Cafe Discussion - Trolley Car Problems

Some of you might be familiar with so-called trolley car problems, which are moral dilemmas involving whether to act to save more lives by killing people or in some cases whether to act or instead to simply choose note to intervene. One problem involves the possibility of a train that is about to run over several people and you have the ability to prevent their deaths by switching the tracks and then causing only one person to be killed, but a person who would otherwise have survived had you chose not to act. Other variations on this involve the question of whether you would push a single person onto the tracks in order to stop the train and thus to prevent the group of people from being run over.

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  • Josh

    Just heard a discussion on NPR about this famous question. The researched what the result would be if he patti pants responded in a foreign language as opposed to their native langiage. The answer turned out to be opposite of the first choice. The suggested reason was that when using their native language participants engaged emotion into their decisions making while when using a foreign language, their focus became more rational because they had to think about speaking the language first as it was not natural. He program is called 'on the media' and the paper wax called 'morals and llanguage'. Interesting

    1 · June 23, 2014

  • Deb

    I'll bite the proverbial hook, Josh. If one could preview/change my life /obit? More time enjoying the moment, less time living/planning for the future.

    June 8, 2014

    • Josh

      I heartily agree and what I am trying to put into motion as we write. But a combination of the two would be best.

      June 8, 2014

  • Deb

    Cross between Arkansas Baptist & Pa. Episcopalian myself.....but what we do/who we r is an individual right: "When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough", Harold Kushner, pg. 58 &59, 1965 (long):

    "There's a story behind the establishment of the Nobel Prizes, the supreme awards for achievement in the arts & sciences. One day Nobel's brother died & 1 newspaper by accident printed an obituary notice 4 Alfred instead. It identified him as the inventor of dynamite & the man who made a fortune by enabling armies to achieve new levels of mass destruction. Nobel had the unique opportunity to read his own obituary in his lifetime & to see what he would be remembered 4. He was shocked to think that this was what his life would add up to, remembered as a merchant of death & destruction. He took his fortune & used it to establish the awards 4 accomplishments in various fields which would benefit humanity & it is 4 that, not 4 his explosives, that he is know 4 today."

    June 6, 2014

    • Josh

      Which begs the question: how would you change your life if you read your own obituary today?

      June 8, 2014

  • Rainer M

    I’m asking for help

    Some of you already know that I’m a devout and ultra-orthodox, hard-core, card-carrying Catholic. I take the doctrines very seriously. Two weeks ago, right after the group meeting, I attended mass at downtown’s cathedral. The bishop -God bless his pure soul- lectured about the seriousness of following the ten commandments. Breaking even one is a deathly sin. Breaking two of them will earn the sinner a stay in hell for a minimum of three and a half eternities.

    My father -an even stricter catholic than I-contacted me last week. He wants me to no longer shirk my family responsibilities. I’m the only child he admits to have fathered; I have to take over the family business. I honour the wishes of my parents; I really do. The sixth commandment is very alive in my fear filled heart.
    But I’m reluctant to take over the company because I don’t want to suffer in hell.

    June 6, 2014

    • Rainer M

      Susan, I'm a Tea Bag Party member in extremely good standing. Of course I have put loads and loads of wet and even frozen tea bags on my eyes. I can't confirm that it helped ...

      1 · June 8, 2014

    • Josh

      Simple solution Rainer, think Oscar Schindler. Take over the family business, build the weapons as a form of deterrence and then donate a portion of your profits to your church and other philanthropic organizations. Then some Israelite will build a monument in your name (so pick a good one). That way, you assuage your guilt at the same time you make your fortune. Also, dont forget that charity begins at home and since we are the family of your choosing as opposed to biological, we will happily accept your personal pork-barrell corporate donation to the cause of improved debate the world over.

      2 · June 8, 2014

  • Craig D.

    I'm never coming anywhere near a trolley lever. I'm avoiding trolley tracks if there are any backpacks or large people nearby. I'm sticking to highly populated areas if there are planes overhead. And I'm never visiting a doctor other than my own.

    4 · June 7, 2014

    • Pat H.

      Thanks Craig, thanks Rainer, I'll put a check in the mail to cover your expenses!

      1 · June 8, 2014

    • Josh

      @ Rainer, OY!

      June 8, 2014

  • Deb

    If u decide to remain, "stuck w/my chemicals", family can be as well. 1 child, sibling, so forth, might suffer harsh consequences: Acquiring and/or not acquiring a job, being retaliated against/scapegoated & literally shunned, result of your decision (to own/runcompany). Therefore children & other family members would suffer consequences by association. Troubled children of famous or infamous for that matter, can't be wrong. Price paid for decision 1 makes & plagues many perhaps?

    June 8, 2014

    • Josh

      Breathe! Last sentence seems unnecessarily masochistic.

      June 8, 2014

  • Deb

    Hello.....testing 1,2,3.....sigh....Deb, your just not in the bay area anymore(lol).

    1 · June 8, 2014

  • Craig D.

    So, inaction will allow several deaths, but by taking action you cause someone to die who would not have died otherwise. Why is this question so much harder than the choice a pilot would make by veering his crashing plane away from a highly populated area into a less populated one? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

    1 · June 4, 2014

    • Pat H.

      Craig: The highly populated area could be a prison and the less populated area a small elementary school. Population may not be a good criterion.

      1 · June 7, 2014

    • Rainer M

      Pat, the problem does not need to be set up in such a way they there is a death of anyone involved. As long as there is some dilemma involved, a morally questionable decision to make, or a series of potentially possible and plausible decisions that are all undesirable, the discussion can unfold.
      The trolley car is just very popular. Craig's airplane is just as good.
      And I'm stuck with my chemicals.

      June 8, 2014

  • Tim

    Good discussion. broad range of ideas. good tolerance of others.

    June 7, 2014

  • Brick L.

    Always love the interplay of the moral dilemna. Robert Oppenheimer conceives of the nuclear bomb , Should he forget it , or build it before germany does ?
    Moral beliefs are good beliefs. Belief , however is a mind set at rest in a world of movement and motion.

    1 · June 1, 2014

    • Rainer M

      My good moral beliefs demand that I beat my wife and our 31 children seven times a day, and twelve times on religious holidays. My moral beliefs also require me to burn all females at the stake if they don't belong to my congregation.

      June 6, 2014

    • Rainer M

      Oppenheimer developed doubts about the use of the bomb after the test of the first one. By that time, the bombs to be used were already deep in development, and Oppenheimer, as the science director, had no significant input over the use of the bombs. Then, it was already a decision made by politicians and the military.

      June 6, 2014

  • Deb

    Sorry. Unexpected obligation & cannot attend.

    June 6, 2014

  • Craig D.

    Be prepared, Saturday could be our first 100 degree day!

    June 5, 2014

    • Brandon N.

      Yes - um it might even be too hot to be outside this coming Saturday. Well, with proper shade we might be alright. Our umbrella won't shade everyone so I recommend you all bring a hat and sunglasses and sunscreen. If necessary we'll have to go indoors

      1 · June 5, 2014

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