Trolley Problem

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby CorruptUser » Thu Apr 09, 2015 11:24 pm UTC

Here's an interesting scenario I came up with after thinking on an old conversation with my sister (attorney).

You own a train line in the US and are at the controls. There is only one person on the track, a single mother that has 3 kids that depend on her. You can switch the tracks, and you kill an entire family of 5 with no other dependents. Which do you choose? Don't switch, obviously. Nope, not according to the courts you don't!

Why?

Because according to the courts in the US, a human life itself is worth jack shit. If you are walking obliviously, and get hit by an out of control cement truck, your siblings won't be able to sue for anything. Now if you are trapped under a truck and it takes a few minutes to die and you are (probably) terrified and shitting yourself as you die, then there might be something, but not for your loss of life itself. However if you have someone that depends on you for income, they can sue for lost income. So if you wipe out the entire family, it's less onerous than wiping out a single person that has dependents.

Crazy, no? The logic behind it is actually absurd; you could argue that by running over someone's elderly mother, since they no longer have to take of her they got unjust enrichment and owe you money.

Also I'm out of town for a while so if I'm on it'll be sporadically via phone...

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:33 am UTC

Qaanol (name goof, my bad),
Yes I did miss that post, sorry. there's many people talking to me at the same time and it gets pretty hard to make them out.
I don't have a preference. If I were forced to choose between the two, I would flip a coin. When I'm at the controls, I will not flip the lever.
Reason:
In both worlds the children are not taught morality. They are taught how to respond to the situation instead of how to think about their place and obligations as a human being. If the children are allowed to discover their own value of morality instead of blindly listening to the educators, there would be a difference of opinion in both societies.

Gmalivuk,
Way to twist the analogy. The original analogy puts you, the decision maker as the donor. You decided to cast yourself as the receiver.
I'm surprised Forest Goose thought it was "awesome" when it clearly does not logically follow from the original analogy. Biased much?

The point is, you become a slave owner when you take a free man and make him your slave, then trade that slave to another slave owner for 4 slaves. Even if you eventually free the 4 slaves you received, the process involved treating them as your property.
Are you saying slavery is okay if you are doing it for a good cause?

Forest Goose,
Forest Goose wrote:You are making a choice what to do with those lives when you decide not to pull the lever as well - that's my whole problem, you're deciding what happens in both cases. What distinguishes active/passive? It would make sense to say, "I did not make a choice regarding whether or not I will try to build a spaceship and fly to the moon last night" if, indeed, that never came up and you never thought about it; if a friends says, "Would you like to go the movies?" and you say, "No", you have made a choice regarding that. You are selecting to do something, then doing so.

The movie analogy is not accurate.

It's rather like a hostage situation, where an evil villain planted a distance-triggered bomb on an innocent civilian and the trigger on me. If I travel more than 10 miles from the civilian, the bomb will explode and kill him. Meanwhile, the villain leaves and attempts to blow up a city 100 miles away.
I know I could stop the villain easily if I chase him, but the civilian will die. So instead, I try to find the civilian. I successfully find the civilian and disable the bomb, but the villain had destroyed the city.
Did I decide to destroy the city?

Your position is based on the premise that doing evil is okay if you are fighting evil. I don't think that is right.
Torturing someone so they won't torture others is wrong. Torturing a person so another person wouldn't torture others is even more wrong. The later is akin to flipping the lever in the trolley problem.
Last edited by Cradarc on Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:55 am UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:37 am UTC

I misremembered the analogy, it's true. But you're the one who first proclaimed that any of us who consider numbers important is merely trating humans as money or poker chips.

You have yet to satisfactorily explain why you yourself are not treating human beings as poker chips when you judge saving 500 to be better than saving just 1.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:46 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:You have yet to satisfactorily explain why you yourself are not treating human beings as poker chips when you judge saving 500 to be better than saving just 1.

Because all of the 500 deserves not to be treated like money. You don't have to own something to protect it. You have to own something to expend it.

You aren't seeing the point. You treat someone like you own them when you take their life (a "transaction" if you will). If you see someone trying to "spend" something they don't own, you stop them. They are still guilty of treating another person like property, but that particular transaction didn't occur.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:54 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:You have yet to satisfactorily explain why you yourself are not treating human beings as poker chips when you judge saving 500 to be better than saving just 1.

Because all of the 500 deserves not to be treated like money. You don't have to own something to protect it. You have to own something to expend it.
And why does their deserving not to be treated like money outweigh the one persons's deserving the same thing?
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Qaanol » Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:54 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:Quaanol,
Yes I did miss that post, sorry. there's many people talking to me at the same time and it gets pretty hard to make them out.
I don't have a preference. If I were forced to choose between the two, I would flip a coin. When I'm at the controls, I will not flip the lever.
Reason:
In both worlds the children are not taught morality. They are taught how to respond to the situation instead of how to think about their place and obligations as a human being. If the children are allowed to discover their own value of morality instead of blindly listening to the educators, there would be a difference of opinion in both societies.

First, that’s not my name.

Second, my point was more to the effect that, the vast majority of people end up going along with the social norms they are brought up in, and thus by and large the behavior of adults can generally be predicted from the education of children, so it was really meant to be a question about how the majority of people behave.

So allow me to rephrase: you are still in the world where trolley dilemmas happen frequently, and this time everyone is free to make up their own mind. As it happens, in one particular country the overwhelming majority of people consistently choose to pull the lever. In another country, the overwhelming majority of people consistently choose not to pull the lever.

You and your family are trying to decide which of these two countries to move to. Let’s say you got a great job offer from a company with locations in both countries and nowhere else. Everyone in your family agrees you should take the job, and they all want to move with you. There are no overriding factors and the two countries are otherwise equally good places to live. No one in either country will try to convince you or your family to adopt any particular viewpoint.

