Trolley Problem

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Mon Apr 06, 2015 3:48 am UTC

It is acceptable to divert the path to the second track if and only if the the Fairy Queen approves.

Who is the Fairy Queen? Why is her approval relevant? I'm sorry, but those questions have no place in this thread.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Mon Apr 06, 2015 4:06 am UTC

I'm interested in how you talk to the Fairy Queen. How do you know if you have her approval?
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Apr 06, 2015 4:11 am UTC

It's common sense, and kinda insulting that you'd even need to ask, honestly.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Forest Goose » Mon Apr 06, 2015 4:15 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:The reason I got dragged into arguments is because people misinterpreted what I said and used them to insinuate ideas I do not agree with.


It seems a lot more like you offered conclusions, then reasons and analogies, then people showed they implied things you didn't like or agree with. Instead of looking at the logic of it, you seem to have decided that these are somehow attacks against your personal views, or some such. You are, supposedly, wanting to have this lofty philosophical discussion, but then you are bracketing off what you say as "personal" and "opinion" and etc. It's almost like you want to state your conclusions, then claim that the people disagreeing are somehow not allowed to do so and are behaving childishly and meanly...

I will just let what has been said speak for itself.


It speaks rather poorly, then. You have made many claims, you defend none of them and withdraw when people start making the uncomfortable points of your logic clear.

In my world, discussion is about learning different viewpoints, not imposing yours onto someone else.


You can't have it both ways: you object that I'm not sharing my position, now you object that positions are being imposed on you. So, are you having the positions, unstated, imposed upon you, somehow?

And, for the record, you don't seem like you want to learn about different viewpoints - there's a lot of things brought up here that are pretty damn interesting, but your response seemed more whining about them than anything else.

Also for the record, a lot of people have expressed a viewpoint: disagreement with you, and they've done so with good reasons and arguments. Perhaps you should say that you like learning about different viewpoints so long as you aren't challenged and you can state all your neat ideas.

Finally, and let me stress this, as far as I understand it, this is not the "Fun Time Post Your Ideas and Everyone Applauds"-section of the forum, this is the "For Serious Debate and Discussion"-section of the forum. You are bringing up a deeply important, broad, difficult, and deep philosophical subject, but, then, unable to seriously defend any of your points about it...why should people cherish and coddle your beliefs, those beliefs you can't even defend? Could it be, just maybe, that your expectations are rather off and that you are the one reacting poorly?

If you don't want to be questioned: share your beliefs with close friends and family, only, they have a vested interest to pretend to agree and nod along - I certainly have no such interest, nor am I seeing any reasonable reason I ought to.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Mon Apr 06, 2015 5:18 am UTC

I would like to apologize for being so sensitive. It felt like the questions being brought up were consistently addressed to me.

What happened was Forest Goose asked me to explain my responses. I did not approach the problem logically, so I had no explanation "prepared". Instead, I took my responses and tried to guess what my subconscious reasoning was. What followed was a series of follow ups and clarifications that led down a rabbit hole.
Gmalivuk straight out insinuated I am psychopathic, which frankly offended me a little. I tried to explain how I am not devoid of sympathy and regard for human life, but that also went downhill.
Ultimately, I became frustrated because these two people were asking questions about things I felt I already answered or are completely tangential to the ideas conveyed in prior posts.

When I explain things, I tend to use a lot of examples/analogies, which unfortunately is not very effective for people on this forum. I use analogies because I want to convey concepts, not specific responses. I seek to make my responses as general as possible so I don't have to spent a lot of time giving answers for many similar problems. Ironic, I know.

It is extremely frustrating for me when people won't extract the concept being conveyed and nitpick at details.
For example, I literally gave rules that outlined my rationale.
Cradarc wrote:1. Do not perform an action that I know will take the life of a human being who otherwise would be able to live.
2. Prevent someone from taking the life of another human being.
2 is important, but 1 takes precedent. If you disagree, then you disagree. I don't see why putting 1 above 2 makes someone a psychopath.

Instead of applying the rules and working out my reasoning (which after all, is the whole point), gmalivuk insisted I haven't answered his question. He did not ask for clarification, but instead fed me the question until I took the exact same rules and worked out the response for him.


When I started this thread, I imagined people giving their responses, then commenting on how similar or dissimilar certain people are, and perhaps speculate about the potential argument for both sides. I did not expect people to be so passionate and proselytizing about their convictions . There are clearly "bad" parts to each choice. If you wanted me to defend either choice in a logical debate, I could probably do that. However that doesn't give any insight into how people actually think when faced with the issue*.

*This is why I don't like it when people say "I don't know" or refuse to give a definite response. If the dilemma actually happened, there is no "I don't know". If you are unsure, you can still speculate about how you would react to your uncertainty.

Forest Goose wrote:If you don't want to be questioned: share your beliefs with close friends and family, only, they have a vested interest to pretend to agree and nod along - I certainly have no such interest, nor am I seeing any reasonable reason I ought to.

I love being questioned if people are actually listening and willing to share their own ideas. I do not like to be questioned by people who
1. Do not explicitly state their own views, and therefore offer no common ground to build off of.
ex. I don't believe you nor gmalivuk have answered the OP.
2. Ask follow-up questions that cling to a particular part of a post which is irrelevant to the main idea being conveyed in the post.
ex. "World hunger is not morally pressing to you?" when the point of the post is that not killing someone takes precedence over preventing people from dying (an example being from hunger).
3. Repeatedly ask for specific answers when a general answer is already given.
ex. See above with the two rules and gmalivuk's insistence on having a specific answer.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Mon Apr 06, 2015 5:40 am UTC

I thought we were talking about ethics. It seems you're more interested in psychology.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Mon Apr 06, 2015 5:43 am UTC

Can ethics exist outside the human psyche?
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Forest Goose » Mon Apr 06, 2015 6:07 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:Can ethics exist outside the human psyche?


