws actually said. People have a tendency to make statements about things they think should be law without considering our system of laws is far from ideal.

beskeptical
2006-Jan-18, 06:16 PM
....
If doing something (like swerving into another lane) is only legal if you're doing it to avoid something else, and we maintain "innocent until proven guilty," almost nobody would ever be at fault for an accident because they could almost always make a reasonable assertion that they were "forced" to do what they did by a phantom driver.Not if there are witnesses or physical evidence. With traffic accidents lots of people lie if they can get away with it. Physical evidence like skid marks and witness are what most cases are based on if they are serious enough to warrant investigation. If it is your word against another and no witnesses and it isn't serious enough for the police to bother, often the victim gets screwed.

Over the years my cars have been hit 5 separate times. Three admitted guilt, there are nice people out there. One woman who admitted guilt then was foolish enough to insist we wait for the police who proceeded to give her an inattentive driving ticket along with her insurance responsibility. I would have been happy just to have the damage taken care of. The other two were different. One was a hit and run in a parking lot. The creep. The other, I was turning right but stopped waiting for a guy in a rental truck to turn out of the driveway. He clipped my front bumper as he cut the turn too sharp. Then he stood there blatantly lying saying I moved forward into his truck. The truck rental insurance company was all too happy to claim it was my word against his so tough luck.

My point is, not everyone makes false claims about responsibility. In my small sample it's 60-40 for honesty in this part of the country.

pasha582
2006-Jan-18, 08:51 PM
You could also be accused of murder through inaction and thereby have five deaths to stand trial for instead of one.

This sounds like a joke--how could someone be prosecuted for NOT committing a crime? However, here in the US, people have been charged for doing nothing. There was a case a few years back in the northeast where people in a bar watched a rape occur. The rapists were charged, but released on technicalities. The witnesses were then charged, and convicted. A movie was made of this incident starring Jodie Foster.

On a related note--some folks I knew were out drinking, got drunk, smashed their car and one of them was killed. The police charged the bar tender as an accomplice to manslaughter. Thankfully this bogus charge did not stick, but the principle is there. You can be held responsible for the actions of others--more especially if you have deep pockets.

pasha582
2006-Jan-18, 08:59 PM
That I can agree with, but it doesn't really apply to the situation in example 1 though. If a person is obliged to flick switches any time there is a perception of trouble there's no end to the ridiculous lengths that kind of interpretation can go. Eg - do we blame the deaths of every soldier in WWII on the people who didn't enlist? After all, they could have been there to prevent those deaths. I know, I know, it's a stupid extension of logic, but I think it makes my point :)

Lawyers for the company I work for instructed our truck drivers to NOT stop and give assistance when they see someone injured by the side of the road. This state has no protection for the companies that employee such workers. Essentially, the law (in this state) compels us to ignore those in dire need of assistance. If as a private citizen you help someone, you are liable for any damage that could conceivably be pinned on you.

Nevada has a "good samaritan" law, which requires the first person upon an accident to give assistance, but protects them from liability for anything but gross negligence. The burden of proof for harm falls upon the initial victim. In the US, most states do NOT have similar "good samaritan" laws yet.

pasha582
2006-Jan-18, 09:06 PM
The only way it could be the drunks fault (here I am defending drunks again) is if they jumped out in front of you. Not sure how you'd stand legally if you panicked due to their sudden leaping into your path, swerved to avoid them, and hit someone else on the sidewalk. But if you just happened across some drunks in the middle of the road and had to swerve to avoid them then surely you must have been going too fast.

I cannot tell you how many people I know who died or were badly injured dodging some stupid jack rabbit in the road. No small animal is worth your life--run over it. For that matter, I won't even risk damaging my car by swerving to avoid an animal when it isn't safe--and if you don't know it is safe to swerve then it isn't.

Ok, I must admit, on occasion I may swerve slightly if I think I CAN safely run over a prairie dog or a mouse. Gives the carrion eaters something to gnaw on.

Grey
2006-Jan-18, 09:10 PM
Nevada has a "good samaritan" law, which requires the first person upon an accident to give assistance, but protects them from liability for anything but gross negligence. The burden of proof for harm falls upon the initial victim. In the US, most states do NOT have similar "good samaritan" laws yet.Actually, while most states do not have laws that require someone to provide aid, most of them do have laws (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Samaritan_Law) that protect someone who makes a good faith effort to assist in an emergency, so that they cannot be held liable. Here (http://www.momsteam.com/alpha/features/cardiac_awareness_center/good_samaritan_laws.shtml)'s a summary of some laws in this category, listed by state.

Doodler
2006-Jan-18, 10:22 PM
From the Wiki article:

Parental Consent
If the victim is not an adult (warning: definitions vary), consent must come from the legal parent or guardian. However, if the legal parent or guardian is unconscious, delusional or intoxicated, consent is implied (with the same caveat as above). Special circumstances may exist if child abuse is suspected.

Doesn't say anything about the parent being in absentia.

So unless mom or dad is standing on the shore screaming for help, I change my answer to #2 to Forbidden.

Added: Retract that, found this.

Consent may also be implied if the legal parent or guardian is not immediately reachable and the patient is not considered an adult (no matter what the patient claims).

Was in the section before that one, oddly out of place.

Irishman
2006-Jan-18, 10:32 PM
Well as we're into nitpicking on this thread, aren't we supposed to limit our speed when driving such that we can always stop within the visible distance? (or even half the distance on a road with no center line)

I don't think so. What happens if there's a hill in the road? Do you have to slow down to near zero as you approach the top, because you can't see over it?




We have an angoing scandal here thease days. A bussdriver witnessed someone being beat up by several people outside his bus. So he left the bus and tried to talk some sense into the assiliants. THis didn't work so attacked them to force them to stop. This apperantly worked (I belive they fled) and he thus saved a person fro serioues injury and maybe even his life. An everyday hero? His employer doesn't think so and they gave him a written warning that they would fire him if he ever did something like that again.

It sounds bad, but without knowing more it's hard to know what the bus company was reprimanding him for. There is probably a regulation that he cannot leave his bus unattended, to prevent someone driving the bus away, or breaking in to the toll box, etc. While the citizen in us looks admiringly on someone who takes action to save another, it is possible to see the bus company's interest is not met by that principle. That is quite aside from liability issues over the bus driver's actions and the possible liability of the bus company because of it. A suit could argue that since he was wearing their uniform and on duty, he was acting as an agent of the company, and his actions thus make the bus company legally responsible. Sure, it would seem a great miscarriage of justice if in the act of preventing the thugs from assaulting the victim, the driver injured one of the thugs, who then sues him and the bus company for the injury and wins. Still, stranger things have happened.



This sounds like a joke--how could someone be prosecuted for NOT committing a crime? However, here in the US, people have been charged for doing nothing.

Sometimes doing nothing is a crime. It's called "negligence".


I cannot tell you how many people I know who died or were badly injured dodging some stupid jack rabbit in the road. No small animal is worth your life--run over it. For that matter, I won't even risk damaging my car by swerving to avoid an animal when it isn't safe--and if you don't know it is safe to swerve then it isn't.

When I was a child, a teenaged neighbor put his car into a ditch. He claimed he was avoiding a bird that flew in front of him. No witnesses. My dad thinks he was a bit of a hot-rod and just lost control driving too fast and was making excuses.

I have had to hit an animal I couldn't avoid. Driving along a highway, I crested a hill to find a string of dogs crossing the road in front of me. I did not have enough distance to stop. They were spread out in a line, not a clump, which pretty much eliminated any ability for me to maneuver around them. So I basically had to choose between running one over or crashing in the ditch. I did slam on the brakes, but that didn't help. If it had been a person, I probably would have picked the ditch. Or made a desperate attempt to swerve onto a dirt road/driveway intersecting nearby. For the dog, I just had to grit my teeth and then feel really bad afterwards.

Lance
2006-Jan-18, 10:44 PM
Sometimes doing nothing is a crime. It's called "negligence".
But it has to be something you are responsible for.

Let's say, for example, you are a shop owner in a strip mall. There are a bunch of boxes piled behind your back door blocking the exit. You see them, but do nothing to clear the path. If there is subsequently a fire and people die because they couldn't get out the back door, you are responsible because you failed to take action that you should have taken.

If you see the boxes piled up behind your neighbor's back door and the same thing happens, it is not your problem.

In order to be negligent you have to first be responsible.

Doodler
2006-Jan-18, 10:55 PM
It sounds bad, but without knowing more it's hard to know what the bus company was reprimanding him for. There is probably a regulation that he cannot leave his bus unattended, to prevent someone driving the bus away, or breaking in to the toll box, etc. While the citizen in us looks admiringly on someone who takes action to save another, it is possible to see the bus company's interest is not met by that principle. That is quite aside from liability issues over the bus driver's actions and the possible liability of the bus company because of it. A suit could argue that since he was wearing their uniform and on duty, he was acting as an agent of the company, and his actions thus make the bus company legally responsible. Sure, it would seem a great miscarriage of justice if in the act of preventing the thugs from assaulting the victim, the driver injured one of the thugs, who then sues him and the bus company for the injury and wins. Still, stranger things have happened.

Bienvenidos Los Estados Unidos. Land of the Pro Bono, Home of the Plea Bargain.

worzel
2006-Jan-19, 12:13 AM
Well as we're into nitpicking on this thread, aren't we supposed to limit our speed when driving such that we can always stop within the visible distance? (or even half the distance on a road with no center line)I don't think so. What happens if there's a hill in the road? Do you have to slow down to near zero as you approach the top, because you can't see over it?
Well technically, yes, I think so. It was almost worded like that in the NZ highway code anyways. What's the difference between that and going round a blind bend? I always used* to get a huge rush of adrenaline going over a blind hill or round a blind bend and was constantly amazed that people could just assume the way is clear when they can't see.
*Living in London I can thankfully avoid getting into a car completely for most of the year.

Vaelroth
2006-Jan-19, 01:22 AM
This sounds like a joke--how could someone be prosecuted for NOT committing a crime? However, here in the US, people have been charged for doing nothing. There was a case a few years back in the northeast where people in a bar watched a rape occur. The rapists were charged, but released on technicalities. The witnesses were then charged, and convicted. A movie was made of this incident starring Jodie Foster.

On a related note--some folks I knew were out drinking, got drunk, smashed their car and one of them was killed. The police charged the bar tender as an accomplice to manslaughter. Thankfully this bogus charge did not stick, but the principle is there. You can be held responsible for the actions of others--more especially if you have deep pockets.

