For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

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For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby tzar1990 » Wed May 28, 2008 2:39 am UTC

I've been thinking a fair bit about morality these days, and I was pondering a few questions I'd seen earlier when I decided I'd like to see how smarter people than me responded. These questions are all essentially similar, but I give different answers to them, and they feel different to me on a moral level. I guess I just want to see if I react like other people do, and try to figure out the difference by seeing other people's answers.

1. There's a broken subway train heading down a tunnel at high speed, and it's going to collide with a group of five workers standing on the tracks. If you do nothing, it will run into and kill all five of them. However, if you flip a nearby switch, the train will switch to a secondary track, where there is currently only one worker. Would you flip the switch? Is it acceptable to kill the one to save the many?
(I flipped the switch on this one)

2. You're in a hospital, and there are five people slowly dying because they can't get organ transplants. They each only need one organ, but they need it within the next hour, and there's no way to get one in time. However, there's a healthy person sitting in the waiting room with an organ donor card on his/her wrist, and you have a gun. Do you shoot him/her in order to save the other five? Note that you're not a doctor, so you don't have a Hippocratic oath to worry about breaking.
(I didn't shoot the person, because it felt wrong. I don't know WHY, though...)

3. It's war time, and you've just figured out how to read the code used by your enemy. In analysing their recent message, you find out that they're planning on doing a bombing run on a small town. However, you also find out that they're planning on a massive aeriel attack on an at the time unknown major city in the near future. If you stop the attack on the small town or evacuate it ahead of time, they'll know you know, and change the codes, making it so you'll probably have no warning before the big attack. However, if you don't do anything, that small town will almost certainly be wiped off the map. What do you do? I know that there would be plenty of third options you could take on this one in reality, but for the sake of the question, pretend you only have the two choices.
(I wasn't sure about what I'd do in this one.)
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby GhostWolfe » Wed May 28, 2008 3:12 am UTC

Oddly, I've only ever seen these questions done as a group assessment of negotiation and team-work abilities.

1. I'd flip the switch. The fewer lives lost the better.
2. I would never kill a healthy person to save a dying one. That just seems wrong, wrong, wrong.
3. I would allow the small town to be destroyed. Same as question one.

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby btarlinian » Wed May 28, 2008 3:32 am UTC

The first two seem pretty clear cut to me, discounting the fact that the dilemma in the second situation is scientifically unsound. (It assumes, presumably, the five people who's lives are saved will have an equal quality of life as the one person you killed, which is never the case for recipients of organ transplants.)

So my answers are:

1. Flip the switch. Either way someone dies. We're better off killing fewer people.
2. There are the issues I mentioned above which clearly push me towards not killing the guy. Even otherwise, committing a violent act against an undeserving person is always wrong, IMO. (By undeserving, I really mean not in war.)
3. This is probably the most difficult choice, (discounting the numerous "third ways" I can come up with). Forced to choose between the two I would probably let the town be destroyed. (This is assuming of course that I am 100 % sure that future decryption will give me the name of the large city to be bombed.)

Honestly, my philosophy in regards to ethical dilemmas is that there is always another way. (I don't find the first situation to be much of a dilemma, even if you can claim that the 1st and 2nd situations are fundamentally the same. Kill one rail worker to save five =/= kill one person to save five patients because someone was going to be killed (note killed, not die) in the railworkers' case regardless of your actions.)

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby mercurythief » Wed May 28, 2008 4:26 am UTC

1. don't flip the switch

If you flip the switch, you're responsible for a worker's death. He wouldn't have died except for you.

2. don't shoot

Similar to #1

3. let the small town be destroyed

I wouldn't be responsible for the destruction of the small town or the large city, so I wouldn't feel guilty either way. I'd do whatever would be most likely to win the war.

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Jauss » Wed May 28, 2008 4:31 am UTC

1. I wouldn't flip the switch.
2. I wouldn't shoot the healthy man.
3. I would save the small town. (Probably. This one is tricky and also depends on what else is going on.)
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby TheBeeCeeEmm » Wed May 28, 2008 4:44 am UTC

1.) Assuming flipping the switch results in ONLY killing the one man, as in, I do not get any blame for "killing" him, or something, then I'd flip it.

2.) No way would I shoot the guy. No qualms about killing him, but it's not only inefficient (the patient might still die), but I'd be charged with murder.

3.) Let the small town burn, assuming I'm SURE that it will save a larger town. Again, not because I want to save more people, but a larger attack = a larger trap or more leverage = winning the war sooner.
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Baka no Kami » Wed May 28, 2008 6:34 am UTC

1. I'd flip the switch.

2. I wouldn't shoot. This question involves a conscious choice to save 5 people by seeking out and causing the death of another, which is wrong. Put callously the previous question only involves damage control.

3. I'd let the town be bombed. (although if I could get away with it I'd arrange for a "lookout post" along the flight path of the bombers to send a warning an hour before. Wouldn't save everyone, but it's something.) In this case it's not just a matter of saving the big city. Being able to read the enemy codes will likely win the war quickly and save more lives than would be lost in either attack. As an aside this was actually what the allies actually did in WWII. They did have to let the Germans bomb several towns in order to keep it secret that they were reading everyones mail.

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Cornelius » Wed May 28, 2008 6:48 am UTC

1. I would flip the switch.

2. I would shoot him, provided they all needed different organs.

3. I would do nothing.

Letting the least amount of people die is really the best option in all of these.
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Quixotess » Wed May 28, 2008 7:11 am UTC

Ooh, we had that train one in tenth grade, only it was a series of questions that got progressively more awesome difficult.

1. Same situation as yours only there's no single worker on the other track. Apparently some people don't like the idea of playing God and would let the workers die.
2. Your situation.
3. Your situation, only the train is heading straight toward the person you love most in the entire world, and if you flip the switch you will save that person but kill the five others. (And what if the two groups switch tracks?)
4. There's a train going down the tracks and no alternate route to flip the switch. The workers in the distance are waiting for a platform to be lowered (or something) so they can get on--it's their only way to escape, and they need a little more time or they will all die. Next to you is an extremely fat man. Your body will not slow the subway enough, but if you push him onto the tracks it will provide just enough time for the workers to get to safety. Do you push the fat man?

I read somewhere that morality is very similar to grammar, in that you can hear a situation unlike any you've ever heard before or will again, and instantly pronounce judgment upon it, just like you could with a sentence. "That sentence isn't right." Also, within a society you will often find similar values and things that are right or wrong.
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Tchebu » Wed May 28, 2008 7:38 am UTC

For the second question, why not just kill one of the dying patients at random and redistribute his/her organs among the survivors instead of getting an extra person involved?

Anyway, to continue with Quixotess' "additional" situations, here's two more. The train track splits, but then the two paths rejoin again before the 5 pple on the tracks, so even if you flip the switch they die. Fortunately there's the fat guy walking on the detour path and if you flip the switch, the train cart will stop after crashing into him. Flip the switch or not?

Now what if it's the same situation but instead of a fat man, it's just a pile of bricks, but behind it a random person is standing and by crashing, the cart will cause the pile of bricks to collapse and fall onto the guy killing him?
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Baka no Kami » Wed May 28, 2008 9:04 am UTC

Tchebu wrote:Anyway, to continue with Quixotess' "additional" situations, here's two more. The train track splits, but then the two paths rejoin again before the 5 pple on the tracks, so even if you flip the switch they die. Fortunately there's the fat guy walking on the detour path and if you flip the switch, the train cart will stop after crashing into him. Flip the switch or not?


I'm going to say to kill the fat guy. Any guy fat enough to stop or slow a speeding railcar is likely to die from the exertion of taking his next step. Why not make his death meaningful?

