Because I just watched Eye in the Sky which was basically a (very good) two hour trolley problem.
- •You are a switch operator and you see there are five people tied up on the tracks. The empty trolley (no passengers and unmanned) is coming and will certainly kill them all. If you throw the switch the trolley will divert down a side track and kill one person who happens to be standing on the track. What do you do?
- •You are on a bridge over the tracks standing next to an unknown very fat man and the same trolley will pass under you before killing the five people. If you push the fat man off the bridge his body will stop the trolley before it kills the five. What do you do?
- •You are on the bridge in the same scenario as above with one caveat: you know that the fat man is the person who tied up the five in an attempt to kill them. What do you do?
- •You're the switch operator again but this time the switch only puts the train on a loop such that it will loop around and continue on the main track to kill the five tied up people. But on the loop is an innocent fat man who will stop the train if you throw the switch. What do you do?
- •You are a doctor and you have five patients each desperately in need of a different organ transplant or they will soon die. You have no organs available and so it is hopeless. A healthy man comes in for a checkup and you discover he is a match for every one of your five patients. If you kill him you can save five. What do you do?
- •A slight variation on the first: you are not a switch operator. Rather you are remotely controlling another trolley. You can ram the trolley from behind forcing it off the tracks before it kills the five. If you do it will derail, roll down a hill, and kill a man sleeping in the park. What do you do?
- •Most people feel you are morally justified in flipping the switch in #1. Some even feel you are morally obligated. People are much less likely to support throwing the fat man off the bridge (#2). If the fat man is evil (#3) people almost universally support throwing him off the bridge.
- •For some reason putting the fat man on a loop of track (#4) makes killing him more palatable to some people. Perhaps because by virtue of his being on a track, fate has somehow "involved" him in the scenario.
- •Almost nobody supports killing a man to harvest his organs (#5). In the absence of trolley problem context this seems obvious. But in context most people have trouble articulating a justification for the position. (Eg, from a strictly "utilitarian" point of view the doctor may be justified. But nobody feels that way anyway.)
- •#6 seems conceptually identical to #1 which is considered justifiable. Interestingly if you ask people #6 in isolation they generally say it is unjustified. This again may be because the man in the park is "uninvolved". But if you ask them after asking #1 they say it *is* justified, probably in an attempt to remain consistent.
- •How did you answer each of these, and more importantly, why?
- •Do you think being "involved" makes someone a more justifiable collateral casualty?
- •Did you say yes to number one and no to #5? Can you explain why? If you rewrite the problem to remove the reasons your answer differed does your answer still differ? For instance maybe you think the doctor's actions are illegal so that's makes it wrong. If it were legalized would you support it?
- •Further reading: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem