Trolley Problem

For the serious discussion of weighty matters and worldly issues. No off-topic posts allowed.

Moderators: Azrael, Moderators General, Prelates

morriswalters
Posts: 6506
Joined: Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:21 am UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby morriswalters » Thu Apr 16, 2015 3:08 pm UTC

Forest Goose wrote:"In an abstract sense, there isn't any reason that living 1 second is any better than living a full life" is just as legitimate a sentence, so death is never tragic because of a life cut short, I suppose.
It is to me personally, but divorced from how I feel about it, what import does it have?
Forest Goose wrote:Statements that are justified by, "to me", usually appear to be being implicitly justified on some alternative moral principle that makes what is important to you reasonable, but not what is important to Crazy Bob The Serial Killer, or seem more to be a matter of psychology and a repackaging of "This seems good to me, therefore it is".
Not what is good, but what is needful if we are to coexist. Good, if you want to use that word, is dependent on how wide you spread your gaze. There is what is good for me and there is what is good for everyone close to me, and then what is good for everyone else. Morals, at least to me, is how we reconcile those different goods. I offer no justification of that, other than that model is my evaluation of how it seems to work.
Forest Goose wrote:Again, I want to be very clear: if you really mean that "you" have some bearing in this, as in a generic you, then whatever nonsense someone thinks starts becoming harder to object to - unless there is some reason that you, the specific you, is in a position that that is reasonable; in which case all of this subject rooting doesn't really make any sense since something else justifies it.
Precisely true. Which is how we end up with genocide, wars and lawful executions. And why there are so many views on those subjects.
Forest Goose wrote:I'm not sure what it is you're asking me for
I'm asking you to state a rule that resolves the moral dilemma posed by the trolly problem. Answering the question, is there a correct choice? Your moral intuition tells you to save the greater number. Is that position absolute? If it is then what if killing the one turns out to somehow be the causal link in killing 5 million? It gets very sloppy, given expanding amounts of information about the context.
Forest Goose wrote:You said that you would chose your child over 5 people and that that would be moral (you don't say "not immoral", but, specifically, it would be the "moral" thing, that's a lot stronger). I asked if it would be so if it were a 1,000,000 people, if you have the answer for 5, why not for the larger? I'm not sure why you are in a position to assert that the moral choice is your child for 5, but are unwilling to make an assertion for the larger (or even explain why that might be different).
Choosing my child over five is a product of what I know. Given different knowledge I might make a different choice. However not choosing my child would always be immoral, as would choosing to let the five die. It would cease to be a dilemma if that weren't true. The same would be true for any number you can write.
Forest Goose wrote:Why would it be moral? There is a world of difference between moral and not immoral, you chose to assert the far stronger of the two.
As an absolute I choose to believe that all life has some value. Therefore ending life is always immoral. However I assert that I can act morally and immorally at the same time. The limitation is in my ability to influence events. Not in my ability to make moral choices. How I choose to balance those choices is dependent on what I know. So for instance, if I were a refugee hiding with a group, would I kill my infant child to keep it from betraying us by crying? It depends on what I believe I know about what will happen if I don't, and even given that it falls to a second question could I force myself to do so? What I do will always be immoral in some fashion and moral in still another.

I don't believe that there is an ultimate answer to the trolly problem, and some ethicist are questioning it's utility for real world ethics.

User avatar
Forest Goose
Posts: 377
Joined: Sat May 18, 2013 9:27 am UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby Forest Goose » Fri Apr 17, 2015 5:47 am UTC

Not what is good, but what is needful if we are to coexist. Good, if you want to use that word, is dependent on how wide you spread your gaze. There is what is good for me and there is what is good for everyone close to me, and then what is good for everyone else. Morals, at least to me, is how we reconcile those different goods. I offer no justification of that, other than that model is my evaluation of how it seems to work.


I'm beginning to think that we're discussing different subjects but using near words. I'm not saying, "good", and meaning "what is needful if we are to coexist".

Without disputing, or confirming, what you're saying: it would still seem that you need morality to have a reason to do any of that. We can, literally, coexist without most of what you are saying; even accepting your definition, there does not appear to be an answer to, "why should we?", that doesn't fall back on some other notion of "It's good". Of course, you could just say, "I prefer it", I wouldn't dispute you on the point, but I don't get the impression that most people operate this way.