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby zealo » Wed May 28, 2008 10:18 am UTC

how do people have different answers for 1 and 2? that organ recipients lives are worse than 'normal' people's was being ignored i assumed (like 3rd options in 3)

how is flipping a switch to make some guy get hit by a train better than shooting someone?
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Gelsamel » Wed May 28, 2008 10:25 am UTC

1. (I'm way to apathetic about it)/Lazy to even start thinking about deciding whether I should think about deciding one way or the other.
2. See 1, plus I don't like getting in trouble because it inconveniences me, so murder is out of the question.
3. See 1.
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Nemiro » Wed May 28, 2008 8:54 pm UTC

zealo wrote:how do people have different answers for 1 and 2? that organ recipients lives are worse than 'normal' people's was being ignored i assumed (like 3rd options in 3)

how is flipping a switch to make some guy get hit by a train better than shooting someone?


I somehow feel that situation 1 involves you in the morality less.... Situation 2 involves a morally reprehensible act (unless the donor is a serial rapist or something, maybe) that you *choose* to commit. (Or not)
In situation 1, you have no choice over whether someone dies or not...

Difficult to describe feeling here..
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Baka no Kami » Wed May 28, 2008 10:40 pm UTC

Nemiro wrote:
zealo wrote:how do people have different answers for 1 and 2? that organ recipients lives are worse than 'normal' people's was being ignored i assumed (like 3rd options in 3)

how is flipping a switch to make some guy get hit by a train better than shooting someone?


I somehow feel that situation 1 involves you in the morality less.... Situation 2 involves a morally reprehensible act (unless the donor is a serial rapist or something, maybe) that you *choose* to commit. (Or not)
In situation 1, you have no choice over whether someone dies or not...

Difficult to describe feeling here..


The difference is that in 1 you aren't responsible for for putting yourself in the situation. The accidental nature of the situation forces the choice on you. The people in 2 are going to die from unfortunate, but natural causes. You are putting yourself in the position to make the choice, and that's the difference. You couldn't just get up in the morning and go find situation 1. You can find situation 2. Maybe not exactly as written, but you could, right now, go out and kill an organ doner knowing that some people are going to live because of it.


Let's switch the questions around. What would you want someone to do if you were one of the 5? What if you were the one?

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby MrEff » Wed May 28, 2008 11:09 pm UTC

1 and 3 aren't dilemmas, because they involve the same thing--human lives. I'd flip the switch without a second thought, because 5 human lives are always greater than 1 human life.

2 is tougher--I would say don't kill him, on the grounds that no one will come to a hospital if they're going to get butchered and parceled out to sick people who may have put themselves there in the first place. I suspect, however, that you could find a willing participant. Make Dr. Kevorkian a deal--he stays out of jail as long as he donates his patients' organs.

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Felstaff » Wed May 28, 2008 11:15 pm UTC

If I was the one, I'd call in sick that day.

Anyway, something to add to the original question: What if the 5 track workers were complete dickcheeses, and the 1 worker was Mother Theresa's daughter, Daughter Theresa? Foreknowledge of the victims would most likely imply bias. Would you intentionally kill a future saint to save five arseholes? What if the guy who could cure cancer was one of the five, and the guy who could cure AIDS was the single track-worker?

Wouldn't you question why two people who could cure incurable diseases would be working in a subway?

As for shooting the organ donor, that's an easily justifiable no. Clearly murdering a person infringes their human rights, and is ∴ morally reprehensible, no matter how many other lives it could feasibly save. UDHR Bureaucracy just saved that organ donor. Also, you are too much of a pussy to kill a person. Besides, you might render their organs unusable, if the JFK 10-ricochet bullet has taught us anything.

For the third: Save the village. There are many factors involved which would suggest saving the village. Firstly, common sense dictates that the enemy would change the codes as a matter of course, although that might not apply to the realms of hypothesis that's presented here. Secondly, the theory posits that "definitely" saving a village "might" result in destruction of said village. You have to weigh the risk of "might" vs. "definitely". In a world where morals are treated as absolutes, you'd have no choice but to side with the the "definitely" camp. You'd get court-marshalled by the media, otherwise.
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Quixotess » Wed May 28, 2008 11:37 pm UTC

zealo wrote:how do people have different answers for 1 and 2? that organ recipients lives are worse than 'normal' people's was being ignored i assumed (like 3rd options in 3)

how is flipping a switch to make some guy get hit by a train better than shooting someone?