As a railway operator, you have a responsibility to make the railways as safe as they can possibly be. If you neglect your duties and allow five people to die then you have not fufilled your responsibility and have therefore committed a crime. Regardless of whether or not there was a person on the other tracks.

SeanF
2006-Jan-19, 02:52 PM
I don't think so. What happens if there's a hill in the road? Do you have to slow down to near zero as you approach the top, because you can't see over it?
Of course you don't have to slow down to "near zero," but you should definitely be considering the possibility that the road isn't clear.

After all, if you do go over the hill and there's a semi stalled in the middle of the road, will it make you feel any better right before you die knowing that it wasn't your fault? As my Mom always said in regards to car crashes - "It doesn't matter who's right so much as who's left." :)

BTW, I must stand corrected. I've learned that some states actually have laws requiring motorists to swerve in order to avoid an accident. Seems dangerous to me, since it then opens up a driver who swerves and causes another accident to passing the responsibility off on the state...

farmerjumperdon
2006-Jan-19, 03:19 PM
Of course you don't have to slow down to "near zero," but you should definitely be considering the possibility that the road isn't clear.

After all, if you do go over the hill and there's a semi stalled in the middle of the road, will it make you feel any better right before you die knowing that it wasn't your fault? As my Mom always said in regards to car crashes - "It doesn't matter who's right so much as who's left." :)

BTW, I must stand corrected. I've learned that some states actually have laws requiring motorists to swerve in order to avoid an accident. Seems dangerous to me, since it then opens up a driver who swerves and causes another accident to passing the responsibility off on the state...

Good post. Yes, you definitely should slow considerably approaching a blind hill. Most roads are engineered to avoid ridiculous slowdowns (you won't find many blind hills on the intrerstate). They are designed so they can be safely negotiated at the posted limit under normal (re: weather) conditions. When there is reason to do so, they are posted with those yellow signs that are intended to warn drivers that it may serve them well to slow down.

I don't know the legalities well, and don't think they are too relevant to being a responsible driver. I'm more of the engage-your-brain, common sense type. For people that like charts and graphs, there must be one out there that gives good approximations of how far ahead you should be able to see at any given speed. Similar to not outdriving your headlights at night.

I feel a person is responsible to maintain control, be prepared for potentail dangers, and drive defensively. It's rather difficult to be indignant about being within the law or having the right of way once you are dead and gone.

Unless of course you can work thru a medium.

Lance
2006-Jan-19, 04:41 PM
BTW, I must stand corrected. I've learned that some states actually have laws requiring motorists to swerve in order to avoid an accident. Seems dangerous to me, since it then opens up a driver who swerves and causes another accident to passing the responsibility off on the state...

In Illinois you can be ticketed for "Failure to Reduce Speed to Avoid an Accident". It's what they get you for when they "know" it was your fault but they can't get you for something else.

ToSeek
2006-Jan-20, 03:49 PM
In Illinois you can be ticketed for "Failure to Reduce Speed to Avoid an Accident". It's what they get you for when they "know" it was your fault but they can't get you for something else.

It's "failure to control speed" in Maryland, and, yes, it's what they usually charge you with if you rear-end somebody. My wife has been on both ends of that one.

farmerjumperdon
2006-Jan-20, 04:03 PM
This sounds perfectly reasonable to me. If something is limiting your visibility to 150", then you are responsible to go no faster than the speed under which you can stop in 150' or less.

It doesn't appear so, but is someone saying this isn't so?

Doodler
2006-Jan-20, 04:19 PM
This sounds perfectly reasonable to me. If something is limiting your visibility to 150", then you are responsible to go no faster than the speed under which you can stop in 150' or less.

It doesn't appear so, but is someone saying this isn't so?

And if its a clear, sunny day on an interstate with traffic cruising along at 60-75 mph, and someone loses control in front of you, what's the reasonable expectation for capacity to stop or avoid becoming involved?

SeanF
2006-Jan-20, 04:53 PM
And if its a clear, sunny day on an interstate with traffic cruising along at 60-75 mph, and someone loses control in front of you, what's the reasonable expectation for capacity to stop or avoid becoming involved?
Are you talking about the car that is in the same lane you are, in front of you?

You should be far enough behind that vehicle so that if they were to come to a sudden screeching halt for no reason apparent to you, you would have time to see that they're decelerating, realize what that means, apply your own brakes, and slow and/or stop your vehicle before you hit them (how long it would take to do this depends, of course, on your own reflexes, your vehicle's stopping ability, road conditions, and your velocity). If you don't have time to do all that, you're following too close and should back off. And if you do have time to do all that, then that vehicle suddenly losing control and skidding or swerving back and forth should give you plenty of time to get your vehicle slowed down.

If you're talking about a car in another lane that may lose control and come into your lane in front of you, it's not reasonable to expect you to be able to avoid that.

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-20, 07:00 PM
In Ontario, at least, if you hit the car in front of you (in the same lane) from behind, you are at fault. Always. even if he slams on the breaks. The law says that you're travelling too close, so you caused the accident.

Them's the rules.

SeanF
2006-Jan-20, 08:01 PM
In Ontario, at least, if you hit the car in front of you (in the same lane) from behind, you are at fault. Always. even if he slams on the breaks. The law says that you're travelling too close, so you caused the accident.

Them's the rules.
Now I assume there's leeway on that, though - it's conceivable that someone could come up alongside you, cut over right in front of you, and then immediately slam on their brakes, before you have time to adjust to the "new" car in front of you. That's not your fault.

Given that caveat, though, this is, IMHO, as it should be. :)

The Supreme Canuck
2006-Jan-20, 09:21 PM
Yeah, if someone pulls in front of you, they're at fault. They're turning (changing lanes at least) so it's their mistake.

Irishman
2006-Jan-20, 10:04 PM
Originally Posted by The Supreme Canuck
In Ontario, at least, if you hit the car in front of you (in the same lane) from behind, you are at fault. Always. even if he slams on the breaks. The law says that you're travelling too close, so you caused the accident.

Them's the rules.

Now I assume there's leeway on that, though - it's conceivable that someone could come up alongside you, cut over right in front of you, and then immediately slam on their brakes, before you have time to adjust to the "new" car in front of you. =That's not your fault.

Actually, in the U.S. the law is similar, and I'm not sure it's caught up. The "swoop and squat" maneuver is an insurance scam that operates on that principle. They get a beat up old car loaded with people, pin you in a lane where you can't move out of the way, then swoop in front of you and slam on the brakes so you run into them. Then they collect your insurance for "injuries" because it's legally your fault, nevermind that they moved in front of you.

The Law doesn't necessarily conform to reason.

SeanF
2006-Jan-21, 05:25 AM
Actually, in the U.S. the law is similar, and I'm not sure it's caught up. The "swoop and squat" maneuver is an insurance scam that operates on that principle. They get a beat up old car loaded with people, pin you in a lane where you can't move out of the way, then swoop in front of you and slam on the brakes so you run into them. Then they collect your insurance for "injuries" because it's legally your fault, nevermind that they moved in front of you.

The Law doesn't necessarily conform to reason.
Actually, that's not how "swoop and squat" works. "Swoop and squat" involves three vehicles, two of which are driven by accomplices in the crime. One vehicle gets in front of you, then the other vehicle swerves over in front of the first vehicle. The first vehicle slams on their brakes, ostensibly to avoid the "swerver," and you hit them while the "swerver" flees the scene. This gives the braking vehicle a legitimate, sure-to-be-witnessed reason for braking. They tend to target elderly drivers whose reflexes are probably not as good.

Since the car that is braking and being hit is not actually swerving in front, the victim is, technically, "at fault." It is an insurance scam, though, and if caught, the perpetrators are punished and the "victim" is generally not.

Astrogirl
2006-Jan-21, 07:43 AM
1) Permissible.
2) Obligatory.
3) Forbidden.

worzel
2006-Jan-21, 06:54 PM
This sounds perfectly reasonable to me. If something is limiting your visibility to 150", then you are responsible to go no faster than the speed under which you can stop in 150' or less.

It doesn't appear so, but is someone saying this isn't so?



Well as we're into nitpicking on this thread, aren't we supposed to limit our speed when driving such that we can always stop within the visible distance? (or even half the distance on a road with no center line)I don't think so. What happens if there's a hill in the road? Do you have to slow down to near zero as you approach the top, because you can't see over it?
As SeanF said, if someone swerves into your path then that's not your fault, but being able to stop within the distance you can see is surely only sensible, as you say. Not so well known is the requirement (and sensibleness) to be able to stop in half that distance on a very narrow road where oncoming traffic is likely to be in your path.

mickal555
2006-Jan-22, 08:31 AM
Lawyers for the company I work for instructed our truck drivers to NOT stop and give assistance when they see someone injured by the side of the road. [SNIP]

Here telstra have the policy for their workers: "Never admit liability".

A couple of days ago my dad backed into someone else(in frount of people and everything) and he admited that it was his fault- he actually ended up getting in trouble for this...

PhantomWolf
2006-Jan-22, 01:00 PM
Personally I think that most peiple I have read have tried to read to much into things.

#1. With the information given, all you have is two groups of unknown people walking on the tracks. If you act then the carriage is going to hit one of them, if you don't it will hit five. Either way a case for criminal action or inaction could be made, but in the end I believe that an excuse of, "I did nothing because someone would be killed," would be an acceptable defence. In this case, by walking on the tracks, both groups have acknowledged and accepted the risks. Neither group here is "innocent" to those risks.

#2 is pretty obvious really. A life is more important than clothing. Clothing can be replaced.

#3 is a little more interesting, yet I think the answer is more simple that it at first it appears. This is because there is another solution than letting the five die. In the first situation we only had one choice, either switch the train or not. Here we have a third option. It's unlikely that all the patients requiring transplants will die simultaneously, so instead we can allow nature to taken it's course for them until the first dies, and allow them to become the doner for the other four. In this way we still have sacrficed one for the many as in option one, but we haven't saccrificed an innocent who has not taken a risk in doing so.

Jeff Root
2006-Jan-22, 03:30 PM
A lot of great analysis and ideas in this thread, by a lot of
people-- especially The Supreme Canuck.

I agree that the particulars of the circumstances are important,
but I also agree that many of the particulars put forward aren't
part of the original scenario and so aren't really relevant.