Precisely true. Which is how we end up with genocide, wars and lawful executions. And why there are so many views on those subjects.


I don't understand. You seem to be saying, "Yes, your objection is valid", but then still maintaining the same unelaborated subject rooted notion. Or, perhaps, you would go to say that that is all there is, so there is nothing that can be done?

It does not follow, though, that that is why there are so many views - there are many views about quantum gravity, it has nothing to do with qg being rooted in the subject, nor does is there any notion of equal rightness to every theory advanced. Morality is not discernible in the same way, it isn't science (I'm not claiming it is), but it does have its methods.

I'm asking you to state a rule that resolves the moral dilemma posed by the trolly problem. Answering the question, is there a correct choice? Your moral intuition tells you to save the greater number. Is that position absolute? If it is then what if killing the one turns out to somehow be the causal link in killing 5 million? It gets very sloppy, given expanding amounts of information about the context.


I've given my view, discussed my view, clarified it, etc. various times.

I don't know what you mean by "absolute".

I'm not sure why causal links matter, that is not information you have. I offer you the following game: for $1, flip a coin 50 times, if you get all heads, you lose, anything else, I give you $1000. If you accept, but get 50 heads, did you make a bad choice, when you said yes? There is no obvious metric, aside from "Can read the future" by which that answer is, "Yes, I was being foolish". You can only operate with the information you have, any theory that requires you to know what you do not know is not really tenable.

However not choosing my child would always be immoral, as would choosing to let the five die. It would cease to be a dilemma if that weren't true. The same would be true for any number you can write.


That it appears to have immoral outcomes on both horns does not entail that it must so be - you're using the criterion for a bad answer as the standard. What you are saying makes sense only if you mean, "immoral", in the sense of, "in isolation", and are talking about how one resolves to not wrong - else, the terms don't make sense anymore. (If everything is wrong, then the distinction, as applied to choices, is pointless - if I give you a multiple choice, "1 + 1 = a.) 7 or b.) 961", both are "wrong", but that means very little when talking about the wrongness of a choice or the wrongness of the actor doing the choosing). I think there is a subtle equivocation that takes place when people talk about wrong choices, wrong acts, and wrong choices made - those three are not all the same thing, though they are deeply related.

As an absolute I choose to believe that all life has some value. Therefore ending life is always immoral. However I assert that I can act morally and immorally at the same time.


It seems, instead, to show that there is a problem with your principles. If I posit a paradoxical barber, the solution is that I am in error about the nature of the barber, it does not justify that the nature of true and false are no longer incompatible positions. Or, you are making an equivocation between applications of "moral" and ending up in a bad state.

I don't believe that there is an ultimate answer to the trolly problem, and some ethicist are questioning it's utility for real world ethics.


Talking about trains going near light speed has little application for building railways, so what? I don't think the point of the question need be, "What do you do in like situations?", the whole point is that it is isolating things out in a way you can't do in real life. However, it does give us the ability to look at the subject without confounding variables, that's the whole point of thought experiments. The point is not to apply the answer to like situations, the point is to apply the reasoning and principles, learned, to other things.
Forest Goose: A rare, but wily, form of goose; best known for dropping on unsuspecting hikers, from trees, to steal sweets.

morriswalters
Posts: 6506
Joined: Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:21 am UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby morriswalters » Fri Apr 17, 2015 10:59 am UTC