It can, I would say it does, but that's a very very long debate. My best short answer is to, again, ask the question of different value systems and see what you think there; is there anything that is valuable outside of the human psyche? If you say yes to some value, then start from there.

At some point, you are going to have to take something as "given" or "intuitive", though - which is not necessarily a problem, there's plenty of such things at the basis of everything; the question is exactly how much you are taking (though not everyone will agree, obviously) and if there is anything it contradicts (and, if so, then do you accept that more so than what you are considering now? Contrived Example: your ethics requires an immortal soul that is physically real, but you know that science has measured no such thing - unless you have something real that reconciles this, then you are forced to make a choice between the two ).

It's also very good, I think, to separate out the questions "Can ethics exist outside of the human psyche" and "Can ethics have force outside of the human psyche". I would say that there is a definite should, I would not claim that it, by itself, has any power over you - in the same vein, there is a definite sense of what it means to be rational, but it, itself, cannot compel you, despite that you can be rationally compelled to believe, or ought believe something on grounds of rationality, yet you may still deign to not believe. In other words, I think it is good to start by disentangling ethics from emotional responses to ethical situations. (For an even simpler analogy: I can take my boyfriend to the symphony, an art gallery, and a play, he may select to be bored and unimpressed, but this does not seem evidence against artistic beauty - his reaction does not discredit those things as art, nor do a billion so reactions.)

Finally, I am assuming you are asking about ontology, not knowability - as in you mean, "Can there be a thing that is ethics?".

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In the interest of meeting in the middle, here's my answer to the original problem:

The approach of saving more people, lacking any overriding justification, seems given. I have seen no compelling basis that justifies not pulling the lever, thus, I would say that I am morally obligated to pull it.

To make clear what I am talking about, in the more interesting case of:

You are a judge in a city full of riots demanding justice for a heinous crime. The rioters tell you that if someone is not found guilty of the crime, they will turn violent; and you are full well aware that people will die as a result. You have the opportunity to find a man guilty - and he will be given the death sentence - do you find him guilty?

In this case, I would argue that sending an innocent man to jail is, indeed, overriding, it undermines the entire nature of justice itself to so act - to act unjustly, in this fashion, is directly unethical, thus, there is an ethical justification. (There is also the fact that mobs should not be able to hold the justice system ransom and the implications of what precedent that might set).
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Mon Apr 06, 2015 7:20 am UTC

I think ethics is actually a product of society. It is a group morality. Group morality is a consensus established between various individual moralities. An individual's morality is what the individual feels is right and wrong. The use of "feels" here refers to a sense of duty. So I do agree with Forest Goose that morality is separate from emotions. You can never know what someone morally feels unless they tell you, and even they might be unsure. This is why I think morality (and therefore ethics) depends on the human psyche. Saying anything else takes us past any practicality value.

FWIW:
I believe in a conscience that holds absolute morality. I believe that conscience comes from God. I believe our "sense of duty" is the result of this conscience. (I didn't state this earlier because I thought it might derail the discussion, but it makes no difference now). While I am convicted that I am right, I don't feel the need to prove it to others. I believe there are some truths that cannot be discovered logically. This is reflected in how I view discussions. I think by simply sharing ideas, minds can changed. There is no need to poke at other people to bolster your own position if you really feel you know the truth. No amount of logic can transcend it.

Forest Goose,
Thank you for the explicit statement of your opinion. Your judge-riot example is actually very similar to how I would rationalize things. I applied the same reasoning to the trolly problem. Killing someone undermines the value of protecting life. That fact that I saved more lives is moot because I still violated the principle of protecting life.
The people on the original track are like the people who are killed by rioters. Although my decision allowed it to happen, I am not responsible for the rioter's actions. The person on the diverted track, however, is someone who is not supposed to be part of the situation. He/she is as innocent and removed as someone on the other side of the planet. By flipping the switch, I am bringing the person into the situation and letting them die. This is murder.
If the diverted track appears empty (ie. incomplete knowledge), I would flip the switch and hope nobody gets hurt from my decision. The difference is I'm not purposely bringing someone into the situation to be killed. Even if the train ends up blowing up a whole town, it would not be as bad as the previous scenario where I intentionally wrought harm on someone.
If I was the villian who tied the people onto the tracks (but later regretted my decision). I would flip the switch (assuming there is absolutely no better option). This is because either way, I have committed a grave moral wrong, so the best I can do is to mitigate the effects.

This is basically what I was trying to say with all my analogies and examples earlier. The reason my response to the 500 children is inconsistent is because I wasn't doing the hypothetical logically. I literally closed my eyes, imagined the whole situation unfolding, and responded. The best explanation for this abnormality is that my emotional feeling overrode my moral sense of duty.

About your response:
You implied that the inconsistency is not due to emotions but due to the lack of "compelling reason".
What about the rioter case gives more compelling reason to not pull the lever? Convicting someone who may be innocent undermines justice, but killing someone who is innocent* doesn't?
*If the person on the other track is not innocent, what is he/she guilty of?
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Forest Goose » Mon Apr 06, 2015 8:17 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:I think ethics is actually a product of society. It is a group morality. Group morality is a consensus established between various individual moralities. An individual's morality is what the individual feels is right and wrong. The use of "feels" here refers to a sense of duty. So I do agree with Forest Goose that morality is separate from emotions. You can never know what someone morally feels unless they tell you, and even they might be unsure. thith is why I think morality (and therefore ethics) depends on the human psyche. Saying anything else takes us past any practicality value.


I draw a very fine line between, "These principles are correct" and "This founds the value". The subject of what brush strokes ought be used to make colours more vivid (I'm not an artist, so just assume that's a sane thing) is very different (though intimately connected) to the subject of the nature of artistic value. I would say that the ethical specifics, perhaps, may have a relation, or connection, with the human psyche (especially in terms of how they relate to us, specifically), but I would say that moral value, itself, is far more along the lines of something like "art" or "rationality" than any of the specific rules that are involved in it.

Yes, I am aware that I am not being terribly clear; I am also aware that I am not presenting any argument to accept this - to adequately define and present my feelings here would take a tremendous deal more space (and I don't think they'd be on point exactly), by saying a loose summary, above, I am in no way just taking them for granted, certainly not asking anyone to simply accept them - merely stating my ideas to an extent. (I add this disclaimer since I don't like when people present ideas of this nature, then treat them as granted by mere act of stating them).

I don't believe that I would accept that ethics is a product of society, unless you mean specifically the rules of ethics, which, even if differing could, depending on definitions, still have a status that is not rooted purely in societal fiat. In other words, I don't think that morality, itself, is grounded in society, and only society. For a crude analogy: the colour red may be pleasing to humans (assume it is) because of society and biology, the colour blue may be pleasing to Klingons for the same reason, but I wouldn't say that the notion of "pleasing", itself, is rooted in society and biology, merely what is pleasing.

FWIW:
I believe in a conscience that holds absolute morality. I believe that conscience comes from Glod. I believe our "sense of duty" is the result of thith conscience. (I didn't state thith earlier because I thought it might derail the discussion, but it makes no difference now). While I am convicted that I am right, I don't feel the need to prove it to others. I believe there are some truths that cannot be discovered logically. thith is reflected in how I view discussions. I think by simply sharing ideas, minds can changed. There is no need to poke at other people to bolster your own position if you really feel you know the truth. No amount of logic can transcend it.


Would you clarify the distinction between this absolute morality and the socially constructed ethics above (I'm not certain if ethics and morality mean different things for you, or the same thing, and so I'm not sure exactly what you are asserting)?

I do not like to bring in the notion of "God" (for starters: "God" is such a philosophical can of worms, simply to try and define, that it's like trying to clarify why you like grape soda by reducing the whole problem down to the unknown theory of quantum gravity, it doesn't help matters).

Many truths cannot be found logically, at least in a strict sense: almost all science facts fall under this, a lot of other things too. However, the key here is logical consistency and minimal controversy. If you accept X and Y, and those imply Z, which you do not accept, then you have a problem - that's consistency. As for controversy: you should start as small and as intuitively acceptable as possible, then build up - sure, you can start with your very conclusion, on pure logical grounds, I can't say you're wrong (in a certain sense of that word, a very narrow one), but it's dubious you're being reasonable and no one has any reason to care, at that point. So, yes, not all truths can be discovered logically, but this does not absolve one from the uncomfortable implications of those truths they do accept; nor of charges that they are assuming their answer and presenting as if not.

About your response:
You implied that the inconsistency is not due to emotions but due to the lack of "compelling reason".
What about the rioter case gives more compelling reason to not pull the lever? Convicting someone who may be innocent undermines justice, but killing someone who is innocent* doesn't?
*If the person on the other track is not innocent, what is he/she guilty of?


There is nothing involving "justice" to be undermined in the case of trolleys, it's just a shitty situation - if I accidentally run you over, it sucks, but it isn't injustice just in case you aren't guilty of anything warranting that. Thus, justice does not appear to override saving more lives.

If one accepts your principle of "never killing" and it can be demonstrated that you are, indeed, not killing in the not pulling the lever case (as in there is a real passive/active distinction in so far as morality), then, yes, that would be overriding.

My main points, summed up, as a response are as follows:
1.) The passive/active distinction does not seem to be justified; as such, it cannot justify not pulling the lever.
2.) The principles behind "saving the most lives" appear to be acceptable, in general (as applied to other, unrelated things), thus, it appears rather reasonable to accept them as given unless there is compelling reason not to in a case.
3.) Nothing appears to justify the special case of this problem as exempt from 2.

Together, it makes it hard to accept your solution since it appears quite acceptable to use "saving more lives unless something else" and it also appears as if the distinctions and arguments required to establish "something else" do not hold up to scrutiny.

The reasons above very much support heavily examining any reason to not pull the lever since, if accurate, then there is some principle justifying it, and that principle is of quite a bit of interest, indeed.

*I would also point out that the distinction between the value of life as priceless and cherished -vs- that of money** does not appear well founded as presented; or, as presented, the reasoning seems to fail when used in an analogous fashion. Thus, on those grounds, as well, the justification does not seem to have much steam.

**I'm using your analogies/terms, I'm not saying that I agree that life is like money, but on the basis of supposing that you mean to abstract from that term the salient point, here, then it is fine to use (in other words, don't take that as me admitting to something I'm not about the nature of utilitarian reasoning, or value in general).
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby morriswalters » Mon Apr 06, 2015 9:57 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:
morriswalters wrote:Absent an objective basis for gravity, you are still left with the fact if you jump off a diving board you will never fall up.

Absent an objective basis for gravity, you are still left with the fact that it is wrong to torture infants for fun.

The only reason you think that the cases of gravity and morality are disanalogous is because you are assuming your conclusion.
So I'm assuming that you are asserting some fundamental property of the Universe that makes your statement true, would that be correct? If that were true than wouldn't it also be true that morality can be described in some terms and is fixed? So that despite your graphic example I should never be able to show a behavior that was moral at one point and not moral at another? Of course my assumption that you never fall up may be faulty.

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Forest Goose » Mon Apr 06, 2015 10:35 am UTC

morriswalters wrote:So I'm assuming that you are asserting some fundamental property of the Universe that makes your statement true, would that be correct? If that were true than wouldn't it also be true that morality can be described in some terms and is fixed? So that despite your graphic example I should never be able to show a behavior that was moral at one point and not moral at another? Of courthe my assumption that you never fall up may be faulty.


Are you philosophically certain, nor merely scientifically, that gravity can be so described?
You are assuming morality is a property of behvaiours, purely.

