• Fire Ologist
    349
    I think we can blame people for obvious negligence; so if you are stipulating that a person was informed clearly that they should not be on the tracks, that they have the freedom to easily move off of the tracks, they refuse with no good reason to be on the tracks, and the other five people (on the other tracks) do not have the freedom to move nor are they being negligent; then, yes, I would pull the lever because I am no longer killing an innocent person.Bob Ross

    I appreciate that answer.

    In this case, would you have a duty to save more lives, and that’s why you would pull the lever, or does it matter that the people tied to the tracks are innocent?
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    I think a question is whether someone can be justified in doing something they think is generally morally impermissible because there is a benefit which is morally right.

    Perhaps: if the instance is not applicable to the general principle, then that would work. I am saying that killing an innocent person is always—not generally—wrong.

    Maybe one factor is that we tend to talk about moral claims in terms of absolutes which are context-independent - "killing is wrong" - but realistically, everything happens in a context and some contexts really test the limits of those principles. I'm inclined to the view that maybe we create these rules as a way of simplifying the moral process even though realistically, things aren't so simple in some contexts.

    That is fair; but I am saying killing an innocent person is always wrong; just like rape. Those aren’t general principles...unless that’s what you are advocating? Do you think rape is sometimes morally permissible?

    "If Killing an innocent person is wrong you can't do it". But then on the otherhand, can you not easily make a claim something like "Saving the human race is right and you should do it."

    You would be right if I was claiming that saving the human race was always morally obligatory; it’s not.

    But a question is whether if it was more normal for these contexts to overlap, we would find it more permissible to kill an innocent life to save humanity

    Saving humanity is morally permissible but not obligatory: it is not wrong, per se, to not save humanity. You are forgetting about moral omissibility.

    . Do we not already do this with regard to animals? Other innocent living things we kill to survive?

    I happen to think that only beings of rational kinds have the right to not be killed if they are innocent.

    Actually seems pretty brutal. Now obviously I completely get this reasoning and it is very pragmatic, but it seems that this pragmatic pull doesn't seem to be something that was already in place in the scenario. What does no good reason even mean here? If they believe the track is a sacred religious site is that a good reason?

    I was keeping it generic on purpose: one doesn’t need to know what exactly counts as a morally relevant factor or reason to understand that what obviously isn’t is stubbornly sitting on a track just for the fun of it (or whatever).

    What if they just feel extremely passionate that they have to sit on this track for no good reason through no fault of their own, is that any different?

    How is that no fault of their own? You just said they are standing on the tracks because they desired it. Are we not held accountable for our actions, even if they spring from our desires?

    What does innocent mean here?

    It means that the person, in the event which is being analyzed, has not done anything which would cause them to forfeit certain rights.

    Surely, if this was just a man on a regular rail track you would not run him over and you would say he had not necessarily forfeits his life... or would you?

    No, because he is innocent until proven or reasonably demonstrated to be guilty.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    I think the same reasoning may apply in the inverse with the trolley. Whether you pull or do not pull the lever, you aren’t responsible for any of the deaths. You are not responsible for the death of the person alone on the tracks if what you were doing was trying save as many lives as possible to address a situation that was otherwise beyond your control.

    But you are. If you pull the lever, you have killed an innocent person, and, worse yet, you intended to.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Good question! Voluntarily choosing to die is morally permissible because it is voluntary. In the case of myself, I cannot involuntarily force myself to do something: that's paradoxical (at best). Therefore, it is morally permissible for me to sacrifice myself to save other people.

    However, it would be immoral for someone else to try to force me to voluntarily sacrifice myself to save other people because it is no longer voluntary if I do it.

    When I say it is wrong to kill an innocent person, I am assuming that they are getting killed against their will. This does bring up an interesting topic of euthanasia and assisted suicide; but I will refrain for now (;
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    In this case, would you have a duty to save more lives, and that’s why you would pull the lever, or does it matter that the people tied to the tracks are innocent?

    For me, it was that the five are innocent. If you are amending it such that no one is innocent; then I would have a duty to save more lives.
  • Fire Ologist
    349


    And if all of them were innocent, one should not take hand in killing innocent life by pulling the lever so one would have to let the five die. Is that your take?
  • Apustimelogist
    395
    Those aren’t general principlesBob Ross

    I wasn't suggesting general in that sense. My point is that killing an innocent person could be wrong. But saving the human race could be right. At the same time. Irreconcilably.

    Saving humanity is morally permissible but not obligatory: it is not wrong, per se, to not save humanity. You are forgetting about moral omissibility.Bob Ross

    I haven't been assuming anything about obligations but I struggle to see how someone who refusing to save the world wouldn't have any moral significance.