The only substantive difference is that most strangers in the first country will minimize the number of deaths in trolley situations, and most strangers in the second country will not. I hope this makes clear what I am trying to get you to think about.

The question is, which country would you prefer to live and raise your children in?
Last edited by Qaanol on Fri Apr 10, 2015 1:26 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:57 am UTC

Cradarc, you have not yet explained in what sense the people on the tracks are being treated like slaves. You made an analogy to money, but I explained in this post why the analogy does not work. What is your response to that post? I can explain in more detail, if it would be helpful.

Cradarc wrote:The point is, you become a slave owner when you take a free man and make him your slave, then trade that slave to another slave owner for 4 slaves.

Obviously you become a slave owner if you own slaves. But so far you have not given a remotely plausible argument that the switch-flippers are taking slaves.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Fri Apr 10, 2015 1:11 am UTC

Qaanol,
No matter how good the job offer is, I would not move to a country that openly condones the killing of random people. If you will send people to move me by force, then you would be making the decision for me.

Bolshevik,
If you look at my more recent posts it may help explain the idea. You can't give away something without implicitly taking ownership of it. If you give away one person's life for the lives of 4 others, you are taking ownership of that person's life.
You did not take ownership of the lives you received because in some sense you never received them. Money that is never put through any transaction does not exist. If you later come around and sacrifice the people you saved then you would be treating like money (see my God-like power hypothetical from before).

In the briefcase scenario:
The fact that you said it was your brother's money means you think your brother has the right to expend it. This is akin to saying "Person A has the right to kill person B. I saved person B so I did no wrong."
The real question is, what will you do if your brother decides to spend the money from the briefcase? Will you stop him? Will you claim some money as your own and spend it in order to stop him from spending money? When you claim money as your own, you become the "slave owner".
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Apr 10, 2015 1:24 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:You can't give away something without implicitly taking ownership of it. If you give away one person's life for the lives of 4 others, you are taking ownership of that person's life.
Perhaps, but then you've already assumed that conclusion when you assert that flipping the switch is "giving away one person's life".

Now, would you care to actually justify that assertion? In particular, have you tried to justify it in a way that doesn't imply all life-or-death decisions you make for other people also involve "taking ownership" of those people's lives?
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Qaanol » Fri Apr 10, 2015 1:40 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:Qaanol,
No matter how good the job offer is, I would not move to a country that openly condones the killing of random people. If you will send people to move me by force, then you would be making the decision for me.

Remember the scenario: trolley dilemmas happen all over the entire world with some frequency. So you already live in a country where they happen all the time. They happen all the time in every country.

It just so happens that you have a good reason to move to either of two countries that you don’t currently live in. Trolley situations occur just as often in both of them as they do in your home country, or anywhere else in the world. The only difference is how the majority of people behave in each country.

Let me make this a bit more compelling: You and your spouse are expecting your first baby to be born soon after you move.

In every country, each person has about a 1% chance per year of finding themself on the primary trolley track, and thus a 0.1% chance per year of finding themself on the alternate trolley track. These odds do not change over time, nor with location.

In the first country, where only people on the alternate track usually die, the probability that your first-born child will survive the trolleys at least until his or her 18th birthday can be calculated as 0.99918 = 98.2%.

In the second country, where only people on the primary track usually die, the probability is 0.9918 = 83.5%.

That means if you move to the first country there is only a 1.8% chance that your baby will die by trolley before age 18, but if you move to the second country there is a 16.5% chance of the same.

To put that in round numbers, the first country presents a 1 in 56 chance of your baby getting killed by a trolley before adulthood, whereas the second country makes it 1 in 6.

So tell me—are you still equally happy moving to either of these countries?
Last edited by Qaanol on Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:35 am UTC, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Apr 10, 2015 1:46 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:You can't give away something without implicitly taking ownership of it.

A few problems:
  1. In what sense is killing someone "giving their life away"? There are all kinds of situations where I destroy something without thereby giving it away. For example, burning a piece of paper is not "giving it away." Nor is destroying a house (for example, when creating a firebreak).
  2. Similarly, destroying something does not mean taking ownership of it. The same examples will do here. If I'm a firefighter and I have to destroy some property to limit the spread of the fire, that doesn't mean I'm taking ownership of the property.
  3. The notion of "taking ownership of someone's life" is obscure. But, however we clear it up, it can't be cleared up in such a way that we get the principle: Deciding to end someone's life means making her a slave. For that principle is false. For example, one can be given the power of attorney, to decide whether someone should be taken off life support if they can't make or communicate that choice themselves. But having this power does not make you a slave owner.

Cradarc wrote:In the briefcase scenario:
The fact that you said it was your brother's money means you think your brother has the right to expend it. This is akin to saying "Person A has the right to kill person B. I saved person B so I did no wrong."
The real question is, what will you do if your brother decides to spend the money from the briefcase? Will you stop him? Will you claim some money as your own and spend it in order to stop him from spending money? When you claim money as your own, you become the "slave owner".

You say a lot of things about the briefcase scenario, but none of them are an answer to my actual point. My actual point is this: Destroying one of the briefcases doesn't mean that you own the briefcase. So, you can't just say "Comparing two things to see which one is worth more means that you're acting like you own those things." Or "Deciding to destroy one thing and save another means you're acting like to own the first thing." Those principles are false; the briefcase example shows that they are false. And, because they are false, you can't appeal to them in your argument about the trolley problem.
Last edited by TheGrammarBolshevik on Fri Apr 10, 2015 1:47 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby morriswalters » Fri Apr 10, 2015 1:47 am UTC

Ever increasing complexity and ever decreasing clarity.