That aside, what do you mean by the same behaviour? If you go down to the exact state of things, I doubt you have ever seen the same setup, identically, twice in your life (or in anyone's), so why are you certain gravity has this feature? Or do you just mean in "close enough" cases, which does appear true of gravity...but I'm not sure why morality needs be a non-chaotic phenomena.

I'm not answering your question, obviously, they don't seem to have a very solid basis - unless you assume everything already works out in exactly the way you want so that those terms can be taken as a given with respects to acting and meaning what is needed for your conclusion to work out. So, long story short, you seem to be saying, "But, don't you agree with me? Because if you just assume everything works out as I want, then it works out as I want.".
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby elasto » Mon Apr 06, 2015 11:00 am UTC

Forest Goose wrote:My main points, summed up, as a response are as follows:
1.) The passive/active distinction does not seem to be justified; as such, it cannot justify not pulling the lever.
2.) The principles behind "saving the most lives" appear to be acceptable, in general (as applied to other, unrelated thingth), thus, it appears rather reasonable to accept them as given unless there is compelling reason not to in a case.

If you really think there is no passive/active distinction, and if you really think 'saving the most lives' is the overwhelming metric, how do you respond to the following (also well-known) variant?

- You are the boss of a remote hospital
- You have five patients who will die today unless they receive organ transplants. One needs a new heart, one a lung, one a liver and two need kidneys
- The hospital is so remote that there is no possibility of someone dying elsewhere and their organs being delivered
- One person walks in for a routine check-up and blood test, and it happens to be noticed that he is a perfect match for all five transplantees
- Medicine has advanced to the point that organ transplants have a 100% success rate

Would you kill the walk-in to save the five who are about to die?

If you wouldn't (and presumably you wouldn't) your reasons probably carry a great deal of similarity to Cradac's reasons for not pulling the lever causing one person to die instead of five on a train track. In both cases he'd rather passively 'let nature take its course' than actively intervene causing one person who wasn't going to die to die...

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Apr 06, 2015 11:48 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:For example, I literally gave rules that outlined my rationale.
Cradarc wrote:1. Do not perform an action that I know will take the life of a human being who otherwise would be able to live.
2. Prevent someone from taking the life of another human being.
2 is important, but 1 takes precedent. If you disagree, then you disagree. I don't see why putting 1 above 2 makes someone a psychopath.

Instead of applying the rules and working out my reasoning (which after all, is the whole point), gmalivuk insisted I haven't answered his question. He did not ask for clarification, but instead fed me the question until I took the exact same rules and worked out the response for him.
No, you didn't "work out" the response from those two rules, because those two rules aren't complete, as I explained repeatedly. You don't have any explanation of what to do if there are multiple options to save a life (and you *technically* don't have any rule for what to do if there's no "someone" involved because the situation isn't manmade or malicious, but that would be nit-picking...).

All you had to do was explain, in the first place, "No, I wouldn't be indifferent to those choices, because saving 500 people is better than saving just 1." But I had to ask you repeatedly before you ever got around to saying something so simple.

Your answer came from those two rules, along with a third that saving more lives is better. But for some reason you decided you didn't feel like telling any of the rest of us about your third rule, and then you got defensive when you finally did get around to explaining it.

(And you can't justify it with "common sense" here, because your rules 1 and 2 are, individually, pretty commonsense rules as well, though perhaps not in that order, and yet you did see why it was important to state those explicitly.)
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Forest Goose » Mon Apr 06, 2015 11:58 am UTC

@Elasto:

That's a wonderful variant:-)

However, I would kill the one person and do the transplants.

However, that is assuming:

1.) Transplants cannot fail
2.) I have perfect knowledge there will be no other source
3.) It is absolutely impossible they may survive on their own

In other words, if I may assume all the perfect knowledge and contraption required to make it equivalent to the trolley problem - in which case, while I applaud the added grittiness of the example, it is an emotional veneer tacked onto the original. While it is tempting to treat it like it sounds, the extra bits of perfect knowledge strip away a lot of the emotional weight - it would be horrific to do this in reality, but we don't have all that magic knowledge in reality, it's the association, not the substance, that pulls at us.

Still, I really do like that the question forces you to consider the distinction between emotion and morality; emotionally I still feel I should not harvest the organs, exactly because it is hard to emotionally accept that I am operating in a perfectly known world, unlike our own.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Apr 06, 2015 12:53 pm UTC

The organ example illustrates why I'm some flavor of consequentialist.

Even with perfect knowledge, I think it would be wrong to kill one person and divide their organs among five, because the consequence goes beyond a simple 5-for-1 exchange. A world where that sort of thing happens in hospitals would be worse for *everyone* than the world where sometimes people die from organ failure.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Forest Goose » Mon Apr 06, 2015 1:02 pm UTC

^
In what way would they be worse? If you mean that they would be worse because of things like, "people would be scared to go to hospitals" or "Doctors would become demoralized and be unable to cope", or anything like that, then you are no longer considering a problem equivalent to the trolley problem as asked - trolley track dillemas are not institutions of medicine.

My point being: this example, in a sense, is convincing unless you are absolutely strict in maintaining equivalence, elsewise you are sliding some assumption in the backdoor and holding up the disagreeing answers as if they were proof about the front door assumptions.

Of course, if you are objecting on grounds that do not break equivalence, then I'm curious how your positions reconcile.

*I'm not trying to be contentious, just making a point about the example; I don't dispute your ultimate point, the trolley problem is ideal, as soon as anything of reality creeps in, it's not nearly as applicable to things.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby morriswalters » Mon Apr 06, 2015 1:44 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:You, at the controls, aren't the putting people in danger even though you are the one deciding who lives and who dies. The moral calculus does change if it goes from "choose who lives and who dies" to "choose to murder one to save many
I view it in terms of my personal responsibility. From my perspective what is important to me is what my morals ask me to do. Once an act is in motion, how it got there is no longer relative, from my perspective. It doesn't matter on the side of the road in a blizzard that some fool didn't take proper care and is at risk of death. I act in that case because I am impelled to by my conscience. Despite his foolishness. My answer to the question was kill the singleton, but I understand the justification for not doing so.
HungryHobo wrote:You know... you keep repeating that and variants again and again and again but I somehow can't imagine it being true in actual real world cases similar to the trolley problem.