Like Btarlinian said, in the first situation someone was going to be killed no matter what you do. In the second situation, it's just that someone is going to die no matter what you do. The difference is in die versus kill.
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby MrEff » Wed May 28, 2008 11:41 pm UTC

Hey! No being funny in the Serious Business forum. This is a LOL-free zone.

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Turambar » Thu May 29, 2008 12:14 am UTC

Felstaff wrote:For the third: Save the village. There are many factors involved which would suggest saving the village. Firstly, common sense dictates that the enemy would change the codes as a matter of course, although that might not apply to the realms of hypothesis that's presented here. Secondly, the theory posits that "definitely" saving a village "might" result in destruction of said village. You have to weigh the risk of "might" vs. "definitely". In a world where morals are treated as absolutes, you'd have no choice but to side with the the "definitely" camp. You'd get court-marshalled by the media, otherwise.


Sure, they can change the codes, but if you're like the Allied High Command in WWII and you actually acquire a copy of the Enigma code machine, you can get the new codes for each day, then you do have a quandary. And they did wind up having to let towns get bombed and ships get sunk so that they could protect their secret.
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby mercurythief » Thu May 29, 2008 12:23 am UTC

For #1, after you flip the switch, you realize that the dead man was sitting next to a sign that said 'track closed', and the 5 men were sitting next to a sign that said 'Danger! Stay off track'. Would you feel okay about your decision then?

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby BirdKiller » Thu May 29, 2008 10:18 am UTC

1. Flip the switch. The man better die else I'm going to have a hell of a time explaining why I did so to him.
2. I wouldn't shoot the gun.
3. The town should be destroyed for greater strategic advantage.

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Baka no Kami » Thu May 29, 2008 11:05 am UTC

mercurythief wrote:For #1, after you flip the switch, you realize that the dead man was sitting next to a sign that said 'track closed', and the 5 men were sitting next to a sign that said 'Danger! Stay off track'. Would you feel okay about your decision then?


I'd feel even better. Those 5 people will likely be much easier prey for my clan after the eventual collapse of civilization.

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby existential_elevator » Thu May 29, 2008 12:57 pm UTC

God, I come up against these exact same thought experiments in ethics at least once a semester. You've also just reminded me that there are a bunch more I need to remember for my exams; some of which are very silly, and if I remember correctly, involve drowning babies for the greater good. Here are my very well-thought out moral positions on the questions you have raised.

1) Ideally you should find a fat person, throw him on the tracks, and save everyone. If you are a fat person, you should jump out in front of the train yourself. Being fat seems to cause a lot of ethical dilemmas in many of the philosophical papers I've read, so I can only assume it must be morally wrong. I mean, you could always throw yourself in front of the train and then noone but you dies, but that would be super-erogatory. There are so many variations on the trolley problem that it is practically obscene.

2) Well, I mean, the far more sensible [and when I say sensible, I mean "less bat-shit crazy"] thought experiment on this is Harris' "survival lottery" whereby there is [unsurprisingly] a lottery that everyone in society is joined up to, and as and when is needed, someone's number is called up and we harvest them for organs. Thus the playing field is even, right?
Anyway to this one I say that the important missing factor here is: will the person you shoot with a gun later become the next Hitler if you do not take action? In that case, you are morally obliged to shoot.

3) Ah, the terror-bombing thought experiments. Is the small town full of innocent children? Because then it's not right, you know. I think, in an ideal world, you should replace the bombs with fat people. Fat people with the capacity to become the next Hitler who might also otherwise have died a long painful death from a rare tropical disease. Then, the benefit of killing all the fat, child molesting, totalitarian, terminally ill people would far outweigh the negative effect of killing all those cute children and bunnies.