In this case, by walking on the tracks, both groups have
acknowledged and accepted the risks. Neither group here is
"innocent" to those risks.
That is not part of the original scenario. The people are
walking on the tracks. That is all we are given. They may or
may not know that they are on railway tracks. They may or may
not know that the tracks are in use. They may all have good
reason to think that they are not in use.

Perhaps the tracks are new and have never been used before.
The "runaway trolly", whose new automated acceleration and
braking system you are testing, should have stopped at the
station a half mile away. You are the "railway worker" who
can throw the switch, and that is the only option available
to you because there is no-one on the automated trolly and
you are running this unscheduled, unauthorized test all by
yourself, and you don't know how to cut the power to the
tracks, and the automated braking system you designed isn't
working.

In other words, it's all YOUR fault!

A friend of mine recently designed an automated acceleration
and braking system for a rail line in England. He said there
was a suggestion that he be duct-taped to the the front of the
railcar during the first official test run. I don't believe
he did any unauthorized testing in secret before that....


#2 is pretty obvious really.
#2 is clearly a strawman.


#3 is a little more interesting, yet I think the answer is more
simple than it at first it appears. This is because there is another
solution than letting the five die. In the first situation we only
had one choice, either switch the train or not. Here we have a third
option. It's unlikely that all the patients requiring transplants
will die simultaneously, so instead we can allow nature to taken
it's course for them until the first dies, and allow them to become
the doner for the other four. In this way we still have sacrficed
one for the many as in option one, but we haven't sacrificed an
innocent who has not taken a risk in doing so.
The original problem doesn't say so, but it is clear that that
is not an option. The only available donor is the innocent guy
in the waiting room. It is curious that the donor is guaranteed
to die but the recipients are guaranteed to survive.

My first reaction to the problem was "I don't like the available
options." None of the scenarios are obligatory, permissible, or
forbidden-- they are all choices that one must make, which other
people will strongly agree and disagree with.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

worzel
2006-Jan-22, 04:47 PM
Personally I think that most peiple I have read have tried to read to much into things.
.
.
.
#3 is a little more interesting, yet I think the answer is more simple that it at first it appears. This is because there is another solution than letting the five die. In the first situation we only had one choice, either switch the train or not. Here we have a third option. It's unlikely that all the patients requiring transplants will die simultaneously, so instead we can allow nature to taken it's course for them until the first dies, and allow them to become the doner for the other four. In this way we still have sacrficed one for the many as in option one, but we haven't saccrificed an innocent who has not taken a risk in doing so.
Aren't you guilty of reading too much into #3. It is "interesting" when the only two options are to let the five people die, or sacrifice one innocent healthy person to save them all (to full health and with the same prognosis as the sacrificed one would have had).

Melusine
2006-Jan-22, 09:16 PM
This is an interesting thread, and more so because some people can't resist adding circumstances that would affect their decisions, which is understandable since life isn't always black and white. I like SupremeC's bringing up the utilitarian doctrine, but I have a problem applying that to Case #1.

1. I'd say it's permissible and understandable that in a blind situation, knowing no circumstances, one chooses to save more lives over one. I would think that if it were one vs. two, the same choice would be made if one thinks along those lines, and I do think it's the more morally defensible view in a blind situation. Even if you come to find out that the five were suicidal and wanted to be there, and the one was a worker, you might question your decision, but you've still increased the potential for more happiness. The family of the one you chose to sacrifice for a greater good might think that five (or two or three) lives weren't enough for you to take the good fortune (for lack of better word) away from the safe guy; that you played with fate and killed him without knowing a darn thing about the situation, and this is why it shouldn't be obligatory. One shouldn't be obligated to kill someone. Can you really say it's morally indefensible in blind situations to let five people die over one who was not at risk? I'm not fatalistic, but my dilemma is with the number five. I don't think I would flip the switch for five people and deliberately kill the guy who happens to be alone. I guess I don't think five is enough to bear the burden of having taken away the safe guy's life. If it were a 100 or 1,000 on the death track, I would flip it because the overwhelming number and potential misery would overcome the discomfort of killing the one. But in a split-second decision, for all I know I could see FIVE and one, and the visual imbalance of seeing more or less might cause me to instinctively react and flip the switch. Either way I'd feel cruddy. In an equal situation where there's, say, one on a roof of a flooded house, and five on another, the water is rising and there's only time to go to one house, I'd go to the five.


To mess with my head more about the value of five, I imagined the same situation except that the one was my brother. Still no knowledge about the circumstances--you see the train going after five, you see your brother on the safe track. Would those who would flip the switch for five still do it? Or does the value of five change? Would you flip it and kill your brother if there were 100 or 1000 people on the death track? At what point does a "greater good" kick in? Just musing.

2. Obligatory. If your pants are more important than saving someone then you have the moral fiber of...pants.

3. Forbidden. If it were OK to harvest healthy people's organs to save others there would be no end to doing so. Besides the obvious rights of a person, there would be little incentive to maintain one's health lest it be taken away from them. You'd be killing off healthier people to save unhealthy people and the repurcussions would be deleterious to the greater good of society and mankind. In the train situation, that person's moral dilemma/decision does not affect the whole of society and the ethical ramifications of medicine and healthcare.

worzel
2006-Jan-22, 11:06 PM
#1 has to be easy for the girls, they wouldn't know how to operate the switch anyway :)

That was postmodern irony, not sexism, by the way.

Irishman
2006-Jan-27, 06:55 AM
#3 is a little more interesting, yet I think the answer is more simple that it at first it appears. This is because there is another solution than letting the five die. In the first situation we only had one choice, either switch the train or not. Here we have a third option. It's unlikely that all the patients requiring transplants will die simultaneously, so instead we can allow nature to taken it's course for them until the first dies, and allow them to become the doner for the other four. In this way we still have sacrficed one for the many as in option one, but we haven't saccrificed an innocent who has not taken a risk in doing so.

Yes, that is a more realistic option to resolving the dilemma of option 3. But that doesn't address the question presented in 3.



#2 is clearly a strawman.

Yes, it is pretty simplistic. I think it's main purpose was to separate cases 1 and 3 so they weren't back to back.


My first reaction to the problem was "I don't like the available options." None of the scenarios are obligatory, permissible, or forbidden-- they are all choices that one must make, which other people will strongly agree and disagree with.

The original context of the morality quiz was not to establish any "objective" moral decision on any criteria. The intent was to gather responses from people on how they make moral decisions, and then compare the results against various "moral codes" being used. So the responses are for you to evaluate by your own code what your code tells you about the decision. Nevermind what anyone else would think or feel.

The results indicate that the reasons for different answers to the questions were either not consciously explainable by the person, or else were not dependent upon the source of the moral code.

I posted it not as a continuation of that investigation, but to help with my own questions in evaluating the moral differences between the situations presented. I appreciate the thoughtful replies.

reidenschneider
2007-Nov-26, 10:54 PM
pity that this thread has had no activity for nearly two years. i have just stumbled across it and having read through many of the posts it struck me that #1 and #3 were the same dilemma.
in so far as both cases involve a number of individuals (5) who are in jeopardy and an innocent (1) (as presumed by the description of the problem) who is not but who is made to share in the consequence of a decision decided upon by another.

however, #3 has a number of attendant problems which could not find any correspondence in the real world.

in saying this i realize i am not answering the problem as stated but as the near two year hiatus testifies i do not fear any rebuke. :)

Chuck
2007-Nov-26, 11:54 PM
I thought people stopped posting because everyone agreed with me.

Gillianren
2007-Nov-27, 04:39 AM
in saying this i realize i am not answering the problem as stated but as the near two year hiatus testifies i do not fear any rebuke. :)

Well, except for the minor one about resurrecting a two-year-old thread.

Van Rijn
2007-Nov-27, 09:34 AM
Well, except for the minor one about resurrecting a two-year-old thread.

He made it clear up front, though, so I can't get too annoyed about that either. Maybe we could find some annoyance in his attempt to defuse our annoyance at a thread resurrection. We should have something to be annoyed about. :think: :)

Jeff Root
2007-Nov-27, 12:02 PM
I'm glad I was given the opportunity to re-read Melusine's post just
above (#165, January 22, 2006). It is such an insightful analysis.
Really excellent.

It prompted me to expand on the scenario she suggested:

A raging flood. You are in a motorboat which can hold only five
people, no more. Five people are on the roof of a house which is
about to be inundated. In the opposite direction, one person is
on the roof of another house which is about to be inundated.
You can only get to one house or the other.

I'll make it even harder: You don't know any of the people
personally, but you know that the lone person is a middle-aged
man who lived alone and never had very many friends, while
the group of five consists of college-age guys and gals who are
good friends, in good health, strong, good-looking and working
at local jobs while attending business school. You are a
middle-aged man who lives alone and never had many friends.

What'll ya do?

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

grant hutchison
2007-Nov-27, 12:31 PM
Having skimmed the thread, and done a search to check it hasn't been mentioned before, I'm just dropping in to recommend Moral Minds, by Marc Hauser, to anyone interested by these dilemmas. Hauser attempts to describe the evolutionary and developmental underpinnings of our decision-making.

Grant Hutchison

DyerWolf
2007-Nov-27, 02:54 PM
Err, its quite feasible to be convicted of murder through inaction in the U.S. I don't know about elsewhere, so this may be different for people from other countries.

Actually, it is not - by definition. Murder requires volition - a positive act, not inaction. The positive act may be as simple as participating in the crime that results in the murder committed by your co-conspirator - but you cannot be convicted of murder for simply watching someone die or failing to save them. You wouldn't even be guilty of manslaughter.

Nor could you be convicted of murder in situation # 1; acting in an emergency to save 5 people resulting in the death of another is not a premeditated act of violence.

To the OP Q: my answers would be permissible, obligatory, forbidden. At law, the answer is permissible, permissible, forbidden (you cannot seize another's organs to harvest without consent, nor do you have a legal duty to rescue anyone at peril (you may feel a social compulsion to rescue the child, but not a legal duty to do so - at least in the US. I think German law requires people to act when they might reasonably attempt a rescue...).

HenrikOlsen
2007-Nov-27, 05:02 PM
I'm glad I was given the opportunity to re-read Melusine's post just
above (#165, January 22, 2006). It is such an insightful analysis.
Really excellent.

It prompted me to expand on the scenario she suggested:

A raging flood. You are in a motorboat which can hold only five
people, no more. Five people are on the roof of a house which is
about to be inundated. In the opposite direction, one person is
on the roof of another house which is about to be inundated.
You can only get to one house or the other.