As you say we are probably talking about different things. I could care less about ethics other than how I can use them in the real world. When I used the phrase you have never experienced anything falling up, it was meant exactly as written. Not an abstract formula for acceleration in a 1 g gravity field. My experience in the world with ethics and morality doesn't reflect that. I have yet to find any act that is always moral.
Forest Goose wrote:there does not appear to be an answer to, "why should we?", that doesn't fall back on some other notion of "It's good"
I would not dispute that. What I would assert is that for any social group there are strategies that will let the group expand with as little conflict that can be achieved. There is no point to that expansion nor to reducing conflict, other than the basic fact that life seems to not want to die. They always develop rules for living with each other. Think of it this way. Monkeys may murder other monkeys, but cooperation keeps them from being eaten by lions. The strategies seem to evolve to maximize protection while keeping most monkeys from killing each other. That is the prism through which I view ethics.
Forest Goose wrote:I'm not sure why causal links matter, that is not information you have. I offer you the following game: for $1, flip a coin 50 times, if you get all heads, you lose, anything else, I give you $1000. If you accept, but get 50 heads, did you make a bad choice, when you said yes? There is no obvious metric, aside from "Can read the future" by which that answer is, "Yes, I was being foolish". You can only operate with the information you have, any theory that requires you to know what you do not know is not really tenable.
I am painfully aware of this. And it exactly the point. What I know turns out to control what I do. I know that if I choose my child over some random selection of people that I am preserving something important to me at their expense. They are an abstraction, my child is not. And experiments show that when this choice arises people tend to choose their child or children in general. I guess that this is some kind of evolutionary strategy for making sure my genetic material gets carried over. I really have no idea.
Forest Goose wrote:That it appears to have immoral outcomes on both horns does not entail that it must so be
It is implicit I would have supposed in moral dilemmas. I think of it as a scotch and soda. I can drink the scotch or the soda but sometimes they both exist together, and you can't unmix them. I suppose you can shift the moral obligation or say things like there is a difference between passive choices and active choices. I don't care for that solution but I don't consider it immoral. I see the outcome as indeterminate until the moment I choose. Kind of like that man's cat.
Forest Goose wrote:However, it does give us the ability to look at the subject without confounding variables, that's the whole point of thought experiments. The point is not to apply the answer to like situations, the point is to apply the reasoning and principles, learned, to other things.
I accept that. The whole point for me is to see how other people think, since in general they reveal themselves to me in their responses.

Thanks for the time.

Morris Walters

User avatar
Forest Goose
Posts: 377
Joined: Sat May 18, 2013 9:27 am UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby Forest Goose » Fri Apr 17, 2015 12:53 pm UTC

Thank you, I definitely respect what you're saying, seeing where you're coming from. Thank you for some interesting ideas, and for your perspective (rereading other posts of yours, it makes a lot more sense). :-)

Fun thread, by the way - I'm guessing it's mostly done now - thanks to, Cradarc for a neat topic and some fun debate :-)
Forest Goose: A rare, but wily, form of goose; best known for dropping on unsuspecting hikers, from trees, to steal sweets.

elasto
Posts: 3028
Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 1:53 am UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby elasto » Sun Jun 05, 2016 6:53 pm UTC

How did we not come up with this variant ??

User avatar
Jorpho
Posts: 6063
Joined: Wed Dec 12, 2007 5:31 am UTC
Location: Canada

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby Jorpho » Fri Jun 10, 2016 4:11 am UTC

elasto wrote:How did we not come up with this variant ??
It is a rich vein for inquiry. Did someone link to http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/less ... variations or http://existentialcomics.com/comic/106 already?

User avatar
Dr34m(4+(h3r
Posts: 116
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:34 am UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby Dr34m(4+(h3r » Sat Jun 11, 2016 9:42 pm UTC

I have my own variation.

Suppose a trolley is speeding down a railroad track towards two tunnels. At the switch is a negative utilitarian dragon who has read the complete works of Schopenhauer and Emil Cioran. In one tunnel are five people including a cancer patient, a rapist, a small child, the world's first fully-sentient artificial intelligence which cannot be replicated if destroyed, and a doctor who is carrying the cure for cancer. In the other tunnel is a devout muslim yelling "Flip the switch! Martyr me! Save the others!". The dragon can breathe fire down the tunnels, but is too big to enter them, and there is no guarantee that the fire will kill whoever they breathe it onto, especially since they're liable to run away deeper into the tunnel as soon as they sense the impending attack. Additionally, the dragon has a natural lifespan of many thousands of years and is highly empathetic, and as a consequence will internalize the pain of all of those involved regardless of the outcome. Also, there is only enough time to deliver one set of last rites, even though three religions known are represented among the potential victims, though only the muslim's individual religious faith is known.

What is the optimal negative utilitarian solution to this dilemma?