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Hammer » Thu May 29, 2008 12:59 pm UTC

I find #2 especially interesting. It's one thing to decide that one must die so that five may live. It's another to choose somebody else and shoot them without involving them in the decision. Why not ask the person if they are willing to sacrifice themselves? Why not sign an organ donor card and shoot yourself?
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Freakish » Thu May 29, 2008 5:43 pm UTC

1. I wouldn't flip the switch, because I wouldn't kill a person. The five other deaths aren't my fault.
2. I wouldn't kill him. Same reason as #1.
3. Save the city.
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby CogDissident » Thu May 29, 2008 7:48 pm UTC

1: I would flip the switch as well. If there must be death, it must be minimized.
2: No. Those people are there partially because of their own actions, and partially because of life in general. The only ethical option is to find one of the terminally ill that could provide the most organs for other patients to save those patient's lives. If this is not an option, then it would still not be ethical to kill the man. Oddly, I can't seem to find why, because this is so similar to the first position where I would take an action to sacrifice one life to save many. And if the number were higher than five, I would certainly kill the man to save many more people.
3: Save the big town. I try to defer to the biggest reduction in loss of life.

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby CogDissident » Thu May 29, 2008 7:49 pm UTC

Hammer wrote:I find #2 especially interesting. It's one thing to decide that one must die so that five may live. It's another to choose somebody else and shoot them without involving them in the decision. Why not ask the person if they are willing to sacrifice themselves? Why not sign an organ donor card and shoot yourself?

Then you just change the question, what if several people are dying of a plague, and the only way to have enough blood transfusion to save them is to kill someone who is immune to it?

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Ein2015 » Thu May 29, 2008 9:41 pm UTC

Morality is not a list of "what-ifs" but of axioms.

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby watch_wait_plot » Thu May 29, 2008 10:27 pm UTC

Axioms that are used to answer (and often given structure by) what ifs. They help people to understand and compare those axioms.

Back on track:
1) I would flip the switch.
2) I would not shoot the innocent.
3)I would allow the town to be destroyed to save the city.

I agree with everyone who pointed out the difference between "died" and "killed".

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Greyarcher » Fri May 30, 2008 1:47 am UTC

1. I would, conditionally, flip the switch. The condition being that the people on the track are people who haven't, for some reason, committed some deed that makes me opposed to intervening. For instance, if both sets of people are bloody idiots screwing about on the tracks, I'd probably wash my hands of the situation and let things take their natural course, with the subway running over whoever happens to be in the way. However, if both sets happen to be unwitting workers, I'd flip the switch if more people were saved by doing so. It is, as one poster put it, a matter of damage control.

2. I would not kill the person. In #1, I was not killing, but simply choosing how many would die in a situation where two sets of people faced imminent death. The organ donor, however, is healthy and does not face imminent death--the situation is not like the previous where all is equal and I am simply reducing the number of inevitable, imminent deaths. Thus, I do not have sufficient justification for killing the person.

3. One poster mentioned WWII; I, too, thought of the same thing. If I thought it probable that we would eventually learn of what major city would suffer a major attack, I would let the small town be annihilated. The situation strikes me as comparable to the first one. In war, casualties are inevitable; I can only attempt to reduce the overall number of deaths while attempting to achieve victory, and that may mean letting the small town be wiped out.
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Kaiyas » Fri May 30, 2008 2:00 am UTC

1. Flip. Damage control.
2. Don't shoot. Bureaucracy will screw over the other 5 guys, and if it didn't, there's no guarantee that the organs will save them anyways.
3. Ideally, you help the people evacuate. Strictly within the situation in question, I'd sacrifice the village, because it provides a different context: It is war, and intelligence (as in CIA) is invaluable to the war effort. However, if we simplify it all the way down to the sacrifice of the few to possibly save the many, I would save the few.

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Amnesiasoft » Fri May 30, 2008 4:54 am UTC

Freakish wrote:1. I wouldn't flip the switch, because I wouldn't kill a person. The five other deaths aren't my fault.

But you had the opportunity to save them, you're responsible for their deaths through your own inaction.

Anyway, my answers are basically boring:
1) Flip
2) No.
3) Save the major city.