I'll make it even harder: You don't know any of the people
personally, but you know that the lone person is a middle-aged
man who lived alone and never had very many friends, while
the group of five consists of college-age guys and gals who are
good friends, in good health, strong, good-looking and working
at local jobs while attending business school. You are a
middle-aged man who lives alone and never had many friends.

What'll ya do?

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
Get the one guy on the roof.
Six people fighting over a boat that can only take five, where the other five are friends, will get me drowned which isn't part of the bargain.
Also, we have too many MBA's as it is.

The last point was a joke, the rest wasn't.


Had it been four people on that roof I'd go for them.

Jim
2007-Nov-27, 07:24 PM
Time magazine has an article on this subject (http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/article/0,28804,1685055_1685076_1686619,00.html) that may be worth reading. Toward the bottom of page 2, it discusses the trolley scenario and adds a twist that makes it more like the organ transplant one; the difference in responses is noted and explained some.

filrabat
2007-Nov-28, 02:17 AM
1. Somewhere between Permissible and Obligatory

2. Obligatory.

3. Forbidden

mickal555
2007-Nov-28, 06:46 AM
Brains... Brains...

reidenschneider
2007-Nov-28, 01:34 PM
Actually, it is not - by definition. Murder requires volition - a positive act, not inaction. The positive act may be as simple as participating in the crime that results in the murder committed by your co-conspirator - but you cannot be convicted of murder for simply watching someone die or failing to save them. You wouldn't even be guilty of manslaughter.

Nor could you be convicted of murder in situation # 1; acting in an emergency to save 5 people resulting in the death of another is not a premeditated act of violence.

To the OP Q: my answers would be permissible, obligatory, forbidden. At law, the answer is permissible, permissible, forbidden (you cannot seize another's organs to harvest without consent, nor do you have a legal duty to rescue anyone at peril (you may feel a social compulsion to rescue the child, but not a legal duty to do so - at least in the US. I think German law requires people to act when they might reasonably attempt a rescue...).

you may be guilty of depraved indifference which while not murder nor manslaughter will cop you a few years.

i stand rebuked and apologize to the rest of you for wounding an old opening. but this was well worth the article linked by jim.

Ilya
2009-Oct-22, 02:44 AM
1. A runaway trolley is about to run over five people walking on the tracks. A railway worker is standing next to a switch that can turn the trolley onto a side track, killing one person, but allowing the five to survive. Flipping the switch is __________.
[For the sake of clarity, the one person is not the railway operator who can throw the switch, but some other person.]#1 is ridiculously oversimplified. How do I know the person will REALLY hit the switch in correct direction? I may kill him for nothing. How do I know he won't overpower me and throw ME onto the rails? Or perhaps he will grab onto something as he falls, neither kill me nor die himself, and I am then charged with attempted murder? Come to think of it, I could be charged with murder here in any case.

My point is, overwhelming majority of humans will NOT actually push someone in this situation -- not out of moral reasoning, but out of self-interest and uncertainty.
I generally dislike this kind of quizzes because psychologists (or philosophers, or social scientists) who formulate them tend to think of only a limited range of reasons for any possible answer (most likely reasons from their own specialty), whereas people base answer on many, often unexpected things, which renders the quiz useless.

Yesterday I read a perfect example of this. An economist who studies (among other things) economics of prostitution asked a call girl "If someone offered you $1 million to have sex without a condom, would you do it?" He was trying to determine the balance between perceived risks and rewards. Her answer? "Absolutely not. Anyone crazy enough to make such an offer is crazy enough to stay well away from." Very sensible real-world answer, but useless for his study.

TheHalcyonYear
2009-Oct-22, 06:04 AM
The quiz seems to assume that there are "correct" answers to these questions. However, I think that this is a very misguide assumption. Answers will vary based on culture, religion, and personal choices. To think that there is a universal concept of "morality" is a bit presumptuous since it suggests that all those who disagree immoral.

This could be taken further, but not without violating the rules of the forum here.

Jeff Root
2009-Oct-22, 06:16 AM
2nd necromancy alert -- Almost another two years.

Ilya,

What gives you the idea that the sensible real-world answer was useless
for his study? I think you are assuming too much about the study and the
researcher.

What gives you the idea that the "quiz" of the original post is rendered
useless by the reasoning that people actually use? I think you are assuming
way too much about the people who formulated it, and are not giving them
credit they deserve.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

NorthernBoy
2009-Oct-22, 08:40 AM
The quiz seems to assume that there are "correct" answers to these questions. However, I think that this is a very misguide assumption. Answers will vary based on culture, religion, and personal choices. To think that there is a universal concept of "morality" is a bit presumptuous since it suggests that all those who disagree immoral

There tends to be pretty universal agreement, though, on situations such as the runaway trolley or killing a person for their organs, to save five.

In pretty much all cultures the former would be seen as moral, and the latter as immoral. The universality of morals is one of the arguments against the premise that we require religious guidance to stop us descending into immoral chaos.

NorthernBoy
2009-Oct-22, 08:48 AM
Well technically, yes, I think so. It was almost worded like that in the NZ highway code anyways. What's the difference between that and going round a blind bend? I always used* to get a huge rush of adrenaline going over a blind hill or round a blind bend and was constantly amazed that people could just assume the way is clear when they can't see.

Since this thread has already been brought back from the dead, I think I'll pitch in on this one, too.

A driver needs always to be able to stop in the distance which they can see to be clear. At the crest of a hill, though, the visibility is pretty much never zero, given that your eyes are about 1.5m above the road surface, and you are looking for hazards that are themselves not flat.

Personally, I've never just assumed that the road would be clear. What I do is to drive in a way that means that in the 1 in 1,000 times that someone really has foolishly stopped just over a steep crest, I might have to brake very hard indeed, but that I'll still most likely be OK.

The flip side of this is that if I'm on a clear, dry bit of road that I know well, and can see to be clear for a very long way, with no junctions, I'll draw a clear distinction between what the law says, and what is safe, and make my own decision as to how fast I should go.

Chuck
2009-Oct-23, 04:23 AM
Doesn't it seem strange that some people think it's immoral to remove one person's organs to save five people but it's permissible to intentionally crush one person's organs with a railroad car to save five people?

TheHalcyonYear
2009-Oct-23, 05:01 AM
Doesn't it seem strange that some people think it's immoral to remove one person's organs to save five people but it's permissible to intentionally crush one person's organs with a railroad car to save five people?
I tried to point out the relative nature of morality, but NorthernBoy says I'm wrong. Personally I think the answers given in this thread point to the fact that morality tends to be measured relative to one's cultural upbringing rather than absolute.

Either that or there are some immoral people here. Of course that would raise the question of which ones and the answer to that seems to be relative. :)

HenrikOlsen
2009-Oct-23, 06:46 AM
Doesn't it seem strange that some people think it's immoral to remove one person's organs to save five people but it's permissible to intentionally crush one person's organs with a railroad car to save five people?
Not really, when moral decisions are considered as those maximizing good for the most people.

In the first case the secondary consequences of choosing to cut up a healthy person, i.e. that people would stop using hospitals and therefore more people would die, outweighs the immediate benefit to the five.
While in the railroad case the secondary consequences of hitting the one person is not that people will flock to the railroad lines and more will get killed, so the two cases are not equal and therefore the morally correct choice does not have to be equal either.

Jens
2009-Oct-23, 07:18 AM
Doesn't it seem strange that some people think it's immoral to remove one person's organs to save five people but it's permissible to intentionally crush one person's organs with a railroad car to save five people?

Another issue about this, is I don't think the OP talks about "intentionally" crushing one person's organs. It's just your lack of action that will allow the person to be crushed. A crucial difference for me between the two situations is that in one, you have to do something, whereas in the other you are just allowing a situation to take its course.

HenrikOlsen
2009-Oct-23, 07:21 AM
In the original setup, your lack of action will let five people get crushed instead of one if you act.

TheHalcyonYear
2009-Oct-23, 07:45 AM
In the original setup, your lack of action will let five people get crushed instead of one if you act.
And this is the point. In one case no action is taken while in the other a direct action is taken that cause a death. Many actions that an individual does not take may lead to the death of individuals; however actions that lead directly to the death of individuals are often considered far more important.

I am not suggesting that one course of action is better than the other. Quite the opposite, I am saying that those who believe in absolute morality are going to find that the views of others vary. I think it unwise to begin to look for absolutely correct actions in any situation.

There are situations that might make the issue a bit more stark, but once again such examples run the risk of running afoul of the rules of this board.

NorthernBoy
2009-Oct-23, 08:21 AM
I tried to point out the relative nature of morality, but NorthernBoy says I'm wrong.

Well not really. I said that there are studies which suggest that most societies share a surprisingly large amount of what we'd view as morals.

It's still pretty clear that there are vast relative differences in morals between individuals, though.

NorthernBoy
2009-Oct-23, 08:33 AM
Not really, when moral decisions are considered as those maximizing good for the most people.

They are if your morals are based on pure positive utilitarianism, but I think that most people would agree that we have overlaid on that a virtue based system also, where we will have a class of prescribed actions, and a set of taboo ones, too, which will sometimes come into conflict with a strict utilitarian interpretation of what's right.

The struggle between the two was classically put in such situations as the knight who knew that his opponent (who would wreak havoc if he lived) was stronger than him. There was endless debate about whether it would be dishonourable for him to strike from behind, while his opponent was unprepared, and so spare the future victims, or if he should face his opponent, and lose, but do so with honour.

I'm not sure if I read your above reply correctly, but you seem to be implying that virtues will always arise from utilitarianism. This is not a very conventional view, and you could quite easily reframe the organ question to avoid the negative consequences which you mention.

Fr example, instead of killing a person in the waiting room, we could ask if we should take healthy prisoners serving a life sentence, and harvest their organs too. There are many situations where the grater good would indeed be served, but which we shy away from, as it crosses lines which we prefer to keep as absolute.

Here's a link to some reasonable discussions about how these two difering sets of morals can interact

http://www.humanities.mq.edu.au/Ockham/UtilVirtue.html

It is also worth mentioning that negative utilitarianism has been suggested by some as a more morally "good" method,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism#Negative

Neverfly
2009-Oct-23, 08:47 AM
That is not how I read the questions.

Each proposed a situation where you were fully aware that one life would be lost to save five lives.

If so, that makes morality seem less absolute.

NorthernBoy
2009-Oct-23, 09:02 AM
That is not how I read the questions.

Each proposed a situation where you were fully aware that one life would be lost to save five lives.

If so, that makes morality seem less absolute.