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Fri Apr 10, 2015 3:33 am UTC

Sorry Morriswalters, it's impossible not to introduce complexity when people keep asking "why?" You can try asking "why" the explanation for anything and it becomes more and more complex unless the person straight out says "I don't know".

Gmalivuk,
I really hope you are not expecting me to prove things again. I already stated I cannot prove anything, I can only give reasons which I think are good reasons.
Cradarc wrote:You don't have to own something to protect it. You have to own something to expend it.

Or better phrased: Protecting something is not equivalent to treating it like property. Getting rid of something is treating it like property.
Whenever you get rid of something, you are implicitly saying "its existence is at my whim".
Why must the above be true? Well, it doesn't have to be. That is a fundamental belief. There's no logical reason why someone cannot hold that belief. There's also no logical reason why that belief cannot be a good reason for the moral principle: "killing someone is worse than letting someone die".

In order for Forest Gooses's argument to hold based on the two axioms given, his/her side has the burden of proof in showing there is no justified moral principle involved.
Forest Goose's position is B.
Axiom 1: If ~A, then B.
Axiom 2: ~A

If his/her goal is to show B, ~A must be proven. I have shown A could be true. Unless he/she can prove ~A, at best, one can assume ~A, but then the validity of B is no better than that assumption.

Bolshevik,
The principle behind slavery is treating another person like property. The principle behind killing someone is treating that person's life like property.
The principle behind firefighters destroying furniture is that furniture is property, ie. its "right to exist" is superseded by the whim of those who have control over it.

You can think of it this way:
When a firefighter destroys someone else's property there is the assumption that the owner agreed to let the firefighter take ownership of it. The firefighter is technically a vandal, but because he is saving the house, the owner implicitly (or as dictated by society) does not press charges. Regardless, both the owner and the firefighter are treating the piece of furniture like property.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Apr 10, 2015 3:39 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:I really hope you are not expecting me to prove things again. I already stated I cannot prove anything, I can only give reasons which I think are good reasons.
I've never expected you to prove anything. I have expected you to provide some semblance of justification for your claims, not least because this is Serious Business and we all expect that sort of thing around here.

Cradarc wrote:Protecting something is not equivalent to treating it like property. Getting rid of something is treating it like property.
This, for example, is the sort of claim I'd like to see some justification for.

Also, is it never okay to kill in self-defense? After all, doing so means taking the life of someone who would otherwise have lived.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Fri Apr 10, 2015 3:56 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:This, for example, is the sort of claim I'd like to see some justification for.

I justified it literally in the next sentence. I then explained why there is no further justification.

Cradarc wrote:In most cases, "justified" means "having a good reason to be". So who gets to decide what is a "good reason"? This question is equally difficult to answer as the original dilemma. Just because you think my reasons are weak doesn't mean they are.

All you're doing is setting your threshold for "good reason" very high because you don't want to accept the fact that Forest Goose's argument can* be faulty. That isn't being objective, that's just being stubborn.
There are people who can question the idea that earth is spherical simply because any evidence shown to them can be broken down and explained away in one form or another. That does not make them automatically right.

*can doesn't mean must. If I understood the premise correctly, he/she is saying that argument cannot be faulty.



Qaanol, sorry for skipping you.
Spoiler:
If I already lived in such a country (originally i thought I was going to be beamed down from a different universe), I would take my family off the map with like-minded people. I would not participate normally in society, because doing so implies I support the atrocities that happen. If they wrestle me to the lever or tracks, then I would do nothing.
This is all objectively speaking of course. My emotions may drive me to deviate from this response in a case by case manner.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Qaanol » Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:16 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Also, is it never okay to kill in self-defense? After all, doing so means taking the life of someone who would otherwise have lived.

Oh come on, even I can see what Cradarc would say to this: “Killing an attacker to save oneself can be justified because the attacker is at fault for creating the situation. Killing an attacker to save others may also be justified depending on the circumstances, again because the attacker is at fault.” (I mean, aside from the fact that Cradarc already replied before I posted this, and didn’t address this.)

Cradarc wrote:If I already lived in such a country (originally i thought I was going to be beamed down from a different universe), I would take my family off the map with like-minded people. I would not participate normally in society, because doing so implies I support the atrocities that happen. If they wrestle me to the lever or tracks, then I would do nothing.
This is all objectively speaking of course. My emotions may drive me to deviate from this response in a case by case manner.

Even “off the map” you and each member of your family still has the same probabilities of finding yourself in each situation. It’s just how the world works. Nobody is intentionally causing the situations, nobody is dragging anyone anywhere, people just randomly end up stuck on trolley tracks without warning on this planet.

Anyway, here’s an updated version where people no longer have to make the decision on whether to pull the lever:

In the hypothetical world of frequent trolleys, suppose that instead of random people being at the switch each time, the trolley systems are computer-controlled. In both countries, the computers are programmed to detect people stuck on the track ahead and stop the trolley if possible. If it’s not possible to stop the trolley in time but a junction leads to an empty track, the computer turns the trolley onto the empty track.

But if the trolley cannot stop and the only available junction leads to a track with other people stuck on it, the programs differ. In one country the computer always makes the trolley enter the track with the fewest people stuck on it. In the other country, the computer does nothing.

The probabilities are all the same as before, but now there are never any human beings who have to decide whether to flip the switch. There is a pre-programmed computer in charge of the trolleys. Furthermore, it is not possible to change the programs. Or rather, it is possible but the government bureaucracies are so impenetrable that it would take at least 20 years for a new program to get tested and certified and verified before it could be rolled out, and that’s starting the timer after a decision to do so has been made.