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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Griffin » Fri May 30, 2008 5:37 am UTC

The difference in number 2, as others have hinted that, is that there are other options one can take.

You can kill a patient, as someone mentioned, and still do just as well (more moral)
You can kill yourself as an act of altruism and donate your own organs (even more moral)

In addition, there is no guarantee that killing someone will save even a single life, or that organs won't arrive in time to save them through some other route (despite your saying so, experience influences these decisions as well and that plays a small role).

Anyways, for 1)
Try to switch the track just as the train hits it in an attempt to derail the damn thing. Its a long shot, sure, but I like long shots. Plus that would make an awesome story if i pulled it off - a small chance of a win is better than a larger chance of a reduced lost, I say!

2)
Get the hell out of there. I hate hospitals - I'll get sick. Also, not my problem. On the way out, however, I'll pass the gun on to healthy dude, explain to him the situation, and tell him to consider offing himself! Whatever happens, my hands are clean. Regardless, there are few enough good people in this world willing to be organ donors, I'm certainly not going to set a precedent of killing them off every time someone gets sick - think of the long term ramifications!

3)
Pass it on to someone in the military, let them decide. I already did my part! Now its time for smarter strategists to do theirs.
If I'm actually the person in charge of this decision? Well, in that case I will save neither, and defect to the enemy side or independence or something, because if I'm the one they pegged to make decisions like this we've already lost and I don't want to stick around. But leave the note to be someone else's problem, for sure!
Bdthemag: "I don't always GM, but when I do I prefer to put my player's in situations that include pain and torture. Stay creative my friends."

Bayobeasts - the Pokemon: Orthoclase project.

vsync
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby vsync » Fri May 30, 2008 5:59 am UTC

Quixotess wrote:4. There's a train going down the tracks and no alternate route to flip the switch. The workers in the distance are waiting for a platform to be lowered (or something) so they can get on--it's their only way to escape, and they need a little more time or they will all die. Next to you is an extremely fat man. Your body will not slow the subway enough, but if you push him onto the tracks it will provide just enough time for the workers to get to safety. Do you push the fat man?


How about this related scenario, brought up in a recent Fark thread:

A fire drill was called in an office building and everyone was practicing evacuating down the stairs. One extremely obese man was waddling down the stairs and slowing everyone. Someone said that he should consider himself handicapped and wait in the stairwell to be rescued by firefighters. The man became offended and angry.

In a situation where the building was really burning, would you physically restrain the fat man so everyone else could evacuate?

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Griffin
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Griffin » Fri May 30, 2008 6:06 am UTC

If he wants to be slowest, git to the back of the line!

If it was a narrow stairway so that a normal person would block it, I'd say the same to any other extremely slow people.

Thats what you get for not investing points into your movement! Its the risk you take for that bonus to energy storage.
Bdthemag: "I don't always GM, but when I do I prefer to put my player's in situations that include pain and torture. Stay creative my friends."

Bayobeasts - the Pokemon: Orthoclase project.

darren
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby darren » Fri May 30, 2008 6:45 am UTC

Trying to find a third way is the only moral option. The only life you have a right to take is your own. If it were *my* life and those 5 people were my family, then sure, I'll give my life. But no one, whether you're ghandi, president of a country or an xkcd forum member, has any right to actively take a life. I don't care if it saves 5 people or 5 million, you're still a murderer.

++$_
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby ++$_ » Fri May 30, 2008 8:35 am UTC

1. Flip switch. In this situation, one life saved is equal to one life sacrificed. The situation is perfectly symmetrical, except for the numbers. If it were one and one rather than one and five, it makes no difference what you do (unless you believe in Fate or something, in which case you probably shouldn't mess around with Fate by flipping the switch. Unless you're part of Fate's plan. So I guess you should read the omens or something.)

Now, I see a potential argument that by flipping the switch, you have blood on your hands, and therefore you shouldn't flip it because not only does it have no net effect (in the 1v1 case), it also hurts YOU by making you a killer. But if there are 2 or more people on the other track, surely the hurt to you is worth less than the second life that you could save. Take the altruistic action, and suffer the consequences of blood on your hands.

