Filosofische dilemma’s

door Vulpius

Zalig, een website vol “psychologische experimenten”, al valt het geheel beter te omschrijven als “morele filosofische dilemma’s”. Uiteraard komt ook het “fat man on a train” probleem van Philippa Foot en Judith Jarvis Thomson aan bod…

The brakes of the train that Casey Jones is driving have just failed. There are five people on the track ahead of the train. There is no way that they can get off the track before the train hits them. The track has a siding leading off to the right, and Casey can hit a button to direct the train onto it. Unfortunately, there is one person stuck on the siding. Casey can turn the train, killing one person; or he can allow the train to continue onwards, killing five people.

Should he turn the train (1 dead); or should he allow it to keep going (5 dead)?

Antwoord: Allow the Train to Keep Going

Ah good. Your response is consistent with your claim that morality is not just a matter of maximising the happiness of the greatest number of people. However, your belief that Casey Jones should not divert the train is unusual, so it would be interesting to know what your thinking is here. Perhaps the fact that you think that it is always wrong to cause another person’s death is weighing heavily. Anyway, whatever your thinking, let’s see how you get on with the scenario below.

Marty Bakerman is on a footbrige above the train tracks. He can see that the train approaching the bridge is out of control, and that it is going to hit five people who are stuck on the track just past the bridge. The only way to stop the train is to drop a heavy weight into its path. The only available heavy enough weight is a (very) fat man, who is also watching the train from the footbridge. Marty can push the fat man onto the track into the path of the train, which will kill him but save the five people already on the track; or he can allow the train to continue on its way, which will mean that the five will die.

Should he push the fat man onto the track (1 dead); or allow the train to continue (5 dead)?

Antwoord: Allow the Train to Keep Going

Previous research indicates that most people agree with you that the fat man should not be thrown off the bridge. Moreover, your response is consistent with your earlier claim that Casey Jones should not divert his train so that it kills only one person rather than five; and with your belief that morality is not just a matter of maximising the happiness of the greatest number of people. Have a look at the scenario below. It’ll be interesting to see whether your response to it is consistent with your responses to date.

Okay so this scenario is identical to the preceding scenario but with one crucial difference. This time Marty Bakerman knows with absolute certainty that the fat man on the bridge is responsible for the failure the train’s brakes: upset by train fare increases, he sabotaged the brakes with the intention of causing an accident. As before, the only way to stop the train and save the lives of the five people already on the track is to push the fat saboteur off the bridge into the path of the train.

Should Marty push the fat saboteur onto the track (1 dead); or allow the train to continue (5 dead)?

Antwoord: Push the fat saboteur onto the track

Strookt niet met mijn morele deontologische code, maar ik beweer ook niet dat zeggen dat iets immoreel is onmiddellijk impliceert dat die actie nooit gevolgd mag worden. Zoals hier: het is niet moreel, maar het rechtvaardigheidsgevoel van “sabotage mag niet ongestraft blijven” weegt hier zwaarder door.

Many people will agree with you that it is right to throw the saboteur off the bridge in order to save the lives of the five people stuck on the track. It is also worth noting that there is no contradiction between this view and your belief that in neither the ‘innocent’ (fat) man scenario, nor in the divert the train scenario, would it be right to sacrifice the life of one person in order to save the lives of five other people. Presumably what explains the difference here is that thoughts about culpability come into play in the scenario involving the saboteur. It is possible that similar thoughts about culpability will be a part of how you think about the scenario below.

The fat man, having avoided being thrown in front of the runaway train, has been arrested, and is now in police custody. He states that he has hidden a nuclear device in a major urban centre, which has been primed to explode in 24 hours time. The following things are true:

The bomb will explode in 24 hours time. It will kill a million people if it explodes. If bomb disposal experts get to the bomb before it explodes, there’s a chance it could be defused. The fat man cannot be tricked into revealing the location of the bomb, nor is it possible to appeal to his better nature, nor is it possible to persuade him that he was wrong to plant the bomb in the first place. If the fat man is tortured, then it is estimated there is a 75% chance that he will give up the bomb’s location.
If the fat man does not reveal the location, the bomb will explode, and a million people will die: there is no other way of finding out where the bomb is located.

Should the fat man be tortured in the hope that he will reveal the location of the nuclear device?

Antwoord: Yes, the fat man should be tortured

Your response that the fat man should be tortured is in direct contradiction with your earlier claim that torture is always wrong. However, it does make sense in terms of some of the other responses you have given. In particular, on at least one occasion you have responded that it would be right to end the life of one person to save the lives of some other greater number of people. It would be strange then if you did not think it might sometimes be right to torture a person if by doing so it might be possible to save all those people whose lives would otherwise be lost in a nuclear explosion. Perhaps then you should revisit your blanket opposition to torture.

The scenarios featured in this activity have been constructed to elicit contrasting intuitions about whether it is justified to end the life of one person in order to save the lives of some other greater number of people.

Part of what is interesting here is what this tell us about consequentialist approaches to moral thinking. For example, straightforward utilitarianism, which holds that an act is morally right to the extent that it maximises the sum total of happiness of all the people affected by it (when compared to the other available options), would seem to require an affirmative response to all the questions below. However, we know from previous research that such a consensus is unlikely. In particular, very few people tend to think that the fat man should be pushed off the bridge in order to save the lives of the five people stuck on the track. The fact that this option is so counterintuitive to so many people represents a significant challenge to straightforward utilitarian thinking.

There is also an issue to do with consistency here. It is often thought to be a good thing if one’s moral choices are governed by a small number of consistently applied moral principles. If this is not the case, then there is the worry that moral choices are essentially arbitrary – just a matter of intuition or making it up as you go along. Suppose, for example, you think it is justified to divert the train in the first scenario simply because it is the best way to maximise human happiness, but you do not think this justification applies in the case of the fat man on the bridge. The problem here is that unless you’re able to identify morally relevant differences between the two scenarios, then it isn’t clear what role the justification plays in the first case. Put simply, it seems that the justification is neither necessary nor sufficient for the moral judgement that it is right to divert the train.

Terecht: ik ben altijd al een hevige tegenstander van utilitarisme geweest.

De site staat vol met dergelijke “spelletjes”. Blijkbaar denk ik dat:

It seems that you believe that there is no moral difference between killing and letting die.

It seems possible you are committed to the view that it is not morally permissible to intervene in a situation in order to save people’s lives if the intervention comes at the cost of some other person’s life.

Dat lijkt niet alleen mogelijk. Dat denk ik inderdaad. Gek dat zoveel mensen hier anders over denken… Probeer het zeker eens zelf uit op: http://www.philosophyexperiments.com.

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