You are perfectly free to lobby any and all governments to switch to whichever trolley program you prefer, but even if adopted it would take decades before the change would take effect. Similarly, there is no way to get rid of trolleys entirely, nor to prevent people from getting randomly stuck on the tracks. These are just facts about the world.

So, given that this is simply the way it is, and given that you have found these two particular countries to be more appealing than anywhere else, you are trying to decide where you want to live and work and raise your child.

Recall that in the first country each person has a 1.8% chance of being killed by a trolley in any 18-year period. That makes for about a 95% chance that you, your spouse, and your baby will all survive the next 18 years.

In the other country, each person has a 16.5% chance of dying in 18 years, which makes for about a 58% chance that all three of you will survive. That’s a 42% chance that at least one of your family members will be killed by a trolley before your baby turns 18 in the second country, compared with 5% in the first country.

And now there are no longer human beings deciding whether to flip switches. There are just facts about how trolleys operate in each country. So tell me, which of the two available countries would you rather raise your child in?
Last edited by Qaanol on Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:39 am UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:34 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:The principle behind slavery is treating another person like property. The principle behind killing someone is treating that person's life like property.
The principle behind firefighters destroying furniture is that furniture is property, ie. its "right to exist" is superseded by the whim of those who have control over it.

No, that simply isn't true, nor is it true in the case of killing one to save many. Switch-pullers do not think that people's right to live is superseded by our whims; we think that their right is superseded by morally pressing considerations, such as the lives of others. The same is true in the case of firefighters: they don't destroy property on a whim, but rather to save lives and to prevent further property damage that would come from inaction.

Cradarc wrote:All you're doing is setting your threshold for "good reason" very high because you don't want to accept the fact that Forest Goose's argument can* be faulty. That isn't being objective, that's just being stubborn.

gmalivuk is not setting a high bar at all. All he's asking is that, when you list something as a reason for your belief, it should be something that people are actually inclined to accept as true, and shouldn't be something with obvious counterexamples.

The problem with "Destroying things means saying that its existence is at your whim" is not that we don't know it with apodictic certainty. Nobody is setting the bar that high. The problem is that nobody believes it, or even regards it as remotely plausible, and we can produce examples which show that we shouldn't believe it.

Cradarc wrote:There are people who can question the idea that earth is spherical simply because any evidence shown to them can be broken down and explained away in one form or another. That does not make them automatically right.

It is strange that you bring up the Flat Earth Society, given what you think about what counts as a good discussion and a good reason for belief. After all, if you talk to the Flat Earth Society, they will give you plenty of reasons for what they believe. Sure, you probably won't find those reasons very compelling. In fact, you can probably give pretty good counterarguments to show why what they're saying is false. But, why hold them to such a high bar? Just because you think their reasons are weak doesn't mean they are. And the fact that they are never able to trace back their premises to anything plausible isn't really a problem; after all, all "why" questions have to stop somewhere.

Why shouldn't the very low bar that you're setting for discussion also apply to the Flat Earth Society?

Qaanol wrote:Oh come on, even I can see what Cradarc would say to this: “Killing an attacker to save oneself can be justified because the attacker is at fault for creating the situation. Killing an attacker to save others may also be justified depending on the circumstances, again because the attacker is at fault.” (I mean, aside from the fact that Cradarc already replied before I posted this, and didn’t address this.)

Cradarc migh like to say that, but they can't very well do so while continuing to defend the claim that killing someone means regarding their life as something to be destroyed on your whim. They would have to give up that claim and acknowledge that there can be morally compelling reasons - not "whims" - for taking another person's life.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:39 am UTC

Qaanol,
If the computer is operating the trolleys, who/what is preventing the people from getting away? Even mildly intelligent people would know to be careful around the trolley tracks after seeing someone gruesomely killed. So I would simply move to the country where people are better at avoiding the trolleys.
If the computer controlled system is so pervasive and so aggressive that someone cannot go from point A to point B without any time window that has 0% risk of being run over by a trolley, then I most likely would not have made it to adulthood.
I'm sorry for nitpicking, but this is just how I would logically approach your hypothetical. Is there a point you are trying to make or are you just curious about how I would respond to these situations?

Qaanol wrote:Oh come on, even I can see what Cradarc would say to this: “Killing an attacker to save oneself can be justified because the attacker is at fault for creating the situation. Killing an attacker to save others may also be justified depending on the circumstances, again because the attacker is at fault.” (I mean, aside from the fact that Cradarc already replied before I posted this, and didn’t address this.)

Actually, I think the moral thing to do is to defend yourself in a way that minimizes the chance of killing the other person. My previous comment about the bully (which I assume is what you are referring to), was made with regard to my emotional bias. At the time, I was not committed to debating. I was trying to push a different way to consider the problem.

Bolshevik,
Spoiler:
Okay so my choice of the word "whim" was not good. How about "volition"?
it should be something that people are actually inclined to accept as true, and shouldn't be something with obvious counterexamples.

"People" = who? I'm not a person? If I find a single other person on the planet that agrees with me, that makes people.
"Obvious counterexamples". Right. Just like my "obvious moral principle" that you can't seem to understand.

Why shouldn't the very low bar that you're setting for discussion also apply to the Flat Earth Society?

It can, which is why they exist and can make a logical argument for it. It's just that when it comes to the shape of the earth, everybody here (I think) share the same position. So it is common ground.

