Similarly to scenario #1, a train is barreling down a track towards four unaware people who will be killed if the train reaches them, and there is no way of warning them. You are, however, standing on a bridge under which the train will pass, and next to you is a fat man. If you do nothing, the 4 people will die, but if you push the fat man off the bridge and onto the track, his body will stop the train and save the four people, but he will die. What do you do?

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I saw this and I'm thinking about the answer. It's a bit more complicated now.

Sacrifice yourself instead. In this case, since you are no longer in a room, you have the ability to take direct, interventional action that was not available in the first scenario. So, I would take direct action for myself. Today is a good day to die.

Haha! Nice try, but no weaseling out of this one! In this scenario, you are too light to stop the train yourself, and sacrificing yourself will only end up killing 5 people instead of four. It's either the fat man or the other 4 people.

I still stand by what I said. Sizing up the situation, I can't know that the fat man is of the appropriate size to do the job. I mean, it's a friggin' train. My hope would be to gum up the contact point between rail and wheel, causing enough distraction to act as a warning to the four people on the tracks. I don't think this is  weasling on my part, but it could be seen that way, I guess. Problems usually don't have either/or solutions. Just thinking outside the box. Options in this scenario are more readily available than the previous one, even if it's only one more, more "free will", whatever that may mean.

Tony, you're taking this situation far too literally. I'm fully aware that the overwhelming number of cases are nothing at all like the ones presented. That being said, the purpose of these scenarios is to test your moral intuitions about what is right and wrong and why, but if you try to find alternatives you undermine the philosopher's ability to test those intuitions. Assume only what the scenario tells you to assume, and try your best to make a decision within the confines presented, or else the exercise just fails. And btw, I don't believe there is any such thing as free will - that will definitely be making its appearance in this group in the shape of arguments for and against the different perspectives contained within the debate.

Yeah, That's why I put freewill in quotes. It's one of those buzzwords that we all think we know, but don't. I'm sorry if you think I'm equivocating. I just see more options this time around, is all. Maybe I am looking at it to hard. So, I will try to stay within your parameters, my friend. Push the fat man.

Ok! Over the fat man goes. This is pretty much the same route I took the first time too. On to scenario 3!

Star Trek again eh? I thought so.

That's got to be one FAT SOB to be able to stop a train! I'd let the train go, sign the fat man up as a client, get him on the "Biggest Loser," and split the prize money.

In all seriousness, though, this is the old moral dilemma of whom and how many do you sacrifice to save others, to which there is no one good answer.  The question has been with us for millenia. Absent someone owing a specific duty or obligation to the potential victims in this case, e.g. parent, spouse, guardian of a ward, etc., there certainly is no legal obligation to save anyone. This, then, becomes a matter of personal ethics.  Say, instead of 4, it were 100, or 1,000, or 10,000.  The answer may, on one level, get easier as the number of innocent victims to potentially save goes up, but it doesn't resolve the underlying dilemma. Do you consciously destroy one innocent life to save another?

Oh Jonathan that sounds harsh. I always ask "what would Wonder Woman do?" And Wonder Woman would not ever kill someone. What is the over-weight man is a scientist that in the future will cure cancer? Then his life is an important one. But who are we to judge who's lives are more important?
Wonder Woman would try and save everyone regardless of their background or mental state.
True! I have always tried to be like Wonder Woman. And super heroes save people and find ways to do it. She would never kill someone.

These examples all remind me of Marc Hauser's book, "Moral Minds".  See for example .  The premise of the book is that morality is less a matter of personal judgment or adherent to traditional teaching, than a sort of innate urge, a pre-programming with which all normally functioning humans are equipped.  Therefore, when faced in unfamiliar and contrived situations, most people from most backgrounds will have very similar instinctive reactions, regardless of details of their personal creed or the fashion of the times.   It's an intriguing argument, but in my view it is not rigorously substantiated in the book.  The book devotes too much attention to the analogous "moral" decision-making process in animals (reciting a long list of animal experiments), without really separating the nature/nurture influences in humans.

As for my personal view, the reaction to all of these dilemmas is the same: when in doubt, do nothing.  Just accept the status quo.  Unless there is an obvious and immediate harm in not interfering, don't interfere.




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