I think the "is it absolute" means "would people from all over the world reach the same decisions", though. This was notably discussed, with exactly these situations, in The God Delusion (where Dawkins was discussing the work of Marc Hauser), and the take on it there is the sme one that I have where the question is used to see if morals are universal in terms of applying to all, or relative, in terms of differing widely between cultures.

Apologies for the length of the extract below, but I think it's interesting enough to put in whole;

"If our moral sense, like our sexual desire, is indeed rooted deep in our Darwinian past, predating religion, we should expect that research on the human mind would reveal some moral universals, crossing geographical and cultural barriers, and also, crucially, religious barriers. The Harvard biologist Marc Hauser, in his book Moral Minds: How Nature Designed our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong, has enlarged upon a fruitful line of thought experiments originally suggested by moral philosophers. Hauser's study will serve the additional purpose of introducing the way moral philosophers think. A hypothetical moral dilemma is posed, and the difficulty we experience in answering it tells us something about our sense of right and wrong. Where Hauser goes beyond the philosophers is that he actually does statistical surveys and psychological experiments, using questionnaires on the Internet, for example, to investigate the moral sense of real people. From the present point of view, the interesting thing is that most people come to the same decisions when faced with these dilemmas, and their agreement over the decisions themselves is stronger than their ability to articulate their reasons. This is what we should expect if we have a moral sense which is built into our brains, like our sexual instinct or our fear of heights or, as Hauser himself prefers to say, like our capacity for language (the details vary from culture to culture, but the underlying deep structure of grammar is universal). As we shall see, the way people respond to these moral tests, and their inability to articulate their reasons, seems largely independent of their religious beliefs or lack of them. The message of Hauser's book, to anticipate it in his own words, is this: 'Driving our moral judgments is a universal moral grammar, a faculty of the mind that evolved over millions of years to include a set of principles for building a range of possible moral systems. As with language, the principles that make up our moral grammar fly beneath the radar of our awareness.'

Typical of Hauser's moral dilemmas are variations on the theme of a runaway truck or 'trolly', on a railway line which threatens to kill a number of people. The simplest story images a person, Denise, standing by a set of points and in a position to divert the trolly onto a siding, thereby saving the lives of five people trapped on the main line ahead. Unfortunately there is a man trapped on the siding. But since he is only one, outnumbered by the five people trapped on the main track, most people agree that it is morally permissible, if not obligatory, for Denise to throw the switch and save the five by killing the one. We ignore hypothetical possibilities such as that the one man on the siding might be Beethoven, or a close friend.

Elaborations of the thought experiment present a series of increasingly teasing moral conundrums. What if the trolly can be stopped by dropping a large weight in its path from a bridge overhead? That's easy: obviously we must drop the weight. But what if the only large weight available is a very fat man sitting on the bridge, admiring the sunset? Almost everybody agrees that it is immoral to push the fat man off the bridge, even though, from one point of view, the dilemma might seem parallel to Denise's, where throwing the switch kills one to save five. Most of us have a strong intuition that there is a crucial difference between the two cases, though we may not be able to articulate what it is.

Pushing the fat man off the bridge is reminiscent of another dilemma considered by Hauser. Five patients in a hospital are dying, each with a different organ failing. Each would be saved if a donor could be found for their particular faulty organ, but none is available. Then the surgeon notices that there is a healthy man in the waiting room, all five of whose organs are in good working order and suitable for transplanting. In this case, almost nobody can be found who is prepared to say that the moral act is to kill the one to save the five.

As with the fat man on the bridge, the intuition that most of us share is that an innocent bystander should not suddenly be dragged into a bad situation and used for the sake of others without his consent. Immanual Kant famously articulated the principle that a rational being should never be used as merely an unconsenting means to an end, even the end of benefiting others. This seems to provide the crucial difference between the case of the fat man on the bridge (or the man in the hospital waiting room) and the man on Denise's siding. The fat man on the bridge is being positively used as the means to stop the runaway trolley. This clearly violates the Kantian principle. The person on the siding is not being used to save the lives of the five people on the line. It is the siding that is being used, and he just has the bad luck to be standing on it. But, when you put the distinction like that, why does it satisfy us? For Kant, it was a moral absolute. For Hauser, it is built into us by our evolution.

The hypothetical situations involving the runaway trolley become increasingly ingenious, and the moral dilemmas correspondingly tortuous. Hauser contrasts the dilemmas faced by hypothetical individuals called Ned and Oscar. Ned is standing by the railway track. Unlike Denise, who could divert the trolley onto a siding, Ned's switch diverts it onto a side loop which joins the main track again just before the five people. Simply switching the points doesn't help: the trolley will plough into the five anyway when the diversion rejoins the main track. However, as it happens, there is an extremely fat man on the diversionary track who is heavy enough to stop the trolley. Should Ned change the points and divert the train? Most people's intuition is that he should not. But what is the difference between Ned's dilemma, and Denise's? Presumably people are intuitively applying Kant's principle. Denise diverts the trolley from ploughing into the five people, and the unfortunate casualty on the siding is 'collateral damage', to use the charmingly Rumsfeldian phrase. He is not being used by Denise to save the others. Ned is actually using the fat man to stop the trolley, and most people (perhaps unthinkingly), along with Kant (thinking it out in great detail), see this as a crucial difference.

The difference is brought out again by the dilemma of Oscar. Oscar's situation is identical to Ned's, except that there is a large iron weight on the diversionary loop of track, heavy enough to stop the trolley. Clearly Oscar should have no problem deciding to pull the points and divert the trolley. Except that there happens to be a hiker walking in front of the iron weight. He will certainly be killed if Oscar pulls the switch, just as surely as Ned's fat man. The difference is that Oscar's hiker is not being used to stop the trolley: he is collateral damage, as in Denise's dilemma. Like Hauser, and like most of Hauser's experimental subjects, I feel that Oscar is permitted to throw the switch but Ned is not. But I also find it quite hard to justify my intuition. Hauser's point is that such moral intuitions are often not well throught out but that we feel them strongly anyway, because of our evolutionary heritage.
"

mugaliens
2009-Oct-23, 09:08 AM
I ran across an interesting morality quiz with some ramifications I am having trouble sorting out. I thought I'd share the quiz, and then later post the dilemma for consideration. Here goes.

Consider the following three scenarios. For each, fill in the blank with morally "obligatory", "permissible", or "forbidden".

1. A runaway trolley is about to run over five people walking on the tracks. A railway worker is standing next to a switch that can turn the trolley onto a side track, killing one person, but allowing the five to survive. Flipping the switch is __________.
[For the sake of clarity, the one person is not the railway operator who can throw the switch, but some other person.]

Permissible - but only if five don't respond when the railway worker yells, "Get off the track!!!"


2. You pass by a small child drowning in a small pond, and you are the only other person around. If you pick up the child, she will survive and your pants will be ruined. Picking up the child is ___________.

Obligatory.


3. Five people have just been rushed into a hospital in critical care, each requiring an organ to survive. There is not enough time to request organs from outside the hospital. There is, however, a healthy person in the hospital's waiting room. If the surgeon takes this person's organs, he will die, but the five in critical care will survive. Taking the healthy person's organs is _____________.

Forbidden.

Ilya
2009-Oct-23, 12:24 PM
2nd necromancy alert -- Almost another two years.

Ilya,

What gives you the idea that the sensible real-world answer was useless
for his study? I think you are assuming too much about the study and the
researcher.

I am not assuming -- the psychologist (Dr. Levitt) said so in his book.


What gives you the idea that the "quiz" of the original post is rendered
useless by the reasoning that people actually use? I think you are assuming
way too much about the people who formulated it, and are not giving them
credit they deserve.

Such quizzes often explicitely ask "whose life is more valuable?" or "whom is less moral to kill/allow to die?", implicitly ignoring the possibility that people may base their answer on factors other than value of individuals involved or the morality of the act.

Jeff Root
2009-Oct-23, 01:33 PM
Ilya,

Read NorthernBoy's longish post #194.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

SeanF
2009-Oct-23, 01:46 PM
Another issue about this, is I don't think the OP talks about "intentionally" crushing one person's organs. It's just your lack of action that will allow the person to be crushed. A crucial difference for me between the two situations is that in one, you have to do something, whereas in the other you are just allowing a situation to take its course.
In the original setup, your lack of action will let five people get crushed instead of one if you act.
Jens has almost got it, but not quite. In the train situation, the single person is walking on train tracks. That person, it can be reasonably assumed, has already made the choice to risk getting hit by a train. In the hospital situation, the one person who is to be sacrificed has not made any such choice.

That, to me, is the real reason why most people find the train situation more "acceptable."

Ilya
2009-Oct-23, 01:57 PM
Ilya,

Read NorthernBoy's longish post #194.

I read it. I do not see the connection. As I posted before, my answer to "will you push the fat man onto rails?" is no, and my reasoning is entirely articulate and has nothing to do with Kantian principle:

1. There is no way to tell he is heavy enough and will land on the rails in just the right way to stop the train. I may kill him for nothing.

2. He may react fast enough to overpower me and push ME onto the tracks.

3. I may be charged with murder.

The article NorthernBoy quotes sticks to reasoning (also to "non-reasoning") in purely moral sense. It is the very example of narrow interpretation I had criticized.

Jeff Root
2009-Oct-23, 02:02 PM
Sean,

That idea was discussed early in the thread, and countered. The lone
person has no reason to think that any train would go on that track.
It is not a factor in my reasoning.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Jeff Root
2009-Oct-23, 02:04 PM
Ilya,

I think you missed the points made in NorthernBoy's post.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Ilya
2009-Oct-23, 02:19 PM
Ilya,

I think you missed the points made in NorthernBoy's post.

Perhaps I did. Care to explain?

HenrikOlsen
2009-Oct-23, 02:44 PM
I think it unwise to begin to look for absolutely correct actions in any situation.
Then why do you keep demanding it from the moderators? :D

Chuck
2009-Oct-23, 02:52 PM
Not really, when moral decisions are considered as those maximizing good for the most people.

In the first case the secondary consequences of choosing to cut up a healthy person, i.e. that people would stop using hospitals and therefore more people would die, outweighs the immediate benefit to the five.
While in the railroad case the secondary consequences of hitting the one person is not that people will flock to the railroad lines and more will get killed, so the two cases are not equal and therefore the morally correct choice does not have to be equal either.
If it's not right to cut up someone in the waiting room because people would fear hospitals, would it then be permissible to seize someone off the street a mile away? Would that be equivalent to diverting the railroad car?