You can't force someone to make the same fundamental assumptions as you. There's no logical reason why your assumptions are superior to theirs. It's a matter of faith. Every person lives with some fundamental assumptions which they deem "correct". Everything else they believe in then builds off those assumptions. One can be fully convinced that one is right while still conceding that there is no logical basis for thinking that.
ex.
Is reality a simulation? We don't know, but most of us assume it is not and build knowledge off of that assumption.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Qaanol » Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:57 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:Qaanol,
If the computer is operating the trolleys, who/what is preventing the people from getting away? Even mildly intelligent people would know to be careful around the trolley tracks after seeing someone gruesomely killed. So I would simply move to the country where people are better at avoiding the trolleys.
If the computer controlled system is so pervasive and so aggressive that someone cannot go from point A to point B without any time window that has 0% risk of being run over by a trolley, then I most likely would not have made it to adulthood.
I'm sorry for nitpicking, but this is just how I would logically approach your hypothetical. Is there a point you are trying to make or are you just curious about how I would respond to these situations?

I already told you the probabilities: 98.2% chance to reach adulthood in the first country, and 83.5% chance to reach adulthood in the second country. For this hypothetical, those numbers are raw facts.

Now think about this:

If you already lived in the first country, would you willingly move to the second country and thus greatly increase the risk that your baby dies before adult?

If you already lived in the second country, would you willingly stay put, and thereby not take the action that could have greatly reduced the likelihood of your child dying young?

Is it not, by your own philosophy, morally imperative that you do whatever you can to lower the odds of your child getting randomly killed, so long as you don’t put anyone in danger? (And moving with your family to the first country emphatically does not endanger anyone.)
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Apr 10, 2015 5:01 am UTC

Cradarc, if we assume for the sake of discussion that there's no way to get people off the trolley tracks safely, then you have to be willing to assume for the sake of discussion that there's no way to defend yourself without killing the person.

(And in addition to TGB's response to Qaanol's point, there's also the fact that you don't know that the person you'd need to kill is acting maliciously or created the situation on their own.)
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Fri Apr 10, 2015 5:07 am UTC

Qaanol,
If the situation is defined such that:
1. If I move my child has a higher chance of making it to adulthood.
2. Nothing else is affected.
Then I would move. If something else is affected, I would need to consider the nature of that "something else". Does that answer the question?

Gmalivuk,
In that case, I think the moral choice is to let myself be killed. I may not make the moral choice.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby morriswalters » Fri Apr 10, 2015 5:44 am UTC

Remove the complexity increase the clarity. Two lay dying and you can save one. How do you choose? One is old and one is young.

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Qaanol » Fri Apr 10, 2015 5:50 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:Qaanol,
If the situation is defined such that:
1. If I move my child has a higher chance of making it to adulthood.
2. Nothing else is affected.
Then I would move. If something else is affected, I would need to consider the nature of that "something else". Does that answer the question?

Excellent! Yes, that answers quite well. And my overall point, since you asked about it in your last post, is this:

The outcome you would prefer—as you have just stated—is to have fewer people die by trolley. And from this, we can wind back up the loop:

1. You would rather live in a country where trolley-computers minimize the number of people that get run over, than in a country where they do not. (Because that makes your family safer.)

2. If we replace the computers with trolley-drivers, the outcome you prefer is still the same. Only the mechanism has changed. So given that every trolley-driver has already made up their own mind how they will act, you would rather live in a country where every trolley-driver has chosen to minimize the number of people that get run over, than in a country where they have chosen not to.

Again remember: your choice is just which country to move to with your family. You cannot affect how trolley-drivers behave, nor avoid trolleys. So choosing which country to live in only affects how likely your family is to live or die.

3. When an empty trolley is rolling fast under its own momentum and only a bystander can affect its course by pulling a lever, you would rather live in a country where strangers at the lever would choose to minimize the number of people that get run over. They are equivalent to the trolley-drivers above, and again you cannot affect their behavior. You can only decide which country to move to, and thus the risk to your family.

– – –

And now we’re back at the top of the heap. You would rather live in a country where strangers will pull the lever, than in a country where they will not. You and your family will be safer there. Everyone and everyone’s family would be safer there.

If even one person makes up their mind that they will not pull such a lever should the situation arise, then that increases the risk that your child, your spouse, and you yourself will be killed. It puts your whole family in greater danger than before. It puts everyone’s family in greater danger.

On the other hand, each time someone pre-commits to minimizing the number of deaths if they ever find themself at the lever, that reduces the risk to you, your family, and everyone else. So, are you still quite certain that the thing you would prefer for every single stranger around you to do—the thing that reduces the danger to everyone including your child—is immoral?
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Fri Apr 10, 2015 6:13 am UTC

Qaanol,
I think you missed the part when I said "morality is about intents and actions, not outcomes". It would have saved a lot of writing for both of us.
If you hide all notion of intent and actions and just gave me the probability of not dying, I would not naturally assume there is someone intending to cause harm. You built the question equivalent of a strawman then said it was the same thing as the original.

Or are you making the "overall society is better if everyone chose to pull the lever" argument? Because that has been talked to death by other people already.

Morriswalters,
Remove the complexity increase the clarity. Two lay dying and you can save one. How do you choose? One is old and one is young.

Answered that already, way, way back.
Both are dying so the obligation to not kill does not apply. Apply the "max-min principle".
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Qaanol » Fri Apr 10, 2015 6:46 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:Qaanol,
I think you missed the part when I said "morality is about intents and actions, not outcomes". It would have saved a lot of writing for both of us.

I completely agree that morality is about intents and actions. In this case the intent is to reduce the risk of other people getting killed, and the action is pre-committing to send a trolley down the track with the fewest people, whenever such a situation arises.

The intent is clearly good, but actions can only be judged by their foreseeable consequences.