User avatar
ucim
Posts: 5096
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:23 pm UTC
Location: The One True Thread

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby ucim » Sun Jun 12, 2016 12:14 am UTC

All these trolley problems are just a way to focus on the fact that we haven't really thought through what we value, what we say we value, what we ought to value, and why. There are no good answers.

Valuing life (in the abstract... "saving more lives is better") is not a good answer. There are already too many people in the world (and no, I'm not volunteering to get off). In the abstract, life (even just human life) is not rare, it's not precious, it's not special.

However, now that it's here in front of me, I don't want to be the one to end it. But that's not because I value life.

Valuing the absense of suffering (what is the opposite of "to value"?) is (IMHO) a better answer. If you could go back in time, would you kill Hitler? Would you kill Trump now? Could you tell the difference? It's quite plausible that if you killed Hitler back in the 1930s, when it was possible and before he became such a threat, you'd've avoided lots of suffering. But you would not be a hero; you'd be a common thug, and claiming to know the future doesn't get you out of it. (And for one thing, you don't know the alternate path the world would have taken anyway.) It's arguable that we're facing the same situation now. But again, I don't want to become the common thug that thinks he knows better.

In a plane crash, choosing between this school football field and that housing development I'm looking for the best overall outcome. But "best" is heuristic, not algorithmic. People operate through heuristics (based on experience and mindset, usually with very limited information). I want to live in a world where people's heuristics are based on the same values I hold. So, the answers I give to trolley problems, while often contradicting some tenet that we claim to value, are consistent with the idea that the person at the switch this time acts like a person I'd want at all the other kinds of (usually non-trolley) switches in life.

The crux of a trolley problem isn't "Which is better, five survivors or one?" or "Which is better, a dead ugly innocent, or five unlucky people killed in an accident?"

Rather, it's "Would you become a murderer - a common thug - in order to accomplish {worthy goal}". And that comes down to "Would you like to live among people like that?" And that comes down to "Can you trust that having a personal relationship with this person makes a difference to them?"

And that is what I value.

There are circumstances in which we can't afford that luxury. Those circumstances change people and society for the worse.

Dr34m(4+(h3r wrote:What is the optimal negative utilitarian solution to this dilemma?
The dragon lies down in front of the trolley?

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Please help addams if you can. She needs all of us.

User avatar
untitled
Posts: 39
Joined: Wed Jan 29, 2014 9:23 pm UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby untitled » Sun Jun 12, 2016 1:11 am UTC

ucim wrote:All these trolley problems are just a way to focus on the fact that we haven't really thought through what we value, what we say we value, what we ought to value, and why. There are no good answers.

So, in short, the solution to the trolley problem is "be prepared for the trolley problem."

Though I understand and respect your arguments (and agree with them, not that it matters) I take issue with the formulation:
ucim wrote:Rather, it's "Would you become a murderer - a common thug - in order to accomplish {worthy goal}". And that comes down to "Would you like to live among people like that?" And that comes down to "Can you trust that having a personal relationship with this person makes a difference to them?"

I would rephrase it - taking philosophy is learning how to die* as a model - as such:

"If you had to be a murderer - a common thug - what kind of common thug would you be?"

Of course, this boils down to Kant's categorical imperative: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law." I would very much like to live among people like that, thank you for asking.

*a quote by Cicero; be aware that although it sounds rad, it doesn't really scale - it applies mainly to political philosophy

User avatar
Dr34m(4+(h3r
Posts: 116
Joined: Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:34 am UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby Dr34m(4+(h3r » Sun Jun 12, 2016 1:16 am UTC

untitled wrote:a quote by Cicero


Oh damn, I always thought it was Montaigne. I guess he was just using a quote. Thanks for teaching me something.

User avatar
ucim
Posts: 5096
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:23 pm UTC
Location: The One True Thread

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby ucim » Sun Jun 12, 2016 5:05 am UTC

untitled wrote:[I'd rephrase it: "If you had to be a murderer - a common thug - what kind of common thug would you be?"
But you don't have to be a murderer.

If you're driving the car and end up in a situation where you have to choose between killing yourself and your occupants vs killing random pedestrians, then yes, you "have to be a killer" (not quite the same as a murderer), inasmuch as that through your (already taken) actions, somebody will die. You are choosing whom. But if you are near the trolley switch and something unfortunate happens, you are not a murderer for not acting. You are not involved. You do become (at least) a killer if you do act. That's the difference.

