Life, the Universe and everything Message Board › What would you do? Dilemmas...

What would you do? Dilemmas...

A former member
Post #: 1
A trolley is running out of control down a track. In its path are five people who have been tied to the track by a mad philosopher. Fortunately, you could flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. Should you flip the switch or do nothing?


A friend confides to you that he has committed a particular crime and you promise never to tell. Discovering that an innocent person has been accused of the crime, you plead with your friend to give himself up. He refuses and reminds you of your promise. What should you do? In general, under what conditions should promises be broken?


Roger Smith, a quite competent swimmer, is out for a leisurely stroll. During the course of his walk he passes by a deserted pier from which a teenage boy who apparently cannot swim has fallen into the water. The boy is screaming for help. Smith recognizes that there is absolutely no danger to himself if he jumps in to save the boy; he could easily succeed if he tried. Nevertheless, he chooses to ignore the boy's cries. The water is cold and he is afraid of catching a cold -- he doesn't want to get his good clothes wet either. "Why should I inconvenience myself for this kid," Smith says to himself, and passes on. Does Smith have a moral obligation to save the boy? If so, should he have a legal obligation ["Good Samaritan" laws] as well?


Heinz's wife was dying of a disease that could be cured if he could get a certain medicine. When he asked the pharmacist, he was told that he could get the medicine, but only at a very high price - one that Heinz could not possibly afford. So the next evening, Heinz broke into the pharmacy and stole the drug to save his wife's life. Was Heinz right or wrong to steal the drug?
Anthony
Anthony1982
Las Vegas, NV
Post #: 1
Depends on a lot of circumstances. Is the one person a child or female and what age and gender are the other five. Do I know them, any of them. Are they good people? But for the most part I would flip the switch clearly for statistical purposes.
I should keep my promise. I shouldn't be making promises if there is any possibility to break that promise. If someones life is in danger or I believe I will judged in the next life for it. With many other reasons if it affected me negatively.
I personally believe he has every obligation to save that boy. I think there should be some legal obligation, but its hard to say how much.
Absolutely right. It is so wrong to have a cure and not reach an agreement for Mr. Heinz to obtain this cure. The story is pretty much reality though, sadly.
A former member
Post #: 23
A trolley is running out of control down a track. In its path are five people who have been tied to the track by a mad philosopher. Fortunately, you could flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. Should you flip the switch or do nothing?

I'd flip the switch, depending on the people. If they were 5 evil people an 1 good person I'd leave it. Though I don't think I would attempt to measure the utility of the people based on factors like age, health, etc. A basic principle of non-discrimination would be inportant to me. Though if I were omniscient and could do the utilitarian calculations exatly then I would choose based on this.

A friend confides to you that he has committed a particular crime and you promise never to tell. Discovering that an innocent person has been accused of the crime, you plead with your friend to give himself up. He refuses and reminds you of your promise. What should you do? In general, under what conditions should promises be broken?

If his refusal breaks my friendship with him then I'm no longer obligated to keep the secret. If it doesn't break the friendship then I should keep the promise. Its a kind of contractarian thing, the implicit consequence of dishonering the contract is the end of the friendship. If the friendship is already ended then the contract no longer has any power. This will depend on the strength of the friendship.

Roger Smith, a quite competent swimmer, is out for a leisurely stroll. During the course of his walk he passes by a deserted pier from which a teenage boy who apparently cannot swim has fallen into the water. The boy is screaming for help. Smith recognizes that there is absolutely no danger to himself if he jumps in to save the boy; he could easily succeed if he tried. Nevertheless, he chooses to ignore the boy's cries. The water is cold and he is afraid of catching a cold -- he doesn't want to get his good clothes wet either. "Why should I inconvenience myself for this kid," Smith says to himself, and passes on. Does Smith have a moral obligation to save the boy? If so, should he have a legal obligation ["Good Samaritan" laws] as well?

Moral: Yes.
Legal: I don't know. Legal issues follow a process of their own. It has to be moderated by the power enforcing it, so I can't make that decision. </cop out> lol

Heinz's wife was dying of a disease that could be cured if he could get a certain medicine. When he asked the pharmacist, he was told that he could get the medicine, but only at a very high price - one that Heinz could not possibly afford. So the next evening, Heinz broke into the pharmacy and stole the drug to save his wife's life. Was Heinz right or wrong to steal the drug?