Maybe the situation never arises. Maybe the lever breaks and has no effect. Maybe the lever jams halfway, the trolley flips, and everyone dies. Maybe the lever works exactly as intended. The actual outcome does not matter to the morality of it, as you have said.

All that matters is what outcomes from the action could have been reasonably predicted beforehand. And in this case, the guaranteed, sure-fire outcome is that the risk of death-by-trolley has been decreased for everyone in the country. Everyone.

Cradarc wrote:If you hide all notion of intent and actions and just gave me the probability of not dying, I would not naturally assume there is someone intending to cause harm.

Right, there is no one intending to cause harm. The reason that a stranger pre-commits to pulling the lever, is an intent to reduce the amount of harm that takes place.

Cradarc wrote:You built the question equivalent of a strawman then said it was the same thing as the original.

On the contrary, I showed quite clearly that under your self-declared moral standards, you would prefer for strangers to pre-commit to pulling the lever, because that is the action which reduces the risk to your family and everyone else.

Cradarc wrote:Or are you making the "overall society is better if everyone chose to pull the lever" argument? Because that has been talked to death by other people already.

I was merely demonstrating that your own stated principles lead inexorably to the conclusion that “I’d rather live in a place where everyone else has decided to pull the lever, than a place where they have decided not to.”

It further follows, since you yourself want to reduce the risk of being killed for everyone (or at least for your family), that you have a strong moral reason to encourage strangers that they should pre-commit to pulling the lever, because that is how you can lower the danger to everyone including your family. If you still maintain that pulling the lever is immoral, then necessarily the moral thing for you to do is convince other people to pre-commit to being immoral.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby The Mighty Thesaurus » Fri Apr 10, 2015 8:38 am UTC

rat4000 wrote:I am... still kind of confused.

I could go into detail, but it would be needlessly nitpicky, and I'm no longer convinced that it's even right, so I'll simply retract my claim
Cradarc wrote:I think you missed the part when I said "morality is about intents and actions, not outcomes". It would have saved a lot of writing for both of us.

My intent is to save five people, so I pull the lever. Killing 1 person was merely an unintended outcome, even if it was easily predictable.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby morriswalters » Fri Apr 10, 2015 10:22 am UTC

Cradarc wrote:Answered that already, way, way back.
Both are dying so the obligation to not kill does not apply. Apply the "max-min principle".
So your intent is your ruling guide? Now there are two people on the tracks. A father and his daughter. You will kill her if you don't act. The father yells at you to save her. Do you?

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:41 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Qaanol,
If the situation is defined such that:
1. If I move my child has a higher chance of making it to adulthood.
2. Nothing else is affected.
Then I would move. If something else is affected, I would need to consider the nature of that "something else". Does that answer the question?

Gmalivuk,
In that case, I think the moral choice is to let myself be killed. I may not make the moral choice.

If morality is about intent and actions, how can the moral choice switch based on information you could not have?

Also, as I hinted at previously and as Qaanol said explicitly, you can't separate actions and intents from outcomes. Without considering the outcome, the trolley problem becomes a question about the morally neutral act of pulling a lever in front of me.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Forest Goose » Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:11 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:The movie analogy is not accurate.

It's rather like a hostage situation, where an evil villain planted a distance-triggered bomb on an innocent civilian and the trigger on me. If I travel more than 10 miles from the civilian, the bomb will explode and kill him. Meanwhile, the villain leaves and attempts to blow up a city 100 miles away.
I know I could stop the villain easily if I chase him, but the civilian will die. So instead, I try to find the civilian. I successfully find the civilian and disable the bomb, but the villain had destroyed the city.
Did I decide to destroy the city?

Your position is based on the premise that doing evil is okay if you are fighting evil. I don't think that is right.
Torturing someone so they won't torture others is wrong. Torturing a person so another person wouldn't torture others is even more wrong. The later is akin to flipping the lever in the trolley problem.


No my position is based upon a variation of prima facie duties that relates to the nature of "Sometimes moral" and the notion of moral justification and warrant. Also, this problem has nothing to do with "fighting evil". And, bottom line, you did decide to do what you did, that's why you're couching it in the terms you do - the question isn't even, "Am I responsible", but "Is there a morally distinct passive action"; and I see no reason to expect that there is, and your entire case rests on there being one...actually, scratch that: getting passed what I am saying requires reasonably establishing that there may be - then, from there, you need to actually establish your position (see there's the rub, your position doesn't even pass having basic merit, you are stating things into existence then discussing "slaves" and "batman".)

I can only give reasons which I think are good reasons.


This may help clear up some of what I was saying earlier:

You say "I'm not proving, but giving good reasons",
Others might say, "You're not giving good reasons",
I would say, "You're not even giving reasons, just saying things that sound good to you."

You're stating positions you like, none of it appears to be a reason - they are, at best, reasons you would do it, not reasons for it.

I'm surprised Forest Goose thought it was "awesome" when it clearly does not logically follow from the original analogy. Biased much?


Awesome in the way Indiana Jones just pulling out his gun and shooting the swordsman was; sure, Indie may not have been evidencing how skilled he was in a fight in that scene, but it was an awesome response.

See, that's the thing, you see me, gmalivuk, (and others?) as ganging up on you - have you considered that, instead, maybe it's just multiple people calling bullshit?

In order for Forest Gooses's argument to hold based on the two axioms given, his/her side has the burden of proof in showing there is no justified moral principle involved.
Forest Goose's position is B.
Axiom 1: If ~A, then B.
Axiom 2: ~A

If his/her goal is to show B, ~A must be proven. I have shown A could be true. Unless he/she can prove ~A, at best, one can assume ~A, but then the validity of B is no better than that assumption.