    I happen to think that only beings of rational kinds have the right to not be killed if they are innocent.Bob Ross

    Fair enough!

    I was keeping it generic on purpose: one doesn’t need to know what exactly counts as a morally relevant factor or reason to understand that what obviously isn’t is stubbornly sitting on a track just for the fun of it (or whatever).

    ...

    How is that no fault of their own? You just said they are standing on the tracks because they desired it. Are we not held accountable for our actions, even if they spring from our desires?
    Bob Ross

    I guess I am just not as sold on this forfeiting right to life thing, at least, how it was framed in your paragraph. That's obviously not to say I don't understand why the driver might think it morally better to run over the person (afterall I putforward the killing innocent vs. saving the world thing). I am just not necessarily sold on this conceptualization or language in terms of forfeiting life. But maybe I am reading that idea too strongly. Obviously someone can have a strong impulsion to go on the tracks when they have been told not too. I am not entirely that makes it right to kill them. I am not sure I agree with this kind of retributive aspect of it where surely their life would not be forfeit if they were just an idiot on the tracks in a normal situation. But because of these 5 victims, you say now its okay for someone to pull the lever and and change tracks on them. I would have to think that scenario over.


    It means that the person, in the event which is being analyzed, has not done anything which would cause them to forfeit certain rights.Bob Ross

    Alright, sure.

    No, because he is innocent until proven or reasonably demonstrated to be guilty.Bob Ross

    Oh, so what he is guilty of in this scenario is not saving lives ans thats why he deserves to die? Yup, its a tough one for me.
  • Apustimelogist
    395


    Interesting analysis, better example of the plane scenario.
  • LuckyR
    394


    Obvious to you (and me), how about a sociopath? I think not.
  • Frog
    11


    The complications come in when you consider the value of the individuals on the tracks — Philosophim

    This seems like a slippery slope here, assigning individuals "value." To believe that someone is objectively more valuable than another is

    A) dangerous, as such a thought natural leads to the preservation of "valuable" individuals and the sacrifice, or perhaps even the culling, of "undesirables," to increase the amount of "valuables."

    B) absurd, as it would imply either an objective decider of one's value, or that you are the objective decider (which, noone is).

    C) an oversimplification of a person. One cannot simply assign a number (ex. a "value") to a person, because the person behind the number is forgotten. While it is my belief that yes, we are all simply variables in a grand calculus, and that we don't truly matter, to reduce another man to a number is to waste the power you have to make him truly valued. We are all insignificant to the universe, and we can only ever be significant to one another, and by refusing to acknowledge them as people, you waste this power.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    However, it would be immoral for someone else to try to force me to voluntarily sacrifice myself to save other people because it is no longer voluntary if I do it.Bob Ross

    I see, so while innocence is a factor, the an important ingredient here is self-agency. So I assume in the case of the one person on the track yelling, "Do it!" dramatically like out of a movie, you would be ok with throwing the track to hit them instead of the five who yelled, "No, please don't!".

    That leads to two more scenarios then. What if:

    a. The five plead with you to kill them instead of save the one, while the one is pleading with you not kill them, but kill the other five?

    b. What if both sides plead with you to kill them and save the other side?
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    This seems like a slippery slope here, assigning individuals "value." To believe that someone is objectively more valuable than another isFrog

    Its a nice ideal to not do this, but practically we do this all the time. Parents will throw themselves in danger to save their children. Men will sacrifice their lives by going to war to save their families. If we have an old person vs a young person who need a kidney transplant, and we only have one, most people would want the younger person saved.

    A. It is only dangerous if we have no objective standard of morality. If we say, "Whatever you feel is moral is moral", then yes, any morality is dangerous because subjectivity is a terrible way to judge the value of others.

    B. Again, this only happens if morality is subjective.

    C. Our government does this all the time. WE do this all the time. Did you know there is enough money in America to feed the entire world? Did you know we could pay the medical bills of all Americans and no one would ever have to die of starvation or lack of medical care again? Most people could probably live comfortably on far less and give to the less fortunate so they have a better quality of life and don't die, but most don't.

    While it is my belief that yes, we are all simply variables in a grand calculus, and that we don't truly matter, to reduce another man to a number is to waste the power you have to make him truly valued.Frog

    You don't actually believe that. If you actually believed that, you wouldn't care. But you do. What you can't do is create an objective reason why beyond your own emotions, so you come up with the only thing that can make rational sense without saying, "There must be an objective morality I'm not aware of." The thing which actually does make sense is, "There must be an objective morality I'm not aware of." But we would have to admit we don't know it. Some people have a hard time with this.