2. Don't shoot. In this situation, one life saved is not equal to one life sacrificed, because of the asymmetry of the situation. The value of a life is in potential (I go more into depth in another thread on this). The healthy person has a good deal of potential. The dying organ patients have very, very little. Sacrificing a healthy person makes no sense here. (Factor in the "pain and suffering" of the guy when he realizes that he's going to be brutally murdered as well, and that the dying patients have already accepted their fates (most likely) and are not suffering too much, and the case gets stronger.) Also, this is just a simple application of "do unto others..."

3. Small town has to be sacrificed I think. This is war, people are going to die, and the generals are forced to make pragmatic decisions. The immorality -- war -- has already been committed here. (Besides, the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the bombing side.)
mercurythief wrote:For #1, after you flip the switch, you realize that the dead man was sitting next to a sign that said 'track closed', and the 5 men were sitting next to a sign that said 'Danger! Stay off track'. Would you feel okay about your decision then?
No. That makes the situation asymmetrical. By getting on the track in such a situation those people have already given up their lives. To use an analogy, if a hand grenade is about to go off and kill five innocent people, I might throw myself on top of it if it would save them, or at least take a risk by trying to chuck it away. But if five guys decide "Hey, you know what would be cool? To play with a hand grenade!" I'm not going to save their asses.
Quixotess wrote:1. Same situation as yours only there's no single worker on the other track. Apparently some people don't like the idea of playing God and would let the workers die.
2. Your situation.
3. Your situation, only the train is heading straight toward the person you love most in the entire world, and if you flip the switch you will save that person but kill the five others. (And what if the two groups switch tracks?)
4. There's a train going down the tracks and no alternate route to flip the switch. The workers in the distance are waiting for a platform to be lowered (or something) so they can get on--it's their only way to escape, and they need a little more time or they will all die. Next to you is an extremely fat man. Your body will not slow the subway enough, but if you push him onto the tracks it will provide just enough time for the workers to get to safety. Do you push the fat man?
1. Obvious.
3. I know what I would do (probably kill the 5, or maybe have an instant nervous breakdown and be unable to act), but it would be the Wrong Decision, and I would go to hell for it. Yay, burning forever! (Now, if I knew in advance that I would go to hell, then I would obviously not do it. But that's another complication; namely, Fear of Punishment, which shouldn't come into it.)
4. Ignoring any kind of obeseism, I probably wouldn't push the fat man. I'm still grappling with this one, but it seems that "do unto others" requires that you not go around subjecting people to SURPRIZE ALTROOISM!

Iv
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby Iv » Fri May 30, 2008 1:07 pm UTC

#2 is the one really interesting I think. It forces to balance a "natural order" that will get more people killed and a voluntary action that mathematically appears better. The phrasing is misleading however. After having answered #1 with "flip", it seems logical to choose "kill" in #2 yet, red flags blink everywhere in the brain when we consider this. Why is this so ? Because the first one presents the situation as mathematical. You have to weight between different numbers of equivalent lives. The second one gives the illusion of transposing the exact same problem but in fact adds so many things in it that you can't consider the context to be purely mathematical. The context now includes question of law and medicine.

Here is a more different phrasing for the #2 : you are a doctor in this hospital. 5 patients need a transplantation. One other patient is in the health status that each of the other patients will attain if they get a transplantation. You have a 100% certain way of killing this patient without anyone suspecting you. Would you ?

Now, you have been a bit negligent. If you had done a paperwork due yesterday, organs would be there. It is effectively a fault of yours if these people die in your hospital. Would you do something to repair it ?

ZeroSum
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Re: For the Greater Good: Moral Questions

Postby ZeroSum » Fri May 30, 2008 1:52 pm UTC

1. Flip the switch - being a rail worker means you accept that the tragedy of an accident may kill you.
2. Don't pull the trigger - being an organ donor does not mean you accept that you may be harvested for organs, only that if you happen to die the remaining parts may be used.
3. Don't save the small town - in a war you cannot base priority of life on chronology.


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