So, I stand by my formulation.

As to Kant's imperative, that I'd rephrase.

"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become universal." I have a bit of a problem with the authoritarian bent of the original. And one must be careful that it (or similarly the original) is not read thus: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can. At the same time, will that it should become universal."

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Please help addams if you can. She needs all of us.

User avatar
untitled
Posts: 39
Joined: Wed Jan 29, 2014 9:23 pm UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby untitled » Sun Jun 12, 2016 5:18 am UTC

ucim wrote:But if you are near the trolley switch and something unfortunate happens, you are not a murderer for not acting. You are not involved. You do become (at least) a killer if you do act. That's the difference.

But yes, you become the kind of murderer that murders by not acting. The fact that you could have been the kind of murderer that murders by acting doesn't make any difference. You either shouldn't have been there or you shouldn't have acted. If you are already there, be responsible of your presence.

User avatar
ucim
Posts: 5096
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:23 pm UTC
Location: The One True Thread

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby ucim » Sun Jun 12, 2016 2:08 pm UTC

untitled wrote:But yes, you become the kind of murderer that murders by not acting.
But no, that is not murder. It's not even killing.

It is in some circumstances a callous disregard for human life. But in some cases not. These cases depend on the cost of acting - cost to you as well as cost to others. We are not morally responsible for every bad thing that happens, nor morally obligated to become the "fixer of all things". This is what muddies these problems, by presenting one dilemma while pretending to present a different one.

Track A: nobody on it.
Track B: A nice person on it.
Trolley heading for track B. Not switching to A is a callous disregard for human life. You'd be somebody I'd not want to live with if you chose that option. Not a murderer though, unless you arranged the situation.

Put your spouse on track A and re-run it, and you'd be somebody I'd not want to live with if you chose to switch and actively kill your spouse. You'd also be a killer.

Same situation but the trolley is heading for track A (with your spouse on it). You're a killer here too if you switch (and not one if you don't; despite the innocent's death, you didn't cause it), but if you don't, then you are showing that the connection you have with your spouse is of not enough consequence to you to kill somebody in order to save. That is what I'm on about, not the semantics of the thing.

"Do you shoot an intruder who is raping your wife?" is a real world version.

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Please help addams if you can. She needs all of us.

User avatar
untitled
Posts: 39
Joined: Wed Jan 29, 2014 9:23 pm UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby untitled » Sun Jun 12, 2016 3:25 pm UTC

I think you are too fond of words, surround yourself with them, bath in them, cherish and love them and ultimately worship them. No problems with any of those, the variety of human experience truly makes me happy - but please be careful not to commit logical fallacies.

Ok, apart from that, you are saying that as long as more than zero persons will get killed - in both options - the "right thing" to do is inaction. I don't think that would translate as universal law.

Thank you for illuminating me and please enjoy that cigarette while the rapist finishes with your wife.

User avatar
ucim
Posts: 5096
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:23 pm UTC
Location: The One True Thread

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby ucim » Sun Jun 12, 2016 5:34 pm UTC

untitled wrote:you are saying that as long as more than zero persons will get killed - in both options - the "right thing" to do is inaction.
No, I'm not saying that. First, I never claimed a "right thing" to do, I merely claimed that I'd like to live among people who chose {this thing}. Subtle difference; I'm not judging. Second, in my latest post I was referring only to your rephrasing of my "would you become a murderer..." which pointed to "can you trust that having a personal relationship with this person makes a difference to them?" as the ultimate root of the way I approach trolley problems. And third, I did give examples where I would act, and where I would want to live in a world where others would act similarly. In that very post. Using words.

Read them.

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Please help addams if you can. She needs all of us.

Cradarc
Posts: 448
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2014 11:30 pm UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby Cradarc » Sun Jun 12, 2016 9:10 pm UTC

ucim wrote: I merely claimed that I'd like to live among people who chose {this thing}.

Call it what you want, but that's about as close to "morally right thing" as you can get from someone that believes in moral relativism.

I think the fundamental question we have to ask ourselves is "why is killing a person wrong?". Saying "I would like to live in a society where people don't kill each other" sounds like a cop-out answer. It implies that if enough people "would like" to murder you, they are morally justified to do so. If your opinion on that matter supersedes theirs, then there is clearly something deeper than personal preference when it comes to the morality of taking another person's life. It could simply be a selfish view of the world ("my preferences have precedent over all others when it comes to morality"), or it could be something more complex.

Intention matters. The trolley problem guarantees the death of at least one person, but it doesn't make it more acceptable to choose a particular person to die. If you think about it, everybody eventually has to die. However, wishing someone would die is universally (with rare exceptions of course) looked down upon. I would argue the act of "willing" someone to die is what makes murder immoral. When you kill somebody by accident, you can be reckless, foolish, and hated by their family, but nobody labels you as cruel and immoral.

Simply being in the trolley dilemma does not give you intention of killing anybody. It simply forces the knowledge of their plight upon you. On the other hand, by flipping the switch, you knowingly cause the death of a person. You transform from an observer into an actor. As an actor, you are held responsible for the consequences of your actions, whatever they may be. Perhaps saving five people matters more to you than the guilt of killing one, but that guilt is still present and not any less immoral than it would be if you hadn't saved five.
This is a block of text that can be added to posts you make. There is a 300 character limit.

User avatar
ucim
Posts: 5096
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:23 pm UTC
Location: The One True Thread

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby ucim » Sun Jun 12, 2016 9:52 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Call it what you want, but that's about as close to "morally right thing" as you can get from someone that believes in moral relativism.
Yes it is. But it is not moral absolutism, which is what is implied by the "morally right thing". It's like the difference between "I don't think your statement is supported by the evidence" and "You're wrong, and a fool to boot".

Cradarc wrote:I think the fundamental question we have to ask ourselves is "why is killing a person wrong?". Saying "I would like to live in a society where people don't kill each other" sounds like a cop-out answer.
...because the question isn't "why is killing..." but "when is killing...". Yes, to answer that, you have to address the "why" question, and it is fundamental, but it is the "when" question that is closest to the "I would like to live in a society where..." issue. The "when" question is the one that addresses the relative importance of members of a set of values. The "why" question addresses one of those values.

Cradarc wrote:everybody eventually has to die
I don't want to go on the cart! But seriously, the question isn't about willing a death, it's about willing a death now. I am highly uncomfortable with people deciding that, in pursuit of {greater good}, the next sixteen years and three months of my life shall be taken away from me by force. It's not about the years lost so much as it's about the abuse of the (perhaps temporary) absolute dominion one person has over the other, and the resulting violation of trust.

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Please help addams if you can. She needs all of us.

Tyndmyr
Posts: 10119
Joined: Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jun 13, 2016 4:29 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:I think the fundamental question we have to ask ourselves is "why is killing a person wrong?". Saying "I would like to live in a society where people don't kill each other" sounds like a cop-out answer. It implies that if enough people "would like" to murder you, they are morally justified to do so. If


Because I wish to live, and this desire is much stronger than any desire to kill people. And a practice of killing will result in other people who also wish to live killing the crap out of me.

It doesn't step from some high minded idea of democracy. Social rules against killing members of the in-group are nigh-universal, and are certainly found where democracy is not. The idea stems from not wanting to die.

malmensa
Posts: 7
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2016 2:50 am UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby malmensa » Fri Jul 08, 2016 3:22 am UTC

Imagine you are a doctor. You have a ward full of terminal patients, and spend one day a week running a clinic.

I guy from out of town comes into your clinic for a medical check, as part of getting a pilots licence. You examine him, and find no signs of poor health. Not only is he healthy, but he has organs that could be transplanted into 5 terminal patients, giving them a full cure!

Assuming you could get away with killing this individual and stealing his body parts to save 5 patients, should you do so?

How does this differ from pulling the lever and killing one person to save 5?

User avatar
Felstaff
Occam's Taser
Posts: 5159
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2008 7:10 pm UTC
Location: ¢ ₪ ¿ ¶ § ∴ ® © ™ ؟ ¡ ‽ æ Þ ° ₰ ₤ ಡಢ

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby Felstaff » Fri Jul 08, 2016 8:27 am UTC

If the patients are terminal, why would you waste fresh, tasty organs on them anyway?

I just spoke with my lawyer friend - apparently committing murder, mutilating a body, illegally harvesting organs, and theft is considered worse than operating a lever. In the eyes of the law, at least. Lawyers, huh
Away, you scullion! you rampallion! You fustilarian! I'll tickle your catastrophe.

User avatar
gmalivuk
GNU Terry Pratchett
Posts: 25400
Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2007 6:02 pm UTC
Location: Here and There
Contact:

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Jul 08, 2016 12:32 pm UTC

The consequences of your actions extend far beyond the six people who might die today.

A world in which people tied alone to train tracks might be sacrificed to save larger groups of people tied to other train tracks looks not unlike our own, and *very* different from a world in which healthy people who go to a hospital might be murdered and harvested for parts.
Unless stated otherwise, I do not care whether a statement, by itself, constitutes a persuasive political argument. I care whether it's true.
---
If this post has math that doesn't work for you, use TeX the World for Firefox or Chrome

(he/him/his)

User avatar
CorruptUser
Posts: 8382
Joined: Fri Nov 06, 2009 10:12 pm UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby CorruptUser » Tue Jul 12, 2016 2:37 pm UTC

The big difference between the trolley and the hospital is that in the trolley problem, you can avoid being the one guy on the tracks by not being on the tracks. Yes I get that the person is tied down, but Snidely Whiplash is the murderer, NOT YOU. With the hospital, how do you avoid being the guy cut up for organs? By NOT being healthy? By intentionally getting diseases? What kind of hellscape would that create?

The people that need organs, you would need to determine how they came to be in that situation prior to making the decision. It'd definitely be unfair to kill the health nut because 5 obese alcoholic junkies need the organs. Then there's age, as sick people tend to be older, and thus inherently have less value than the healthier young person (if you disagree, ask yourself; if you were in a burning building, would you save one toddler or 2 grandparents?). And finally there's oncogenes and evolution; killing the healthy person with good genes in order to keep the people with fatal genes means very bad things long term. Yes I realize this is a eugenics argument, but it's not wrong.

So no, the organ problem is NOT anywhere close to the trolley problem.

Fieari
Posts: 101
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 2:16 am UTC
Location: Okayama, Japan

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby Fieari » Tue Nov 01, 2016 4:52 am UTC

The trolley problem tries to pride itself on asking a question that it doesn't necessarily ask... "what is the role of action vs passivity in morality". But the problem I have is that it's not just "an action", they actual type of action matters!

Earlier in this thread, a number of people presented a number of what they beleived to be equivelent real world scenarios that would be easier to imagine than the clearly artificial "runaway trolley" scenario. Let's take a look at one of these, and compare.

Scenario: "Some crazed killer calls you up and makes the very credible threat that if you don't pull out a gun (under your seat) and shoot the stranger next to you, he will murder X number of other people." (where X is larger than 1)

Comparing this to the standard trolley problem, I would might pull the lever to kill only one person instead of X... however, I might NOT pull out the gun to shoot the person next to me, for most values of X.

Why? Well, what is the action I am performing? In the trolley problem, I'm pulling a lever. There is nothing inherantly moral or immoral about pulling a lever, in and of itself. In fact, this lever is pulled many times in the course of normal business with no negative consequences. This particular case results in someone's death, but the choice is only between two groups of people. In the crazed murderer situation, however, the choice is not between two groups of people. It is between two groups of people AND an inherrantly immoral act. I dispute that "pulling a lever" has the same moral weight as "pulling a the trigger on a gun", even if both are technically levers.

If the actual type of action matters, then things get messy. Imagine if the lever in the trolley problem was replaced by some other inherantly immoral action? What if the lever was actually a single purpose AI that could determine if you, for example, cheated on your significant other? Or commited rape? Or violently robbed a bank? Or stealthily robbed a bank? Or raped a child? Or raped an adult? Each of these different immoral actions probably has their own weight, which the trolley problem attempts to avoid... and yet still tries to put back into the problem by making it a question of "ACTIVELY pulling the lever" or not. Those that wouldn't pull the lever are probably equating the lever with pulling the trigger of a gun, but not everyone necessarily makes this equivelence in their heads. But I bet you that plenty of people who stated that they WOULD pull the lever in whichever of the cases would very likely balk at the idea of doing so if the lever was actually a really horrific act, such as raping someone.

