## Dollars or death?

• 377
Perhaps one of the most impactful social questions one could ask, one that we've all already answered, that dictates the path of society:

On your right a man is tied to a railroad track, and a train is en route. You have time to untie him and save his life.

On your left another man holding a briefcase of 100 certified million dollar certificates that are already signed to your name. He says to you he will give you the certificates, and you will then have 100 million dollars, but only if you go with him now, and only if you don't untie the man from the tracks.

There are no other options.

There aren't any details, just the choice.

Which would you choose, and why?
• 3.4k
I'd rob the guy with the briefcase and untie the man on the tracks.

As Admiral Kirk once said "I don't believe in the no-win scenario." Or his even wiser first officer might have said: The needs of me & bumpkin tied-up on the tracks outweigh the needs of the fool with a $100m briefcase. :smirk: • 2.2k Is this supposed to be a dilemma? The correct moral choice is clear, save the person on the tracks. Are you seriously asking if people should value money over life? • 1.3k Has anyone actually done this experiment, or is there any anecdotal evidence of how actual people have acted in such situation? • 377 sounds like you would be surprised of the answers • 377 yes, the entire geopolitical socioeconomic system • 377 so you opt to neglect the question. I'll take that as no answer • 3.4k Take it anyway you can. • 2.4k The money can be used to save more lives, so you are committing far more murder if you don't take the money and use it for good. • 2.2k Maybe, what answers are you talking about? • 5.1k Perhaps one of the most impactful social questions one could ask, one that we've all already answered, that dictates the path of society: Little known fact - The word "philosophy" comes from ancient Minoan combining "pilos," meaning "love of" and "physos," meaning "silly thought experiments." Why do philosophers think that pointless, unrealistic thought experiments can shed any light on moral questions? See the trolley problem. Can't you come up with something that might actually happen in an actual person's actual life? • 14 So would you let the person die and take the money? • 2.4k I don't really think these moral hypotheticals are actually useful or interesting • 915 The money can be used to save more lives, so you are committing far more murder if you don't take the money and use it for good.Maw This is exactly how the elite think (but, of course, most of them never get around to using it for good). • 1.1k Sorry, but for$100mm the guy on the tracks is toast. With $100mm you could save countless lives and leverage that money in enormous ways to make real, lasting changes in communities that can last for generations. • 377 you can certainly apply this principle to common life problems, and in fact we all do on a daily basis in deciding what products and services we use and what paths we take. That's why I've said we have all already answered this question. It's a correlation to the entire global socioeconomic system in a cut and dry simplistic scenario. The choice one would make in this scenario is a reflection of the choice one would make when faced with being rich at the expense of others. • 377 if you're to keen for thought experiments let's just throw relativity out the window while we're at it. • 377 Actually surprised I have to explain this here. Usually a fairly thoughtful group of people • 377 Let's all just pretend 100m makes you charitable, and that there arent sweatshops across the globe of human beings working for naught but food and shelter. Yeah let's pretend that there's no one starving because money fixes it. • 5.1k you can certainly apply this principle to common life problems, and in fact we all do on a daily basis in deciding what products and services we use and what paths we take. Then why not use one of those "common life problems" instead of something that has never happened and won't ever happen to anyone in the history and future of the universe. It makes philosophy look like a joke, which is ok if that's what you're trying to do. If you think it makes it look wise or insightful, it doesn't. And what is it with trains? Why do philosophers like trains so much? And what if it was Adolf Hitler tied to the tracks? Or what if it was 100 million pictures of Adolf Hitler instead of dollars? • 5.1k if you're to keen for thought experiments let's just throw relativity out the window while we're at it. I have nothing against thought experiments, as I noted, my beef is with "pointless, unrealistic thought experiments." Also, Einstein was a physicist, not a philosopher. Also - Einstein's thought experiment isn't what made the theory of special relativity true. It was just an explanation of an actual aspect of the world. • 377 because it's a simple way of outlining the root of the issue, and gives the reader the opportunity to consider their decision and compare it to other scenarios. If observing the question of life vs money is pointless to you, then either you have no moral compass or you're naive to the world and in for a rude awakening. • 377 there arent any additional details because this would change the outline of the circumstances. The question is specifically death or dollars. • 377 Sure are spending a lot of time on this attempting to convince me of a moot opinion for someone who could care less. • 377 Also... Einstein was definitely a philosopher. Are you daft? :lol: • 1.1k Lol, 100m is super excessive, I would leave the guy on the tracks for much, much less. I don't think this question is necessarily as worthless as people are saying but only because some people actually would save the guy over 100m. That's hilarious in itself. The only people who are saying they'd take it are saying that they'd use the money to help people around the world. Do the posters on this forum really take themselves that seriously? It's just so bad to take the money rather than save someone else's life? How hypocritical, how unbelievably pathetic. • 377 see above replies. You were so sure the "obvious answer" yet here we are • 377 you always have the anti human hot take. So edgy. At least you're consistent I guess • 9.3k A more complex scenario would be more interesting and challenging. In Situation Ethics [1966], Joseph Fletcher poses this situation: an unattractive man asks an attractive woman whether she would have sex with him for$1,000,000. She would. How about $500,000? She would.$100,000? Yes. $50,000? Yes. and so on. Finally he offers$25.