    We are all insignificant to the universe, and we can only ever be significant to one another, and by refusing to acknowledge them as people, you waste this power.Frog

    Yeah again, you don't actually believe this. Here's the thing. Emotionally? I hardly care about anyone. I could kill, steal, and lie to people and it wouldn't impact me negatively. Also, I don't feel any particular joy or triumph from committing evil to another person either. Meaning, I have every right to believe that there is no objective morality and that nothing matters, but I don't. Why? Because emotions are guides, but they are not ultimately why we should make rational decisions.

    My observations demonstrate to me a strong objective pattern of morality that belies subjectivity underlying human cultures. Not that I'm saying I've figured it out. But the idea that there is no morality or that it is purely subjective just doesn't seem to coincide with the smaller and larger patterns of interactive reality among living things. In the same breath you say it doesn't matter, but then berate me that we shouldn't waste our power in your beliefs. I would much rather you say "nothing matters" but act like it does however. And I'm sure you would for me too.

    I say lets work on figuring out the patterns of morality instead of saying things we don't believe in, possibly confusing other people like me who have little emotional guidance to guide them. AI is coming, and we better have a morality to teach it. We can't afford to pat ourselves on the back with moral nihilism. Its not clever, and it helps no one.
  • Frog
    11


    You make a good point. Thank you for your response!

    There is only one thing I can disagree with within your response, and it is this:
    There must be an objective morality I'm not aware of.

    While I see your point, and I now realise my cowardice in not being able to admit this, I must disagree with a complete, objective morality. If morality is truly objective, and our emotions are guides to help us follow this morality, then why does this "objective" morality differ from culture to culture? Why do the Chinese value upholding their honour more than we in the west do? Why do the Slavics find it correct to hold in their emotions rather than to "burden" others with them? Why is politeness and discipline considered a core trait in Japan, and not so much in, say, the Baltics?

    Now, I don't mean to say that all people of these cultures act and value the exact same, and these are simply observations I myself and those around me have noticed, one must admit that there are different "objective" moralities around the world. I would instead argue for a sort of cultural morality, wherein the morals of a person are shaped by their culture mainly, rather than being completely innate.
  • Tom Storm
    8.6k
    Now, I don't mean to say that all people of these cultures act and value the exact same, and these are simply observations I myself and those around me have noticed, one must admit that there are different "objective" moralities around the world.Frog

    You've just raised the most common argument for relativism - the fact that morality varies from place to place and across time. Your examples appear less to do with morality and more about etiquette. Don't forget that treating women as chattel, having sex with children and owning slaves are accepted in some cultures too. Now and in the past.

    But the usual response to this common argument is the fact that just because morals differ between cultures and over time does not imply the absence of objective morality. From this perspective the point is to determine which actions and moral positions are correct and which ones are not.

    I would instead argue for a sort of cultural morality, wherein the morals of a person are shaped by their culture mainly, rather than being completely innate.Frog

    I tend to agree with this. But one can still evoke the naturalistic fallacy and maintain that just because people are shaped by culture does not mean this leads to correct moral thinking. So this still leaves us with the question which behaviours are morally justifiable and which aren't.
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    Then with the human race gone, morality has gone with it - what was the point of upholding that moral decision then!Apustimelogist

    I think there are two different conceptions of morality which are butting heads: one which is based on justice and individual rights, and another which is based on social well-being or lubrication. At the end of the day the (innocent) individual's right to not be killed is not necessarily in sync with with a morality that privileges the whole over the individual.

    But at this point the contrived nature of the trolley problem may become problematic, for the claim that one might be forced to kill innocents in order to save the race or community may be nothing more than a contrivance. Further, cases where this sort of thing is required usually create volunteers (e.g. those who volunteer to be soldiers, or those who volunteer to be guinea pigs for a novel vaccine, etc.). When there is legitimate communal need the members of the community are given to satisfying that need, thus adverting a transgression against individual human rights.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    You make a good point. Thank you for your response!Frog

    Its always pleasant to interact with people such as yourself! Thank you.

    If morality is truly objective, and our emotions are guides to help us follow this morality, then why does this "objective" morality differ from culture to culture? Why do the Chinese value upholding their honour more than we in the west do? Why do the Slavics find it correct to hold in their emotions rather than to "burden" others with them? Why is politeness and discipline considered a core trait in Japan, and not so much in, say, the Baltics?Frog

    They key is to look at what's in common, even among their differences. For example, there is no culture that values murder or stealing. In cases where there is variation, I've found if you look at the environment or political system, you can see that its all about preservation of a certain power dynamic.

    For example, in a place with scarce resources, a culture may honor the land more. In a monarchy system, loyalty to higher status individuals is emphasized, while in democratic cultures, higher status loyalty to lower status individuals is more highly praised.