Another problem with the surgery question is that after you transplant one organ, you now have a different healthy person, the organ recipient, and five people who each need an organ, including the guy from the waiting room. If transplanting the organ was the right thing to do then it should be transplanted back for the same reason.

The guy in the waiting room need not be involved at all. One patient could be sacrificed to give his healthy organ to the other four. One could be chosen at random to give up his organs.

TheHalcyonYear
2009-Oct-23, 02:53 PM
Then why do you keep demanding it from the moderators? :D
Actually I don't. I demand consistency which should be possible.

HenrikOlsen
2009-Oct-23, 03:04 PM
Fr example, instead of killing a person in the waiting room, we could ask if we should take healthy prisoners serving a life sentence, and harvest their organs too.
That would be altering a life sentence to a death penalty, which is unlikely to happen when the prisons have such a strong lobby for keeping their industry going full tilt, as that would cost lots of jobs.

Of the other hand, if you ask if a prisoner on a death sentence, upon execution should be broken up for spare parts then it gets more interesting.
Niven explored one possible set of consequences in those Known Space stories that happen at the time of Gil 'The Arm' Hamilton, where his expectation is that since there's always going to be a shortage of organs because there aren't going to be that many people committing crimes that carry a death sentence, people would, arguing continuity all the way and acting in their own best short term self interest, gradually shift which crimes carry the death penalty until you end up with a society where crossing a red light four times within a year has the death sentence as mandatory minimum.

That could be seen as a utilitarianist reason for calling such a choice immoral.

SeanF
2009-Oct-23, 03:05 PM
Sean,

That idea was discussed early in the thread, and countered. The lone
person has no reason to think that any train would go on that track.
It is not a factor in my reasoning.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis
Well, it's been a long time since I've read early in this thread. :)

But I don't think it's usually made clear in the hypothetical as it's given to people, and it's a valid reason for people to accept the train situation but reject the hospital (or the fat-man-over-the-bridge situation), even if they're not consciously aware of it.

Oh, and BTW - I reject that it is even possible to be on railroad tracks and legitimately have "no reason to think that any train would go on that track." Train tracks are never 100% guaranteed train-free (the only exception would be if the track is actually an orphan section that isn't even connected to any other tracks, but you're certainly not going to divert a train onto one of those). :)

Chuck
2009-Oct-23, 03:10 PM
Jens has almost got it, but not quite. In the train situation, the single person is walking on train tracks. That person, it can be reasonably assumed, has already made the choice to risk getting hit by a train. In the hospital situation, the one person who is to be sacrificed has not made any such choice.

That, to me, is the real reason why most people find the train situation more "acceptable."
The lone person walking on the tracks is not actually in any danger of being hit by a train unless I decide to kill him with one. I can't assume that he decided to take a risk, although he may have done so.

HenrikOlsen
2009-Oct-23, 03:21 PM
They are if your morals are based on pure positive utilitarianism, but I think that most people would agree that we have overlaid on that a virtue based system also, where we will have a class of prescribed actions, and a set of taboo ones, too, which will sometimes come into conflict with a strict utilitarian interpretation of what's right.
I would argue that those pre- and proscribed actions are there to have a shorthand solution for common situations where thinking through all the consequences will take too long to resolve in the individual case.
They should however still be defined based on a max good/min bad consideration of average outcome and it should be clear that a shorthand for full evaluation is all they are.

The reason, in my mind, why people agonize over a conflict between morals and virtues is that they learned their virtues as absolutes, as The Things You Do If You Are A Real Human(tm) because Book X says so.
Without any indication what the virtues are based on, where they're part of the tribal this-is-who-we-are kit that shouldn't be questioned less you become Not Us.

SeanF
2009-Oct-23, 03:24 PM
The lone person walking on the tracks is not actually in any danger of being hit by a train unless I decide to kill him with one. I can't assume that he decided to take a risk, although he may have done so.
Again, there's no such thing as a 100% guaranteed train-free track. You, as an outside observer, know that the train's on Track A and not on Track B, but none of the six people on the tracks knows that.

And it's hard to think of likely scenario in which the lone person does know that, but does not know that the switch to divert the train is active, accessible, and outside of his control or view. And if he knows all that, he's certainly choosing to take the risk.

At any rate, whatever the difficulty in "assuming" he's chosen the risk, it's certainly easier with him than with the fat guy on the bridge, no? :)

HenrikOlsen
2009-Oct-23, 03:35 PM
And in the utilitarian evaluation of long term consequences, making people aware that all tracks are dangerous is a collateral benefit of throwing the switch.

Chuck
2009-Oct-23, 03:41 PM
Again, there's no such thing as a 100% guaranteed train-free track. You, as an outside observer, know that the train's on Track A and not on Track B, but none of the six people on the tracks knows that.

And it's hard to think of likely scenario in which the lone person does know that, but does not know that the switch to divert the train is active, accessible, and outside of his control or view. And if he knows all that, he's certainly choosing to take the risk.

At any rate, whatever the difficulty in "assuming" he's chosen the risk, it's certainly easier with him than with the fat guy on the bridge, no? :)
It's risky to be anywhere. I can't assume that the single man on the track has chosen to take an excessive risk. I don't base all of my activities on the assumption that someone will be trying to kill me at all times even though I know that someone might. It seems like enough to stay out of bad neighborhoods and don't try to annoy people. The man on the track might have taken reasonable precautions and still not be expecting someone to intentionally divert a train to hit him. Maybe he didn't, but I can't assume that he didn't.

NorthernBoy
2009-Oct-23, 04:19 PM
That would be altering a life sentence to a death penalty, which is unlikely to happen when the prisons have such a strong lobby for keeping their industry going full tilt, as that would cost lots of jobs.

But this was not a question bout which one was more likely to get passed as a law; the whole exercise is about finding out which actions people view as moral or not. You pointed out that there were utilitarian arguments about farming the arguments, so I just reframed this, to take away that part of the equation.

I'm not sure why you'd now imply that the questions also need to involve questions of government policy, it is not as though we are arguing about which we should lobby for, after all.

Nor is the exercise about following logical trains of thought about later changes in behaviour based upon these actions The situations are presented starkly for a reason, and any reasonable response would tend to restrict itself to the immediate responses, and not to questions about how many people will likely walk on tracks next year if there's a disaster on them this year.

In short, I rather think that you are missing the point, and trying to change the point of the exercise.

Gillianren
2009-Oct-23, 05:09 PM
Such quizzes often explicitely ask "whose life is more valuable?" or "whom is less moral to kill/allow to die?", implicitly ignoring the possibility that people may base their answer on factors other than value of individuals involved or the morality of the act.

I would in part base mine of my physical ability to do much of anything, I suspect, but I know I would try to overcome everything I could to save my daughter.


That would be altering a life sentence to a death penalty, which is unlikely to happen when the prisons have such a strong lobby for keeping their industry going full tilt, as that would cost lots of jobs.

That's not the only lobby that would have a fit, either. There are an awful lot of anti-death penalty activists.


Of the other hand, if you ask if a prisoner on a death sentence, upon execution should be broken up for spare parts then it gets more interesting.
Niven explored one possible set of consequences in those Known Space stories that happen at the time of Gil 'The Arm' Hamilton, where his expectation is that since there's always going to be a shortage of organs because there aren't going to be that many people committing crimes that carry a death sentence, people would, arguing continuity all the way and acting in their own best short term self interest, gradually shift which crimes carry the death penalty until you end up with a society where crossing a red light four times within a year has the death sentence as mandatory minimum.

Even then, there won't be enough organs. Try The Italian Boy, by Sarah Wise, which talks about body-snatching in London. Supposedly, the only people whose bodies were free for dissection--other than those who donated their bodies, though there weren't many of those--were executed criminals. There were never enough of those, even though some pretty minor crimes got the death penalty at the time.


That could be seen as a utilitarianist reason for calling such a choice immoral.

There's also the question of how many of those organs would be suitable for transplant anyway. I believe drug use can have quite an effect.


Oh, and BTW - I reject that it is even possible to be on railroad tracks and legitimately have "no reason to think that any train would go on that track." Train tracks are never 100% guaranteed train-free (the only exception would be if the track is actually an orphan section that isn't even connected to any other tracks, but you're certainly not going to divert a train onto one of those). :)

I'm not sure there have been trains on the tracks downtown, but I know there weren't when the road was sinking after the '01 earthquake. Of course, there were no cars on the road, either. I don't know about pedestrians. I didn't live in this neighbourhood then.

Ilya
2009-Oct-23, 05:16 PM
I am still waiting for an explanation how NorthernBoy's post #194 (or the article he quotes) contradicts my point that people answer such quizzes on the basis of factors other than morals, and that the studies in questions ignore that fact. IMO, the article NorthernBoy quotes is a perfect illustration of my statement.

Jeff Root
2009-Oct-23, 06:19 PM
Ilya,

It doesn't contradict your point that people answer such quizzes on the
basis of factors other than morals. It shows that the people who designed
the quizzes know perfectly well that people answer them on the basis of all
manner of factors, which is exactly what the quizzes are about. You are
assuming that the people who designed the quizzes didn't know the first
thing about the problem they were studying or about how surveys work.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

HenrikOlsen
2009-Oct-23, 06:27 PM
I'm not sure why you'd now imply that the questions also need to involve questions of government policy, it is not as though we are arguing about which we should lobby for, after all.

Nor is the exercise about following logical trains of thought about later changes in behaviour based upon these actions The situations are presented starkly for a reason, and any reasonable response would tend to restrict itself to the immediate responses, and not to questions about how many people will likely walk on tracks next year if there's a disaster on them this year.
And that's where we disagree on fundamentals.

I consider the only reasonable response to be one that takes long term consequences into account.
One that doesn't isn't a reasonable response, it's a sloppy response.

Ilya
2009-Oct-23, 07:20 PM
Perhaps you are seeing something in NorthernBoy's quote that I don't,


Ilya,

It doesn't contradict your point that people answer such quizzes on the
basis of factors other than morals. It shows that the people who designed
the quizzes know perfectly well that people answer them on the basis of all
manner of factors, which is exactly what the quizzes are about.
because I certainly see no evidence of that in it.

SeanF
2009-Oct-24, 02:23 AM
It's risky to be anywhere. I can't assume that the single man on the track has chosen to take an excessive risk.
Well, you may think so. But - if Person A gets hit by a train while walking on the tracks and Person B has a plane fall on them in their front yard, most people will consider the latter to be a victim of bad luck and the former of bad decision-making. Just read the comments on the "Trains Win Every Time" thread.