If someone saw an avalanche heading towards a school full of [some large number] of kids and somehow diverted it away from the building to a less populated path I can't see them being jailed for minimising loss of life in a disaster even if someone who wouldn't have been in the path of the disaster otherwise gets killed as a result.
True enough. The difference I suppose is the idea of perfect knowledge. As an example, a man takes six hostages and uses one of them as a shield and threatens to kill the others by some means, do the rules of engagement allow a sniper to shoot through the shield and kill the hostage taker to save the other five? When you say divert a landslide you are assuming that you know in advance that you can divert it and that the person that you might kill is where they can be at the moment it would happen. Again perfect knowledge.
Forest Goose wrote:Are you philosophically certain, nor merely scientifically, that gravity can be so described?
The only thing I am certain of is what has never happened that I am aware of. Nothing has ever fallen up. And I plan my life around that certainty. On the other hand I can point to behavior that was moral at some point and not moral at some other.
Forest Goose wrote:That aside, what do you mean by the same behaviour? If you go down to the exact state of thingth, I doubt you have ever seen the same setup, identically, twice in your life (or in anyone's), so why are you certain gravity has thith feature? Or do you just mean in "close enough" cases, which does appear true of gravity...but I'm not sure why morality needs be a non-chaotic phenomena.
This is pettifogging. When I go to the market and have my meat weighed, the butcher slaps it on the scale and we both look and agree that a pound is a pound. Yet here we find ourselves in a discussion about the ethics of murdering one person to save another.

Your original statement.
I don't have to agree with that at all. I can't give you a perfect objective basis to gravity, you don't get a say in the nature of black holes, though. More to the point, you are starting with, "You don't have a perfect answer", then concluding, "It's socially constructed (or should be treated that way, methodologically).
No. I haven't ever found a specific way of determining what is moral, so I operate on the assumption that fits the facts available to me. That assumption may be wrong, but it allows me to do things like, adapt to the idea that gays and lesbians aren't immoral as I was taught when I was young. It could be that I am discovering a greater truth that always existed. I can't know that. That would also be descriptive of how I feel about gravity.

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Forest Goose » Mon Apr 06, 2015 1:51 pm UTC

What now?

Our theory of gravity has changed despite there being an objective fact of the matter, scientifically speaking.

That someone taught you gays and lesbians were immoral isn't proof of anything.

Perhaps there is objective morality, but perhaps they were just wrong? I called bullshit the first time I heard that nonsense, even as a kid - and people teach science wrong all the time, is science not objective because people taught wrong things about it?

Nothing says what I think can't change, that's just the mark of an idiot, inflexibility - that does not entail that there is no fact of the matter.

Indeed, why do you even want to change what you think about, going with your example, gays and lesbians? Is it because it is right and someone presented you with compelling reasons it was so? If so, then please reconcile where that comes from. If something else - all the above still applies anyways - then I'm curious, what is your motivation to change your opinion, if not because it is right (in the first place)? Is it merely to not appear as an asshole? Just for fun? Because you cannot resist what society is selling?
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Apr 06, 2015 2:47 pm UTC

Ah yes, the organ harvesting variant which I already briefly mentioned.

Now imagine the hospital is located in North Korea. They have a teleportation device that lets them kidnap Americans to harvest for the organs. Would the same morals apply?

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby morriswalters » Mon Apr 06, 2015 2:54 pm UTC

Forest Goose wrote:Indeed, why do you even want to change what you think about, going with your example, gays and lesbians? Is it because it is right and someone presented you with compelling reasons it was so? If so, then please reconcile where that comes from. If something else - all the above still applies anyways - then I'm curious, what is your motivation to change your opinion, if not because it is right (in the first place)? Is it merely to not appear as an asshole? Just for fun? Because you cannot resist what society is selling?
I suspect, although I can't say with any certainty, that it came from gays and lesbians themselves. That they decided that it was important enough to them that they felt they could make it important to me. It's related to the concept of reciprocity. Once they became visible to me in my life I could see them as they saw themselves, rather than as I had been told they were. It turns out they are like me. Once I could see that then I become obligated to treat them as I would wish them to treat me. I didn't have to turn out that way. And that is a strategy, not a moral absolute. It is how I have chosen to deal with the concept of morality.

As to why I might wish to change. I don't. I have come to hate change. As I get older it is harder and harder to do. However the world changes even if I don't. Reason for yourself why I might want to change even if change is painful

Forest Goose wrote:Perhaps there is objective morality, but perhaps they were just wrong?
Quite possible. It would be nice in fact, that there was an absolute way to act and react. And that would imply that our current morals are like flecks of gold in a miners pan, part of some unseen mother lode. However I haven't seen any evidence to support that. Which brings me back to the idea that as a working hypothesis that morals are a social construct. I use it because it works, not because it is a fact.
Forest Goose wrote:Nothing says what I think can't change, that's just the mark of an idiot, inflexibility - that does not entail that there is no fact of the matter
Good for you. We agree.

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Mon Apr 06, 2015 3:04 pm UTC

CorruptUser wrote:Ah yes, the organ harvesting variant which I already briefly mentioned.

Now imagine the hospital is located in North Korea. They have a teleportation device that lets them kidnap Americans to harvest for the organs. Would the same morals apply?

No, because Americans are just better than the rest of us.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby SDK » Mon Apr 06, 2015 3:26 pm UTC

I asked my wife this question and she responded that she would let the five die "because there are already enough people on this Earth as it is."
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Apr 06, 2015 4:28 pm UTC

Forest Goose wrote:^
In what way would they be worse? If you mean that they would be worse because of thingth like, "people would be scared to go to hospitals" or "Doctors would become demoralized and be unable to cope", or anything like that, then you are no longer considering a problem equivalent to the trolley problem as asked - trolley track dillemas are not institutions of medicine.