He is right. Based on utilitarianism, intuition, etc.
A former member
Post #: 12
I love all the trolley car dilemmas and the endless permutations which philosophers like Michael Sandel come up with to challenge competing moral intuitions! It's psychologically reassuring to try to formulate a hard logical process for determining ethical decision making in these cases, but it seems to me that as soon as you devise an algorithm which states that you absolutely must never ever do X, or that Y is absolutely always the crucial factor, it's relatively easy to then devise a counterexample thought experiment which makes you think "Well, actually...."
It seems to me that there will always be an intuition aspect to this, and people's intuitions about what is just are obviously shaped by their experiences and their culture. That's why at the very least being moderately educated about the world is pretty vital, because then you can come at the problem from as many angles as possible.
Yeah R.
user 34443022
Auckland, NZ
Post #: 1
I know this is an old post but answering dilemmas can be interesting and I was pretty sure my answers were different.

The trolley scenario: The more I thought about this one the more I thought this was a standard case of something contrived to justify the (whats that word for common saying inserted here?) 'For the Greater Good'. I guess as I am much older now than I was (yes stating the obvious) I can't help but ask "whose 'Greater Good'?"
I wanted to answer try and slow the trolley down as it's a trolley not a carriage so might be possible, but in fairness it covered attempting to sidestep the question quite well by constraining me to either '...flip the switch...' or do '...NOTHING.'
Unlike the general answer for this one I chose to do nothing. Why? Well I reasoned as it stood I was merely a victim of the circumstances and currently the mad philosopher was responsable for what is suggested as the deaths of the greater number of people by trolley. As soon as I flicked the switch I would be guilty of killing the one, I would also become Judge. I have no problem judging, but I am no Judge.

The friendly crime scenario: I am a believer in 'it is better a guilty man goes free than an innocent man goes to jail'. The innocent person is currently merely '...accused...' assuming the justice system is fairly rigid he would be acquitted. They didn't do so well providing a sidestep to this question :) But... for the sake of not sidestepping: If not or it lead to looking like he was framed I would like to think I would cloak and dagger tell the defense/prosecutor that he was innocent in the hopes it would lead them to pursue Justice rather than a conviction. I mean I didn't break my promise in telling who dun-it, merely told who didn't.

Roger Smith scenario: This was a great question, I have not heard one like this before. If I say yes he has a moral obligation then it is interesting to note that nothing would change, the boy would still not be saved. Clearly Smith processed this through himself and he felt morally justified to pass by. The question seems intent on making it okay for the reader to impose their moral values onto Smith. Somehow my human morals are 'better' than Smiths human morals... makes no sense how something the same can be better or worse. The legal part: I understand basic human laws regulating some form of morality ie theft, murder but in my opinion the law is not effective in controlling 'morals'.

The saving pill scenario: I have heard this one before. It was right to do what he could to save his wife. It was wrong to steal. Meh... his wife is now alive and what is the law going to do? Sue him for what? He has nothing. Send him to jail for a period? Small and at least affordable price to pay. It was wrong (imo) for the society to have engineered things to degenerate to this level of desperation.
June
user 36218442
Auckland, NZ
Post #: 1
My cents worth as the newbie...
The trolley? I'd switch it. The odds of it diverting enough to miss one person are much higher than it diverting and missing all five.
The crime? I would tell. The fact he has admitted committing the crime at all indicates his conscience is bothering him; he has asked you/me not to tell authorities because he doesn't have the balls to do so himself. Deep down he wants to come clean.
The drowning boy? First instinct is to say absolutely does have a moral obligation but on second thoughts I'm not so sure. Where do we sign saying we agree to abide by "moral" obligations just because we were born. That aside- yes I would definitely dive in and save him. Don't know about legal obligation and don't care.
The medicine? interesting one. ummmm....... probably wrong to steal the drug BUT I can understand and commisserate with why he would steal it. To me the issue is more about why a life saving drug would be so expensive.....
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