And it's a perfectly reasonable explanation for why someone would consider switching the train to the other track acceptable but pushing the fat man off the bridge unacceptable.

Chuck
2009-Oct-24, 04:11 AM
But the lone man on the track was not in any danger. I have no reason to believe that he made a decision to endanger himself. He's perfectly safe unless I choose to kill him. If I were not there at all he'd be fine. The other five people did put themselves in danger. They'd die if I weren't there at all.

TheHalcyonYear
2009-Oct-24, 05:01 AM
But the lone man on the track was not in any danger. I have no reason to believe that he made a decision to endanger himself. He's perfectly safe unless I choose to kill him. If I were not there at all he'd be fine. The other five people did put themselves in danger. They'd die if I weren't there at all.
This is exactly why I think morality is relative rather than absolute. It up to individual, culture, and belief system in this situation to choose make the "moral" choice.

adapa
2009-Oct-24, 08:14 AM
But the lone man on the track was not in any danger. I have no reason to believe that he made a decision to endanger himself. He's perfectly safe unless I choose to kill him. If I were not there at all he'd be fine. The other five people did put themselves in danger. They'd die if I weren't there at all.
I agree completely. Doing nothing would simply allow all 6 people to experience the natural consequences of their actions. Throwing the switch would essentially be murdering one and using the other five to justify it.



This is exactly why I think morality is relative rather than absolute. It up to individual, culture, and belief system in this situation to choose make the "moral" choice.
That depends. Would you consider the moral values of Hitler to be just as valid as those of Mother Theresa (with the only difference being the point of view)?

TheHalcyonYear
2009-Oct-24, 08:31 AM
That depends. Would you consider the moral values of Hitler to be just as valid as those of Mother Theresa (with the only difference being the point of view)?
You have just agreed with Chuck while others disagree with him. Who is right and who is wrong, do the concepts even apply to this situation? I am not judging because as you have just pointed out there are varying beliefs as to what actions are moral and what actions are immoral.

Personally I do not approve of Hitler's actions or his justifications. However I also have grave doubts about some of Mother Theresa's actions and her justification for them. I also take into account the fact that Hitler was almost certainly mentally ill while there has been no evidence that Mother Theresa suffered serious mental issues. I don't think there are any easy answers.

HenrikOlsen
2009-Oct-24, 08:37 AM
I agree completely. Doing nothing would simply allow all 6 people to experience the natural consequences of their actions. Throwing the switch would essentially be murdering one and using the other five to justify it.
Choosing not to throw the switch is still a choice by which you decide that five people rather than one should die.

Neverfly
2009-Oct-24, 10:04 AM
This thread is interesting because it takes a man-made concept and analyzes it with man-made objectives.

Even if every last man, woman and child all completely agreed that a certain act was 'immoral,' it would only demonstrate that as a man-made concept, it had the support of humanity.
It would not demonstrate that morality was absolute.

Let's invoke Godwins law to a deeper level.
Why compare Hitler to Mother Theresa?

Let's compare Hitler to Christopher Columbus.

Upon discovery of the "New World," Columbus reportedly discovered "gold" or wealth.
Literally, he saw gold walking around on two legs. In the form of slaves.
As governor, he was brutal in his treatment of his slaves and subjects, putting a very large chunk of the native population to death with horrifying torture techniques. In percentage of population vs. deaths, Columbus out-murdered Hitler, himself.
And the motive was greed. Not just lust for power, but for gold.

Hitler, on the other-hand, was more of a "believer." Hitler seemed to believe that by eliminating an ''undesirable" faction of the population, he was doing humanity itself a service.
Clearly, he was not and the atrocities he led to commitment stand to this day as a reminder of the most horrifying side of humanity.But how was Hitlers motive different from say, genetic engineering?

Deluded by hatred, Hitler may well have believed he was doing the 'right thing.'
Columbus demonstrated no such delusion. He demonstrated greed that led to either cunning deceit or folly in ignorance; historically, it's difficult to tell which. Comparing the two leads a person to consider Columbus to be a worse offender.

Hitler is best remembered as a murderer of millions. Columbus is best remembered as the discoverer of the American Continents.
How odd...

Examination of morality can only draw one clear conclusion. That it's neither absolute nor even logical. It is merely the selfish interests of a group. Invented by that group to serve it's selfish interest.

Different cultures and societies will demonstrate very different concepts of 'morality' depending on their beliefs and best interests.

A culture of cannibals will fight just as hard to defend their morality as I would fight to defend liberty and freedom ( a moral concept I hold with strong belief) with neither Liberty nor cannibalism truly existing as a moral concept; each only being a concept of best served self interest.


The dilemma is actually pretty simple.
Most people having been raised for several generations in our culture see dying for the greater good as honorable. Most average people appreciate the concept that we may sacrifice our own lives on the train tracks to save five lives elsewhere. Our culture is filled with bodyguards and soldiers and public servants and police officers that live this concept.

While I am not strongly disturbed with the idea that I might be killed on train tracks so five others may live... I AM disturbed at the thought of going to a doctor I trust and having my organs harvested.
Because I don't want that to happen.
It would be unusual.

But in a culture that routinely does organ harvesting... it would be viewed as just as moral to them as we view the man sacrificed on the train tracks for the five to live.

The dilemma is not based on what's right or wrong. It's based on what we WANT.

Chuck
2009-Oct-24, 10:08 AM
Choosing not to throw the switch is still a choice by which you decide that five people rather than one should die.

So is not carving up the guy in the hospital waiting room.

HenrikOlsen
2009-Oct-24, 11:13 AM
Please note that I've continually argued that cutting up the guy in the hospital is not moral.

Please refer back to my previous posts for why I think situation that differs from the rail situation.

Jeff Root
2009-Oct-24, 12:20 PM
My summary of a few things:

If you think something is right and something else is wrong, there's a good
chance that most people around the world would agree with you.

You probably don't know why you think the one thing is right and the other
thing is wrong.

If you do have an opinion about why the one thing is right and the other
is wrong, most people will disagree with that opinion.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

tdvance
2009-Oct-24, 01:27 PM
That's probably true--mainly because a lot of it is evolution-induced instinct. Of course, we sometimes reject the instinct--an example, most people I know (is it true the world 'round? Possibly not.) think racism is wrong. However, racism may be an instinct---try putting a chicken of a different color in with other chickens and watch what they do to it. Many species have an anti-mutation instinct, which generally does enhance survival by keeping the species from becoming essentially a random genetic collection, most of which wont survive too many more generations.

adapa
2009-Oct-24, 02:39 PM
You have just agreed with Chuck while others disagree with him. Who is right and who is wrong, do the concepts even apply to this situation? I am not judging because as you have just pointed out there are varying beliefs as to what actions are moral and what actions are immoral.

Personally I do not approve of Hitler's actions or his justifications. However I also have grave doubts about some of Mother Theresa's actions and her justification for them. I also take into account the fact that Hitler was almost certainly mentally ill while there has been no evidence that Mother Theresa suffered serious mental issues. I don't think there are any easy answers.

My use of Hitler and Mother Theresa was probably a bad analogy. The question that I asked was:

Should the moral values of someone who believes in genocide be considered equally valid as those of someone who is against genocide?


Choosing not to throw the switch is still a choice by which you decide that five people rather than one should die.
No. This statement would only be true if I coerced or deceived the five people into standing on active railroad tracks. If they stand on active railroad tracks by way of their own free will, then they are the ones who have made that decision. There is no obligation on my part to save them from themselves and certainly not if it means murdering an innocent bystander.

For all I know, the five people could be suicidal.

Neverfly
2009-Oct-24, 02:47 PM
Should the moral values of someone who believes in genocide be considered equally valid as those of someone who is against genocide?
This question assumes either is valid in the first place.

I think we can all agree that genocide is immoral- simply because that's our standard of our invented morality.


No. This statement would only be true if I coerced or deceived the five people into standing on active railroad tracks. If they stand on active railroad tracks by way of their own free will, then they are the ones who have made that decision. There is no obligation on my part to save them from themselves and certainly not if it means murdering an innocent bystander.

Why?
If you can take action- you must have a choice as to take that action or not. It's the same. You do not have to put a person into a situation to have that choice. The choice remains, regardless.

adapa
2009-Oct-24, 03:48 PM
This question assumes either is valid in the first place.

I think we can all agree that genocide is immoral- simply because that's our standard of our invented morality.



Why?
If you can take action- you must have a choice as to take that action or not. It's the same. You do not have to put a person into a situation to have that choice. The choice remains, regardless.

Yes, I have a choice. However, having a choice and having a responsibility are 2 totally different things.

They, on the other hand, have a responsibility to themselves to weigh the pros and cons of standing on active railroad tracks before doing so. If they have, then they have accepted the risks and should stand by the consequences. If they have not, then negligence on their part does not equal the responsibility to commit murder on my part.

Besides, if I kill the innocent person to save them, what is to stop them from finding another way to kill themselves (either by suicide or negligence)?

Chuck
2009-Oct-24, 03:58 PM
Please note that I've continually argued that cutting up the guy in the hospital is not moral.

Please refer back to my previous posts for why I think situation that differs from the rail situation.

If you don't want people to be afraid of hospitals, would it be all right to seize someone who's walking on a railroad track and remove five organs to save five people? If you're willing to crush all of his organs to save five people then why not harvest five organs to save five people?

Neverfly
2009-Oct-24, 04:31 PM
Yes, I have a choice. However, having a choice and having a responsibility are 2 totally different things.
On this- I completely agree.
A choice- yes.
But I don't think the person has a responsibility to sacrifice one to save the other five.


They, on the other hand, have a responsibility to themselves to weigh the pros and cons of standing on active railroad tracks before doing so. If they have, then they have accepted the risks and should stand by the consequences. If they have not, then negligence on their part does not equal the responsibility to commit murder on my part.
Again, true. They are responsible for their own risks- however, in the example provided, they should not be in 'true' danger: i.e., the tracks are supposed to be clear at that time for each party. Due to accident or a choice to save the five, the situation was changed.

Besides, if I kill the innocent person to save them, what is to stop them from finding another way to kill themselves (either by suicide or negligence)?
This really is a useless point. In the example provided (Or in life) you have no way of knowing their character (if they are strangers) and it's utterly irrelevant either way.