And then the type of vile act might also weigh into the X. Going back to pulling the trigger vs pulling a lever, if the crazed madman had a credible threat against a significant percentage of the entire world's population, pulling the trigger might seem to be outweighed, while raping a child might not. The specific action matters.

The forcible organ doner question is similar. It's a matter of changing the action from a simple lever, to active assault and battery, which has its own host of reasons why it is immoral. Malmensa asked how this differed from the trolley problem? This is exactly how it is different. Pulling a lever is, alone, not immoral. Assaulting an innocent is immoral. If your brain can automatically connect all the dots and equate pulling a lever with the result of the lever, thus making the lever an assault on an innocent, then you might be able to say that the questions are identical, but I would suggest that human beings, on the aggragate, don't and can't do this.
Surely it is as ridiculous to consider sqrt(-1) "imaginary" because you can't use it to count pieces of chalk as to consider the number 200 imaginary because by itself it cannot express the location of one point with reference to another. -Isaac Asimov

elasto
Posts: 3028
Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 1:53 am UTC

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby elasto » Tue Nov 01, 2016 11:16 am UTC

Fieari wrote:Why? Well, what is the action I am performing? In the trolley problem, I'm pulling a lever. There is nothing inherantly moral or immoral about pulling a lever, in and of itself. In fact, this lever is pulled many times in the course of normal business with no negative consequences. This particular case results in someone's death, but the choice is only between two groups of people. In the crazed murderer situation, however, the choice is not between two groups of people. It is between two groups of people AND an inherrantly immoral act. I dispute that "pulling a lever" has the same moral weight as "pulling a the trigger on a gun", even if both are technically levers.

You're sort of begging the question though.

The question is why [pulling a lever on a track that pushes metal onto people killing them] is ethically different to [pulling a lever on a gun that pushes metal onto people killing them].

Why they don't have the same moral weight is precisely the issue at hand...

(Firing a gun isn't any more intrinsically immoral than shunting a train - people fire guns all the time for both good and neutral reasons)

User avatar
ucim
Posts: 5096
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:23 pm UTC
Location: The One True Thread

Re: Trolley Problem

Postby ucim » Tue Nov 01, 2016 1:03 pm UTC

Fieari wrote: In the trolley problem, I'm pulling a lever. There is nothing inherently moral or immoral about pulling a lever, [...] In the crazed murderer situation,[the choice] is between two groups of people AND an inherrantly immoral act. I dispute that "pulling a lever" has the same moral weight as "pulling a the trigger on a gun", even if both are technically levers.

Emphasis mine.

No, a gun trigger is just another lever. The gun might not be loaded, the train might not be on the track. Turning a car's steering wheel is a neutral act; there's no morality involved in turning the wheel. Tturning it to steer a car into an oncoming gasoline truck or a school bus doesn't involve anything more than "merely turning a wheel".

The morality of an act comes not from the "mereness" of the act, it comes from the (known) consequences of doing it in the circumstances in question.

Fieari wrote:If your brain can automatically connect all the dots and equate pulling a lever with the result of the lever, thus making the lever an assault on an innocent, then you might be able to say that the questions are identical, but I would suggest that human beings, on the aggragate, don't and can't do this.
If a person can't understand the consequences, then the question is not an ethical one. But then it's not the trolley problem; to be that the person pulling (or not pulling) the lever has to know what will ensue. It's built right into the problem.

So, I think you mostly missed the boat. However, you do have a point. In the crazed madman situation, you are being "encouraged" to do accomplish an act (shoot somebody innocent) as opposed to pull a trigger; you are following orders. In the trolley situation, there's nobody encouraging you; you are sizing up the situation and making your own decision. And the difference is that by following orders, you cede authority to the madman.

This is what makes the question different; not the morality of pulling a lever or a trigger, but the morality of legitimizing the setting up of the situation. It doesn't come down to number of innocents killed, but rather, to "is this the kind of world I'd like to live in".

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Please help addams if you can. She needs all of us.


Return to “Serious Business”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: psbot [Picsearch] and 8 guests