My point being: thith example, in a sense, is convincing unless you are absolutely strict in maintaining equivalence, elsewise you are sliding some assumption in the backdoor and holding up the disagreeing answers as if they were proof about the front door assumptions.

Of courthe, if you are objecting on grounds that do not break equivalence, then I'm curious how your positions reconcile.

*I'm not trying to be contentious, just making a point about the example; I don't dispute your ultimate point, the trolley problem is ideal, as soon as anything of reality creeps in, it's not nearly as applicable to thingth.
My objection to the hospital example is that it is *not* equivalent to the trolley problem(s), for the aforementioned consequentialist reasons.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby elasto » Mon Apr 06, 2015 5:46 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:My objection to the hospital example is that it is *not* equivalent to the trolley problem(s), for the aforementioned consequentialist reasons.

It's possible to remove the consequentialism pretty much completely though - it all depends on how convoluted you want to make the setup. For example:

- The prospective donor didn't simply walk in, he was kidnapped and dragged in by a relative of one of the dying because he knew he was a donor match (to match the single alternate-track victim who was also tied there unwillingly by a madman)
- The five dying patients are the only patients in the hospital - so no 'civilians' will witness the decision
- The medical staff and management are coincidently all going to retire at the end of the day - so their decision will have no precedent in terms of hospital policy etc. New management will come in with a 'new broom'

Even in this absurd setup it would still feel wrong to me to kill the one to save the five (and yet I'd pull the lever to switch the train).

And we can push things even further:

- The relative is holding a disintegrator ray-gun at the head of the prospective donor, and says that if you don't kill him and do the transplants, he will shoot the donor dead. Only, because it's a disintegrator, the donor's body will instantly turn to ash on his death, so it can't then be used for transplanting.
- The gunman has an impenetrable force-shield around him so disarming him is not a possibility

Here the donor is guaranteed to die: Your choice becomes to either participate in killing him and save the others or watch them all die. Now we're essentially at the abortion situation where the fetus is guaranteed to die but we can choose to save the mother.

Here I think I finally tip over into 'I'd pull the lever' territory: I'd actively kill the guy and dispense his organs because his fate is sadly sealed. But it's interesting how the law would view it: I think they'd say I committed murder - whereas I think if I pulled the lever on the train-tracks I don't think it would.

The Trolley Problem is a classic for a reason I guess: It does have a lot of meat to it...

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Apr 06, 2015 6:25 pm UTC

There's also the direct vs. indirect thing, where most people are a lot less comfortable with the idea of physically pushing someone onto the tracks than with the lever-pull version. I suspect that also plays into the different intuitive reaction people have to the organ harvesting scenario.

In addition, the most extreme convolutions may still work for objective "which option is more ethical" questions, but become difficult for subjective "what would you personally do" questions. You can state that I have perfect knowledge of what a desperate or sadistic person will do, but it's likely not possible to truly imagine myself into that situation. In real life, I've never had perfect knowledge of what another person will choose to do, so I don't really have any intuition for that situation.
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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for this o

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Apr 06, 2015 8:05 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:The organ example illustrates why we're some flavor of consequentialist.

Even with perfect knowledge, we think it would be wrong to kill one person and divide their organs among lots, because the consequence goes beyond a simple 5-for-1 exchange. A world where that sort of thing happens in hospitals would be worse for *everyone* than the world where sometimes people die from organ failure.


I agree that it is wrong, also for broadly consequentialist reasons.

However, in addition to that, it's a little different from the trolley problem. In particular, the question of responsibility is much more clear. The trolley problem, whatever happens, no doubt someone who set up the situation, or through terrible negligence, allowed the situation to happen, will be to blame. Someone probably not me. Actually grabbing a person and stealing their organs is more definitively on me. It's also much more personal and sustained. Merely closing my eyes and pulling a lever allows a degree of a distance not found here.

So, if you place some value on not having to experience directly killing people, that would be a reason for aversion. A quite reasonable one.

I also agree that "what you would do" is not the same as "what is most ethical". It may be ethically great for me to sacrifice myself for others, but that doesn't mean I'll actually do that. Especially not when it's a snap decision in a stressful situation. Shit, if I saw a train coming for me, and a lever that would divert it, I probably wouldn't even look at where the diversion would go before desperately pulling it. There's a great deal of difference between thoughtfully pondering a puzzle and being in a life or death situation.

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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for this o

Postby HungryHobo » Mon Apr 06, 2015 9:29 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:When you say divert a landslide you are assuming that you know in advance that you can divert it and that the person that you might kill is where they can be at the moment it would happen. Again perfect knowledge.


There is absolutely no requirement for perfect knowledge in that case. Merely >zero knowledge. If you're dazed and confused and you're pretty sure your shoes are talking to you it may be best to just do nothing.

but if you're pretty sure that it's 1pm on a weekday, it isn't a holiday and you could hear the sound of children shouting from the school a few minutes ago it's reasonable to believe there's as many [large number] children as you would normally expect there.

If there's not a visible mob surrounding the old folks home on the other path then it's reasonable to believe that there's the normal [small number] of people on the other path.

If you have a reasonable basis to believe that the thing which should divert the avalanche (explosives in the hillside etc) is very likely to lead to diverting it then that's a perfectly good basis on which to make your choices.

There is no such thing as a certainty in this universe.
Play russian roulette with rounds in all the chambers and there's an infinitesimal chance that they'll all be duds. It would however not be reasonable to just assume it's safe based on not having perfect information about the bullets.

