Saturday, October 8, 2016

Trolley Problem

I'm writing an essay for a website which should be up soon, but it has to do with the Trolley problem, which I'm trying to read up on right now (the deficit of proper scholarly articles on this matter is certainly pathetic). Now, there are many ways to cut this problem, and as theoretical as it may seem, it is problem that is very relevant to our world. 

The second link claims that those who subscribe to a deontologist view of morality would say that you do not push a fat man on the tracks so as to stop a train that would kill 5 people. Of course, I think that view a little odd. What if you could pull a lever and the fat man fell? Or what if you were to pull a lever to drop a truck full of sand to the tracks and a fat man happened to be on that sand (and thus would be killed?).

Of course, numbers come into it. If it was a fat man that needed to be pushed and there were 100 people. What then? Or if there was an asteroid heading towards earth and a space station with a person on it can divert the asteroid, can you force the station (via remote command control) to hit the asteroid and save the planet—even against the wishes of the astronaut? Let's say it's 100 astronauts, does that change the morality? Or it's a pretty small asteroid with 50% of ending the world... Or x% chance of killing N people? What N matters vs n in shuttle? Surely a utilitarian worldview needs to prevail at some point?

One thing reading this has got me thinking about is how the moral strictures of our societies really matter and we seem to (or these academics seem to build backwards off it) look for either excuses for our tribe's actions or a way to morally alleviate our anxiety. I'm not being entirely fair, but when I saw the morally right bomber relying on collateral damage to end a war vs the horrendous terrorist bomber I was certainly amused, if only darkly so. 

I would certainly love to see what people still living in more primitive societies think about these problems and how they vary across the board. I should say that a view to long term morality matters.  I lean towards utilitarianism, but I can see the want to not be responsible, that most of us would feel when actually pulling the lever. As a writer, I certainly enjoy the multitude of possible scenarios, but I would like to see more from different cultures, classes and so on. 


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