Question

Imagine that you are a passenger in the trolley that is running on fixed tracks. You...

Imagine that you are a passenger in the trolley that is running on fixed tracks. You notice that the operator of the trolley passed out and the trolley is running to the right where five innocent people are tied to the tracks. You also notice that you can switch the lever and have the trolley switch the tracks to the left, where only one innocent person is tied to the tracks. Obviously there are only two possible courses of action you can take (a) to switch the lever and (b) do nothing. Corresponding to the above courses of action there are only two possible outcomes (a) if you switch the lever 5 will live and one will die and (b) if you do nothing one will live and five will die. What is the right thing to do, and more importantly, why?

At this point I should warn you that all things must be kept equal. There’s a common temptation to think of some person in this scenario being more preferable than others – such as a family member, a friend, a child, or maybe Mother Teresa on one track and Hitler on the other. In order to make our moral intuitions precise such temptation should be avoided. There are six equal people roughly in the same age group with the same number of relatives who will miss them equally, etc. In order to make moral decision easier lets pretend that you in the capacity of the moral agent are not going to face legal repercussions. I should also mention that jumping off the trolley is the same as not switching the lever. Keep the example simple and elegant as it is.

Now, what are your reasons for doing what you think is right in this example? If you said that it is better to save the five people over one, you are relying on some type of Utilitarian principle to be discussed below.  

Homework Answers

Answer #1

It would be better to switch the lever so that the lives of the five persons are saved, that would cost the of one person for the life of five persons.

The Utilitarian principle behind this is we should do actions that would brings maximum goodness and happiness to maximum number of people. In this scenario, choosing one individual to be killed over five individuals, the mentioned Utilitarian principle of " actions to bring greatest happiness to greatest number of people" works. As the happiness and goodness of five individuals over an individual is chosen as the consequence of this action for saving their life and killing that one individual.

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