Oh my, no - you have not shown A could be true, you have stated a position; here, let me state another, "Dracula insists the lever be pulled, Dracula knows what's what, he's a real ethical guy - you should pull it...Dracula." That's a position...it's a dumb one, it has no reasonability, it can be dismissed out of hand, but it is a position.

Here's an example:

Your bodybulider friend says she spent yesterday at the gym. Do you ask her for proof? Do you maintain strict neutrality and not accept her statement until she presents you with photos and witnesses? If so, you're kind of paranoid (and, honestly, trying so hard to be rational that you're irrational), so I'm going to assume you don't.

Now, imagine that someone comes along and says, "She was abducted by the CIA, made an agent, and sworn to secrecy, going to the gym is her cover!". Her original statement is acceptable on its face, you should accept it unless something else presents itself in a reasonable fashion, has something else presented itself? Should you, now, switch and not accept her story without evidence?

The problem with the "CIA story" is that there is no reason, none, to even consider it. You have done the equivalent of the CIA story, then went on to present such amazing reasons as, "The CIA exists, though" and "Yeah, but surely the KGB abducted someone before, they're kind of like the CIA.", and "I once saw a movie with CIA sleeper agents, so, c'mon, it's plausible" and, "But, Batman could be a sleeper agent, he's got the skills, so that's something". Do you see the difference? The CIA story presenter is giving "reasons", but they aren't reasons, they're nonsense related to nonsense and none of them make the story even sort of plausible.

So, what would? Is it required that the CIA story guy present strong evidence to establish their case? Yes, yes it is. Is that much required before you would stop accepting your friend's statement without evidence establishing it? No, no it isn't. If your body bulding friend had, say, started wearing black suits and sunglasses everywhere, left her gym bag at your apartment (and you know she didn't have it yesterday), and the CIA guy is an ex-agent himself...it definitely doesn't come anywhere near proving the absurd story, however, you shouldn't take her word for whereabouts at that point. (yes, yes, this fairly jokey, but it makes the point).
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Apr 10, 2015 3:38 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:
Qaanol wrote:Oh come on, even I can see what Cradarc would say to this: “Killing an attacker to save oneself can be justified because the attacker is at fault for creating the situation. Killing an attacker to save others may also be justified depending on the circumstances, again because the attacker is at fault.” (I mean, aside from the fact that Cradarc already replied before I posted this, and didn’t address this.)

Actually, I think the moral thing to do is to defend yourself in a way that minimizes the chance of killing the other person. My previous comment about the bully (which I assume is what you are referring to), was made with regard to my emotional bias. At the time, I was not committed to debating. I was trying to push a different way to consider the problem.


What if a trade-off exists between risk to them and risk to you? This seems more real-worldish than the trolley problem, I think, and may be illuminating. How much additional risk to the attacker is justified for say, an additional percentage point chance of survival for you?

This ends up being a little like the trolley problem in that we are still analyzing overall risk...but it's much easier to bias it in favor of the defender if you do not perceive yourself as ever being in the attacker role.

Now, imagine that the attacker was, rather than attacking you out of a simple desire to do so, being forced to do so by an outside entity. Perhaps his family is being held hostage or the like. Would foreknowledge of that change your answer?

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby elasto » Fri Apr 10, 2015 3:43 pm UTC

Qaanol wrote:Anyway, here’s an updated version where people no longer have to make the decision on whether to pull the lever:

In the hypothetical world of frequent trolleys, suppose that instead of random people being at the switch each time, the trolley systems are computer-controlled. In both countries, the computers are programmed to detect people stuck on the track ahead and stop the trolley if possible. If it’s not possible to stop the trolley in time but a junction leads to an empty track, the computer turns the trolley onto the empty track.

But if the trolley cannot stop and the only available junction leads to a track with other people stuck on it, the programs differ. In one country the computer always makes the trolley enter the track with the fewest people stuck on it. In the other country, the computer does nothing.


This version actually isn't so hypothetical.

Within the next few decades we're going to have self-driving cars. Let's imagine an emergency where the brakes have failed or something, and the car has to make a decision: If it does not turn it will plow through a crowd of people crossing the road. If it turns it will hit one pedestrian on the pavement. How should the coder code it?

Presumably according to Cradac, a coder that codes the car to turn is taking an active decision to take a life - the life of someone who wasn't in danger. How is that coder any less immoral than the person pulling the lever? Would Cradac really put his foot down and say a car can never turn if said path take it towards a pedestrian? Would it not be a safer world if cars get coded to make the choice that leads to the least possible number of deaths?

And here's a similar variant to nail things home (forgive me if it's been mentioned but I don't think it has):

Cradac is piloting a plane which suffers a total systems failure. If nothing is done it will plow into an occupied skyscraper with the probable loss of hundreds of lives. If something is done (maybe the pilot has very limited steering or maybe he can lower a flap or something, it doesn't matter) then it can be diverted into an occupied house with the probable loss of a handful of lives.

Would Cradac really not make the choice to turn and reduce the probable loss of life? Let's assume both outcomes are probabilistic with >0 averages but that doing nothing has a much greater average loss of life...

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:13 pm UTC

So apparently the position "Under no circumstance does one person have the right to kill another person" is equivalent to "Dracula says killing a another person is bad". If that's how debates work, then I guess you win.

Do you agree with this statement?
"There are times when a person has the right to end the life of another."
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Chen » Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:35 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:So apparently the position "Under no circumstance does one person have the right to kill another person" is equivalent to "Dracula says killing a another person is bad".