Everything is uncertain to some degree.
We can only ever make choices based on the probability of outcomes.
As such not having perfect information or not having complete certainty of outcomes is pretty much irrelevant.
We act based on the best available information, the most probable interpretations of that information and the most likely outcomes of our choices.
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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for this o

Postby Cradarc » Mon Apr 06, 2015 9:48 pm UTC

First of all, the automatic word replacement is making things really hard to comprehend. Also, I don't understand why the title of this thread has been changed. If a mod is responsible, please explain why you did this.

Forest Goose,
Your distinction between moral value and the rules associated with them is basically what absolute morality means to me. Absolute morality is what is true, regardless how people act or decide is the "right" way to act.
Like you, I think the distinction between right and wrong exists outside of biology/psychology. However, as you mentioned, incorporating God into philosophical discussions is usually not a good idea. You may not believe in God, but talking about the existence of a transcendent morality that is just there is equally unproductive. That is why I said ethics is really just human psyche. If it were anything else, the discussion would go nowhere. As humans, the best we can do is to talk about our psyche.

Forest Goose wrote:There is nothing involving "justice" to be undermined in the case of trolleys, it's just a shitty situation - if we accidentally run you over, it sucks, but it isn't injustice just in case you aren't guilty of anything warranting that. Thus, justice does not appear to override saving more lives.

In your rioters problem: For the criminal who gets hanged to appease the rioters, wouldn't it also be "just a shitty situation"? If another guy were chosen, he wouldn't have to die. It's just by chance that his trial coincided with the rioter situation. Couldn't one argue that killing him isn't a statement about justice? The only reason he died was because we didn't want rioters to kill others. It had nothing to do with his guilt or lack thereof.

To illustrate this, we can combine the trolly problem with the rioter problem:
The criminal is on trial tied up to the train track. If he is found guilty, you pull the lever and the train comes to kill him. Otherwise, he is let go. The rioters want you to kill the criminal, so they tie 5 random people to the tracks. They then sabotage the train so it begins to move while the trial is still happening. You notice the train coming, but a verdict has not been reached. If you don't pull the lever, the 5 people will die.

gmalivuk,
I expected you to consider the rules as a human who can apply them abstractly rather than a computer who takes things extremely literally. I later realized my mistake.
1. Do not perform an action that we know will take the life of a human being who otherwise would be able to live.
2. Prevent someone from taking the life of another human being.
First rule takes priority. So any choice that violates the first rule is eliminated.

The second rule then kicks in. The goal is to prevent someone from taking the life of another human being.
Humans: A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H
Choice 1: Humans A, B, C, D are saved
Choice 2: Humans A, B, C, D, E, F, G are saved
Are A,B,C,D humans? Yes. Should I save them? Yes.
Are E,F,G humans? Yes. Should I save them? Yes.

At this point, a computer would say both choices are equivalent. A human, however, would know that choice 2 does everything choice 1 does and more when it comes to following Rule 2.
I said this step was common sense because I felt the typical person would be able to deduce this. I am sorry if it wasn't obvious to you. Since you never shared your own opinion on the issue, I did not know if this step was common knowledge between us. I just assumed it was.
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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for this o

Postby HungryHobo » Mon Apr 06, 2015 9:52 pm UTC

elasto wrote:- You are the boss of a remote hospital
- You have lots patients who will die today unless they receive organ transplants. One needs a new heart, one a lung, one a liver and two need kidneys
- The hospital is so remote that there is no possibility of someone dying elsewhere and their organs being delivered
- One person walks in for a routine check-up and blood test, and it happens to be noticed that he is a perfect match for all lots transplantees
- Medicine has advanced to the point that organ transplants have a 100% success rate


This is why I mentioned rule-utilitarianism earlier when describing the hospital admin.

Adjusting for QUALS a pure utilitarian looking at only this single choice might say harvest those organs. Technically in the long term everyone is quite likely to be safer and less likely to die in hospital.

On the other hand a rule-Utilitarian would point out that that might lead to all sorts of negative externalities such as people being afraid to reveal their blood/tissue type and small constant negatives for the whole population based on constant low-level fear of being chosen for harvesting.

As such the rule-utilitarian would probably say that maximum utility isn't likely to be achieved by simply making every choice based on the single situation in front of you at that moment, that you'd get trapped in local minima but that if you pre-commit to certain rules you can get higher utility overall, for example "we guarantee we won't harvest your organs to maximise local utility" might be one such and you may have some kind of list of exceptions to rules.

To an extent this has some similarities with the law and morris's position if the law was written based on careful long term utilitarian analysis rather than without much analysis based on the vague gut feelings of 17th century aristocrats. Rule utilitarianism would be akin to following the law in a world where the law was written to maximise utility rather than a world where it's written because the the daily mail had a front page headline about [evil outgroup] the day before.

I feel I should point out that the specific example happens to piggybacks on some of our cultural views on medicine and bodily integrity to get added force. For a less morally horrific version that will still get people shuddering a little: lets imagine a watered down version where

- You are the boss of a remote hospital
- You have lots of otherwise healthy young patients who will die today unless they receive a rare blood factor.
- The hospital is so remote that there is no possibility of getting any in time.
- One person walks in for a routine check-up and blood test, and it happens to be noticed that he has this rare blood factor in his own blood. All you need to save everyone is a couple of pints of his blood and he'll suffer no lasting harm.
- He refuses because of some odd religious belief about giving blood.

What's the moral judgement on strapping him down and taking a pint?

legally it's straightfoward: no, bad.
doctors oath: again no, don't.
deontological ethics: no, bad.
utilitarian ethics: probably acceptable.

Now apply some permutations that don't kick in the doctors/bodily integrity cultural stuff like the tissue/sample needed being something that doesn't trip our bodily-integrity rules like hair, toenail clippings or sweat and the person doing it not being a medical professional but just some guy who knows this strangers hair is needed to save a few dozen people.