If you don't want people to be afraid of hospitals, would it be all right to seize someone who's walking on a railroad track and remove five organs to save five people? If you're willing to crush all of his organs to save five people then why not harvest five organs to save five people?
When I made my very long post above, one example I had in mind was- What if patients, upon entering a hospital for treatment, sign a waiver that should the very unlikely situation occur in which more than One persons life could be saved- you agree to the terms etc to voluntarily sacrifice your organs...

That may seem silly, but we do have such waivers in society already, just not necessarily in hospitals.

adapa
2009-Oct-24, 06:11 PM
They are responsible for their own risks- however, in the example provided, they should not be in 'true' danger: i.e., the tracks are supposed to be clear at that time for each party.
The original question said that they were walking on the tracks. It did not say that the tracks were supposed to be clear (Please re-read the original scenario). Even if the five people think that the tracks are supposed to be clear, it does not relieve them of their responsibility to be alert for approaching trains/trolleys and to be prepared to take the appropriate actions.


Due to accident or a choice to save the five, the situation was changed.
Even if the approach of the trolley is accidental, this does not alter their responsibilities and therefore does not change the situation. The choice on my part to kill or not kill one person to save these five has not happened yet in this situation as it is described. Again, this does not change the situation.

TheHalcyonYear
2009-Oct-24, 06:12 PM
Choosing not to throw the switch is still a choice by which you decide that five people rather than one should die.
No, it is a choice not to take action. In this situation, to take action would be to directly cause the death of an individual. A subtle point, but the stuff of which morality is made. I am not advocating that either choice is a "correct" choice, I am simply pointing out that, based on culture and value system, either choice could be considered moral.

Neverfly
2009-Oct-24, 06:49 PM
No, it is a choice not to take action. In this situation, to take action would be to directly cause the death of an individual. A subtle point, but the stuff of which morality is made. I am not advocating that either choice is a "correct" choice, I am simply pointing out that, based on culture and value system, either choice could be considered moral.

Yes, if the switch thrower agrees with adapa, he will consider taking action to be murder. In the case of throwing the switch, he is directly responsible for a death. In not throwing it, he can be claimed to be indirectly responsible for the other five.

If this situation were to happen in real life, I'm sure opinions would be very divided as to what he should have done. But he would most likely not be charged with a crime either way.

The original question said that they were walking on the tracks. It did not say that the tracks were supposed to be clear (Please re-read the original scenario).
Noted.

Even if the approach of the trolley is accidental, this does not alter their responsibilities and therefore does not change the situation. The choice on my part to kill or not kill one person to save these five has not happened yet in this situation as it is described. Again, this does not change the situation.
Nor does the switch holder actually have any responsibility either way.

It's a choice. One that would be made in a split second. It can truly go either way

Jeff Root
2009-Oct-24, 07:20 PM
The original scenario does not say whether the people on the tracks are
aware that they are on any tracks. They may or may not know that the
tracks exist. Also, the people may be walking across the tracks rather
than along them.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Neverfly
2009-Oct-24, 09:56 PM
The original scenario does not say whether the people on the tracks are
aware that they are on any tracks. They may or may not know that the
tracks exist.

I'd love to see train tracks that were that unnoticeable...

For that matter- I'd love to know how people don't notice a TRAIN coming down on them. I mean... I've dodged insects that flew at me for cryin' out loud...

grav
2009-Oct-24, 10:17 PM
The answer to #2 is obviously obligatory, but I'm seeing most answers have been obligatory to permissible for #1 and forbidden for #3. I originally would have answered permissible, obligatory, and forbidden myself, until I realized that the situations for #1 and #3 are exactly the same. In both cases, we have a choice to do something and save five people while murdering one, or to let nature take its course and let five people die. I can see any of the three possible answers applying the more I think about it, but the same answer must be applied to both, so I'm thinking permissable since it allows more flexibility for this type of philosophical question.

Since is no physical difference between the two scenarios, the only real possible difference between them that I can see would simply be psychologically. While the intentions of the life saver might be exactly the same in both cases, determining whether or not it would be permissible in the minds of the general public between the idea of someone being run over with a decision made in a split second in an effort to save five people is certainly understandable and forgivable and would probably be considered by most to be an every day tragic accident for the one that died which couldn't be avoided, while the idea of premeditatedly slaughtering somebody in order to harvest their internal organs is a little more out of the ordinary and gives visions of something straight out of a horror movie rather than that of the medical profession, not far from that of having their organs ripped out while they are still alive and screaming for mercy. Very different psychology there, so the devil is definitely in the details.

TheHalcyonYear
2009-Oct-24, 11:48 PM
I find it interesting that so many are attempting to look for "absolute morality" when very lack of agreement here points to the idea that morality is not absolute.

Jeff Root
2009-Oct-25, 03:34 AM
The original scenario does not say whether the people on the tracks are
aware that they are on any tracks. They may or may not know that the
tracks exist.
I'd love to see train tracks that were that unnoticeable...
The original post says "trolly", not "train". Trolly tracks are embedded
in city streets with their top surfaces level with the surface of the
street so as not to impede automobiles and pedestrians.


For that matter- I'd love to know how people don't notice a TRAIN
coming down on them. I mean... I've dodged insects that flew at me
for cryin' out loud...
Anything is possible in a hypothetical situation.

Be very, very careful when you find yourself in a hypothetical situation.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

mugaliens
2009-Oct-25, 06:12 AM
The guy in the waiting room need not be involved at all. One patient could be sacrificed to give his healthy organ to the other four. One could be chosen at random to give up his organs.

I didn't think about that. Can you imagine a doctor gathering the five of them in a room and saying, "Here's the situation..."

If I were upwards in the age bracket, I'd probably volunteer, as I feel like I've lived a fairly full life.

On the other hand, any US doctor who did this would, at the very least, loose his license to practice medicine, and I suspect charges would be preferred against him.

HenrikOlsen
2009-Oct-25, 06:19 AM
The answer to #2 is obviously obligatory, but I'm seeing most answers have been obligatory to permissible for #1 and forbidden for #3. I originally would have answered permissible, obligatory, and forbidden myself, until I realized that the situations for #1 and #3 are exactly the same.
Except that when you take long term consequences into account the two situations becomes very different.

mugaliens
2009-Oct-25, 06:21 AM
I find it interesting that so many are attempting to look for "absolute morality" when very lack of agreement here points to the idea that morality is not absolute.

It's absolute by any given standard. The problem is, there are loads of different, usually conflicting standards.

TheHalcyonYear
2009-Oct-25, 06:26 AM
I didn't think about that. Can you imagine a doctor gathering the five of them in a room and saying, "Here's the situation..."

If I were upwards in the age bracket, I'd probably volunteer, as I feel like I've lived a fairly full life.

On the other hand, any US doctor who did this would, at the very least, loose his license to practice medicine, and I suspect charges would be preferred against him.
This is true, however, there are always alternative situations. However, many people believe that if the person on the table was Pol Pot or Adolf Hitler the situation would be very different. My point is not to be political, but to point out that for morality to be absolute, something is either right or wrong rather than who's on the table.

The examples being examined here are loaded to appeal to certain western values. However, if morality is absolute, then there are rights and wrongs for all situations. Is premarital sex on the part of a 16 year old girl immoral?

I still am convinced that there is no "absolute morality", but that individuals and cultures must make such determinations concerning morality.

HenrikOlsen
2009-Oct-25, 07:01 AM
Is premarital sex on the part of a 16 year old girl immoral?
And just to strike into a couple of American States' laws:

Is marital sex on the part of a 16 year old girl immoral?

And if the answer isn't the same to the two, why?

Neverfly
2009-Oct-25, 08:15 AM
And just to strike into a couple of American States' laws:

Is marital sex on the part of a 16 year old girl immoral?

And if the answer isn't the same to the two, why?

It isn't but opinions as to the "proper" answers would vary widely.

These concepts of morality seem to be based more on what's most likely to be harmful.

In the days before contraception, a girl bearing children unwed and too young was a problem. She might not be mature enough and emotionally ready to properly care for her children. Plus, children really should have a fathers presence and support.

So "morality" often is based on consequences.

But in reality, the only standard given to morality is that provided by human concepts, fears, superstitions, opinions etc. It's based on what we want other people to do or to be.

In order for it to be "Absolute," it would have to exist regardless of opinions, consequences, or human thought. It would have to be doled out from a higher plane in order to be absolute.

grav
2009-Oct-25, 08:50 AM
Except that when you take long term consequences into account the two situations becomes very different.Which long term consequences do you mean? The two questions have exactly the same physical consequences as far as I can tell, one person is sacrificed so that five others can live. If you mean the consequences due to the reaction of the public and the life giver's ability for being able to live with the consequences of their own actions, then that would be based solely on the psychology of the situation, so then that becomes the real basis for the answers given to the questions in that case, not so much the true morality involved, but the psychological consequences, the biggest factor for that probably being that one scenario seems clean and quick while the other appears drawn out and messy.

A similar question to the first would be if a town were captured and in order to show authority, the capturer demanded that you pick out one person to die or they would shoot five at random. As an added stipulation, you just moved to the town so you don't know anything about the lives of its occupants. Could you do it or would you leave things to chance and out of your hands? Would it be obligatory, permissible, or forbidden to pick someone?

Similar to the second would be if the capturer handed you the gun and demanded that you execute someone by your own hands. Could you do it then? Would it be obligatory, permissible, or forbidden? The only difference is one seems much more psychologically real than the other.

Another similar situation would be if the five people on the tracks would die or you could divert the train just enough to kill only one of them and save the other four. Would you do it? The only difference in that case is the psychology of knowing that one person in the original scenario wouldn't haven't died if things had been allowed to take its course. The same thing with sacrificing one person of the five to give up their organs or they all die. With the townspeople, you look around and pick out somebody to sacrifice, but then decide it is against your morals to do so, only to have them kill the same person you had originally picked out plus four more on top of that. Should you have left things to chance and out of your control then? If you leave it to fate and they killed five other people than the one you had in mind, is that any better morally?

mugaliens
2009-Oct-25, 08:57 AM
I still am convinced that there is no "absolute morality", but that individuals and cultures must make such determinations concerning morality.

Ah... But the fact they do so after millions of years of evolution is unmistakable! It's only been recorded for the last several thousand years, but what before them? If our acestors were conducting burial rites for the last hundred thousand years or so, surely there's some idea there of something.

Regardless, morality remains a part of our society for a reason. Each culture's system of law is rooted in its host culture's morality. Morality is but one component of culture. As cultures vary between societies, so does morality.