Both these do seem pretty similar. Without adding anything to them neither is justified. I'm not sure I'd necessarily consider someone has the "right" to kill another, but that gets into a more messy discussion of what exactly rights are. If the rights aspect was key to the point you were making, then it requires a bit more thought. If you were using "right to kill another person" in the more colloquial sense where it's similar to "one person is justified in killing another" than I'd certainly disagree with your statement. Funnily the Dracula one is easier to agree with because of how loosely it's defined. Killing another person is generally bad. Though I guess it too is overly broad since there are some times when killing a person is not bad.

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Forest Goose » Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:55 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:So apparently the position "Under no circumstance does one person have the right to kill another person" is equivalent to "Dracula says killing a another person is bad". If that's how debates work, then I guess you win.


I never said that, I said that that was a position.

Oh, by the way, the position was that Dracula was a pretty good guy, you should totally listen to him - maybe he just wanted you to steal the lever, though?:p Nope, I was wrong, apparently I don't remember what I have Dracula advocate (it was "pull the lever", so both wrong), oh well, doesn't matter, the point was to illustrate that any stupid thing can be a position and that all you have given is a position - more is needed to make it something worth consideration.

Do you agree with this statement?
"There are times when a person has the right to end the life of another."


Elaborate on the word "right".

If you mean, exactly, "Are there times where the thing you ought to do results in the loss of life of others", then, yes, I agree with that statement. If you mean to ask if I have the right to that in the same way as I have the right to free speech, even if situationally conditionally held, then I would need you to go into far more detail on what that means. If you mean something other, then explain in detail.

Would you mind connecting this up to a challenge of my position or a support of yours.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby morriswalters » Fri Apr 10, 2015 5:08 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:Do you agree with this statement?
"There are times when a person has the right to end the life of another."
morriswalters wrote:
Cradarc wrote:Answered that already, way, way back.
Both are dying so the obligation to not kill does not apply. Apply the "max-min principle".
So your intent is your ruling guide? Now there are two people on the tracks. A father and his daughter. You will kill her if you don't act. The father yells at you to save her. Do you?
Does any person have the right to choose for their self?

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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Fri Apr 10, 2015 6:09 pm UTC

Forest Goose wrote:Elaborate on the word "right".

"have the right" = "is permitted under whatever you believe is the universal moral law".

You can think of it this way:
If your moral law was written down like a piece of legislation, are there special provisions that let you violate the law under particular circumstances?
eg. "You cannot break into someone's home unless...(list of exceptions where a person is allowed to forcefully enter someone's home)"

Forest Goose wrote:Would you mind connecting this up to a challenge of my position or a support of yours.

I will do so once you give a clear answer to the question clarified above.


Morriswalters,
That is an interesting question. In that scenario, by following the orders of the father, I am consciously making myself a proxy for whatever he is doing.
He chose to pull the lever to kill himself in order to save his daughter, but he could not successfully perform that action without involving me.

So the question is "Is it right for me to do something I think is immoral if someone else thinks it is moral?". The answer is no, because I think my morality trumps his morality. This is not arrogance, but follows logically. If I thought his morality is better, why would I have my own sense of morality? I would simply adopt his. Whatever my moral code is, it is by definition, what I think is the best.
Now if he had direct access to the lever, I would think his decision is immoral, but I would not stop him. This is because the moral principles that govern my own decisions are different than the moral principles that govern how I respond to other people's decisions.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Apr 10, 2015 6:16 pm UTC

I think most people are okay with the idea of self defense.
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Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Forest Goose » Fri Apr 10, 2015 6:21 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:"have the right" = "is permitted under whatever you believe is the universal moral law".

You can think of it this way:
If your moral law was written down like a piece of legislation, are there special provisions that let you violate the law under particular circumstances?
eg. "You cannot break into someone's home unless...(list of exceptions where a person is allowed to forcefully enter someone's home)"


Forest Goose wrote:If you mean, exactly, "Are there times where the thing you ought to do results in the loss of life of others", then, yes, I agree with that statement.


If that does not answer your question, then you need to elaborate more.

I will do so once you give a clear answer to the question clarified above.


Seriously, just make your fucking argument and get on with it, this is like pulling teeth: first you can't defend your argument till someone else gives their position, then you still bitch about not being given a position, then you bitch about the position, then you start asking vague questions - this is like having a discussion with the Riddler, just less interesting and less logical.
Forest Goose: A rare, but wily, form of goose; best known for dropping on unsuspecting hikers, from trees, to steal sweets.

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

Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Apr 10, 2015 6:31 pm UTC

Cradarc wrote:
Forest Goose wrote:Elaborate on the word "right".

"have the right" = "is permitted under whatever you believe is the universal moral law".

You can think of it this way:
If your moral law was written down like a piece of legislation, are there special provisions that let you violate the law under particular circumstances?
eg. "You cannot break into someone's home unless...(list of exceptions where a person is allowed to forcefully enter someone's home)"


I think the confusion exists because rights are generally held to be a subset of moral laws, not as something encompassing everything moral. Rights are generally reserved for generally or universally applicable things. So, a right to defend yourself, sure. A right to pull a trolley lever? Not really how such things are described, moral or not.

Using terminology in a more standard way may help you convey your position with greater ease.

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

Re: Trolly Problem

Postby Cradarc » Fri Apr 10, 2015 6:36 pm UTC

Forest Goose,
Right now I am demonstrating a hole in your argument. You have already demonstrated the unprovability of my argument and now I will do the same for yours.

You agreed with the statement: "There are times when a person has the right to end the life of another."
But in order for your "proof" to hold, you must show that everyone who uses logic must agree with said statement.

I am asserting that it is possible for a logical person to disagree with that statement.
^Do you agree with me on this specific assertion?
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