Cradarc: all mentions of the TP across the board got the same treatment, they probably included it in the word-swap filter since it was a currently active thread. it's a tradition for the week of april fools.
Last edited by HungryHobo on Mon Apr 06, 2015 10:15 pm UTC, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for this o

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Apr 06, 2015 9:59 pm UTC

I also hate the forum madness. I look forward to it leaving.

But no, wouldn't take the guys blood. Maybe I would if it was *me* about to die, not sure. But forcibly taking something from someone's body hits pretty high on the "that's a horrible thing to do" scale.

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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for this o

Postby HungryHobo » Mon Apr 06, 2015 10:03 pm UTC

Yep, but that's partly what I meant by it piggybacking on our cultural views on medicine and bodily integrity hence why I added the more watered down versions. I'm curious how people would view non-medical professionals harvesting , say, hair or how harshly people would judge some family member of the dying taking toenail clippings or a blood sample by force vs how they'd view a doctor doing the same.

The doctor after all gets a higher trust/power penalty while the family member gets a higher empathy/understandable discount on their actions.
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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for this o

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Apr 06, 2015 10:15 pm UTC

Not for me. I view the doctor/family member exactly the same in this. Seriously, forcing the dying to give up parts of them is apalling.

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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for thith

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Apr 06, 2015 10:50 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:we expected you to consider the rules as a human who can apply them abstractly rather than a computer who takes thingth extremely literally. we later realized our mistake.
1. Do not perform an action that we know will take the life of a human being who otherwise would be able to live.
2. Prevent someone from taking the life of another human being.
First rule takes priority. So any choice that violates the first rule is eliminated.

The second rule then kicks in. The goal is to prevent someone from taking the life of another human being.
Humans: A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H
Choice 1: Humans A, B, C, D are saved
Choice 2: Humans A, B, C, D, E, F, G are saved
Are A,B,C,D humans? Yes. Should we save them? Yes.
Are E,F,G humans? Yes. Should we save them? Yes.

At thith point, a computer would say both choices are equivalent. A human, however, would know that choice 2 does everything choice 1 does and more when it comes to following Rule 2.
we said thith step was common sense because we felt the typical person would be able to deduce thith. we are sorry if it wasn't obvious to you. Since you never shared your own opinion on the issue, we did not know if thith step was common knowledge between us. we just assumed it was.
That step is common sense, but it is not the step you made in my scenario, so I'm not sure why you brought it up here.

Yes, I agree that it's common sense to say "good thing A plus good thing B" is preferable to "good thing A but not good thing B". But that isn't actually the question I've been asking you, which you still seem unable to wrap your mind about.

What I'm talking about is something more like the following:

Humans: A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H (all will die if no action is taken)
Choice 1: Humans A, B, C, D are saved while humans E, F, G die
Choice 2: Humans E, F, G are saved while humans A, B, C, D die
Are A,B,C,D humans? Yes. Should we save them? Yes.
Are E,F,G humans? Yes. Should we save them? Yes.


Now I would have thought it was common sense to say Choice 1 saves more people, so Choice 1 is preferable. But by the same "common sense" logic, it should also be worse to kill more people than it is to kill fewer people, and yet you explicitly disagree with that claim. So how is anyone supposed to telepathically intuit that numbers matter to you when judging the morality saving lives, even though numbers don't matter to you when judging the morality of taking lives?
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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for thith

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Mon Apr 06, 2015 10:52 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Like you, we think the distinction between right and wrong exists outside of biology/psychology. However, as you mentioned, incorporating Glod into philosophical discussions is usually not a good idea. You may not believe in Glod, but talking about the existence of a transcendent morality that is just there is equally unproductive. That is why we said ethics is really just human psyche. If it were anything else, the discussion would go nowhere. As humans, the best we can do is to talk about our psyche.

This does not fit with my experience of philosophical discussions at all. Philosophical discussions (in the sense of stuff that gets published by professional philosophers in books and journals) generally do not assume that "ethics is really just human psyche," and I think they are in fact more likely to assume the opposite. Certainly, where there is no explicit statement of such an assumption, it is hard to interpret the contents of those discussions as claims merely about the human psyche. And this has not been unproductive; to the contrary, there are all sorts of problems which we better understand because of these discussions.
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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for this o

Postby morriswalters » Mon Apr 06, 2015 10:58 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:There is absolutely no requirement for perfect knowledge in that case. Merely >zero knowledge. If you're dazed and confused and you're pretty sure your shoes are talking to you it may be best to just do nothing.
Pick your ground. The trolly problem assumes that you know you will murder an innocent. The utilitarian view is that the greater good rules. I suggested that if you knew you would be at legal hazard, you haven't said anything to change that.

The transplant thing is a mess. People already think the possibility exists. With some justification. Say if the remote hospital is in some totalitarian state.

Assuming that the chance of getting away with it was truly 100 percent certain than this calculation is no different, if less faulty than a bank robbers. The robber and his five cohorts get away with it and enrich themselves. The surgeons and the hospital all get paid to do those transplants, quite well as it turns out. To make in nominally less horrid they should not get a cut of the proceeds. Nor should the hospital profit.


For the yllort melborp(trolly problem) I suggest an addendum. The person that pulls the switch gets to go to the home of the person who they chose to kill.

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gmalivuk
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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for this o

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Apr 06, 2015 11:18 pm UTC

(You know an easier way to evade this particular substitution would just be to spell "trolley" correctly, right?)
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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for this o

Postby CorruptUser » Mon Apr 06, 2015 11:39 pm UTC

Suffering succatash. Meh, I'll be back in May, I guess.

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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for this o

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Apr 06, 2015 11:45 pm UTC

You people sure are terrible at reading forumwide announcements, aren't you?
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Re: Ly Tin Wheedle is going to need another drink for this o

Postby morriswalters » Mon Apr 06, 2015 11:47 pm UTC

oD ouy kniht I thgim ton erac. On the other hand we might just have not thought of it. Of course if we had a lisp we might be offended.


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