She says: "$25! What kind of woman do you think I am?" He says: "Madam; we've already determined what kind of woman you are; we're just haggling over the price" Your situation asks how much one of us would require to let a stranger die on the railroad track?$100,000,000? Think of all the good I could with $100,000,000.$10,000,000? Yes, $100,000? Probably. "Would you let he man tied to the railroad track die for$100?"

"Hey, What kind of cold-blooded killer do you think I am?"
"We've already determined the kind of killer you are; we're just haggling over the price."

Accepting the money would be an act of murder because we understand the consequences of accepting the money. You are quite correct that cash is valued over life every day in a wide variety of circumstances (though usually not as obvious as when someone is tied to the proverbial railroad track). Or more to the point, a life is valued below the amount of cash on offer. "Improving this product (at an up-front cost of $2,000,000) will save 100 lives (at$20,000 per) over 5 years. We will not be able to pay the expected dividend, however, if we spend \$2,000,000 on improvements.

The improvement plan is shelved.
• 2.2k

You were specific about there being no additional information to go on so you could focus solely on the moral “dilemma” which I did, and I think I was the only person to respect the boundaries of the thought experiment. The problem I pointed out was that within the boundaries the correct moral action is to save the person.
Taking the money to save more lives is outside the boundaries you set I thought, since that would rely in more information introduced to the dilemma. (Are there other people worth saving? Are there other people in trouble? Are there other people? Is the problem im saving other people from with the money even actually solvable by money alone? Am I obligated to save the maximum amount of people etc etc )
• 377
I think it's an interesting question, and I think what's even more interesting are the answers, because it's a spectrum, and there isn't a clear cut moral answer that we would all agree on, even in the case that someone's life is on the line. Although the decision might be different in the moment, being that thought would need to be quick, we can still see this spectrum of decisions presented here.

There are those who will choose without question to take the money just to have the money. These people are dedicated to themselves. There's really not much else to say about them.

Then there are people who will save the man. These people are dedicated to ensuring life in it's present form is preserved. That anyone living should have the opportunity to continue to do so.

Then somewhere in between are those who will take the money with the justification of sacrificing life with the intention of preserving more life afterwards. This is the most interesting to me. Compared to the man with a shack and rice, the majority of people here typing on their computers will seem to the man with the shack and rice as fairly abundant, and could surely benefit from even 5% of any of our annual income; to increase their livelihood and to add potential to the survival of themselves and their family, but how many of those answering this question in this way are already willing or are currently seeing this forward? And what amount of money will make someone decide to be charitable? 30k p year? 100? 1million? If so many are so charitable, why does this man have a shack and rice in the first place?
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