    I'm working on my ow proposal for objective morality where I note that if an objective morality exists, there must be a minimal fundamental to build on. Its here if you're curious. https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/15203/in-any-objective-morality-existence-is-inherently-good/p1
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k

    (CC: @@Fire Ologist

    To me, the principle of Double Effect rests on a vague and (typically) biased distinction between intending to do something and intending to do something which also has bad side-effects. It seems like, in every example I have gotten my hands on, a person could equally reasonably tie the known bad “side-effect” as a part of the person’s intentions.

    For example, in the terror vs. tactical bomber example it is not clear at all (to me) how the tactical bomber knowing they are going to kill an innocent person as collateral damage is not intentionally sacrificing them for the greater good. What proponents of the principle seem to say, is that the tactical bomber is intending to bomb the military building and not killing any innocent bystanders: their deaths are just unfortunate “side-effects” of the good deed.

    I also think that this principle Double Effect would equally justify consequentialist thinking on the 1 vs. 5 trolley problem; because a person could just say that they are intending to save the 5, and killing the 1 is a mere bad ‘side-effect’ of it.

    Suppose a pilot runs out of fuel over a large music festival and his airplane will crash somewhere in the festival no matter what he does. The pilot has a duty not to kill, but he also has a separate but related duty to cause as few deaths as possible in the event where he cannot avoid causing deaths (whether or not we decide to call this "causing of death" killing). So the good pilot will land in the area with fewest people to minimize injury and death.

    To me, this is no different than the trolley problem, and you are here affirming, analogously, to sacrifice the one to save the many. You are saying that the pilot’s lack of action will result in innocent deaths (just like not pulling the lever) and their actions to avoid it would result in innocent deaths (just like pulling the lever); so I am having a hard time seeing how you agree with me on the trolley problem, but don’t agree that the pilot should, in your case you have here, do nothing.

    It is an easier case on account of the necessity involved: given that the pilot literally has no choice but to cause the death of innocents, the consequent death of innocents cannot be imputed to his free actions

    If the plane is out of fuel, and it is not the pilot’s fault that it is out of fuel, then he has the choice not to perform any action that would kill an innocent person; instead, he can let innocent people die.

    You have setup the same trolley problem with an airplane: what if the fuel runs out in an airplane and the plane is about to crash into 5 innocent people, but the pilot could divert the plane to kill one innocent person instead—is that permissible? It is the same dilemma.

    The question arises: did the pilot intentionally kill (or injure) the people in that area? I think not.

    If the pilot diverts the plane to kill less people, then they have intentionally sacrificed those people for the sake of other people; just like how a person who pulls the lever intentionally sacrifices the one to save the five. Am I missing something?
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Correct. I cannot commit an immoral act to avoid a morally bad outcome. Letting them die, is morally ommissible because I cannot save them without doing something immoral.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    I see, so while innocence is a factor, the an important ingredient here is self-agency.

    I would say both are important. Not everything one does to themselves is morally permissible (in virtue of ‘self-agency’).

    So I assume in the case of the one person on the track yelling, "Do it!" dramatically like out of a movie, you would be ok with throwing the track to hit them instead of the five who yelled, "No, please don't!".

    Not necessarily. I would have to be certain that they really mean it: otherwise, I would error on the side of assuming they don’t consent.

    For example, a person that would scream out for me to divert the track could quite plausibly be mentally ill; and not doing it as a heroic deed.

    What if both sides plead with you to kill them and save the other side?

    Assuming both parties really mean it and are in their right minds to mean it genuinely (e.g., they aren’t mentally ill, impaired, etc.), then I would pull the lever. If a person has the choice to limit the amount of human deaths in a morally permissible manner, then they should.

    The five plead with you to kill them instead of save the one, while the one is pleading with you not kill them, but kill the other five?

    This is just the same thing, unless I am misunderstanding, as the five, who are already going to die, telling me (assumingly genuinely and validly) that they don’t want me to pull the lever to avoid sacrificing the one person who is innocent and has not volunteered to be sacrificed: so this scenario doesn’t amend it in any way that would change the morally relevant factors. I can’t sacrifice an innocent person, absent their consent (and even then sometimes I still can’t), to save the five. Did I miss something about this scenario?
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    To me, this is no different than the trolley problem, and you are here affirming, analogously, to sacrifice the one to save the many. You are saying that the pilot’s lack of action will result in innocent deaths (just like not pulling the lever) and their actions to avoid it would result in innocent deaths (just like pulling the lever); so I am having a hard time seeing how you agree with me on the trolley problem, but don’t agree that the pilot should, in your case you have here, do nothing.Bob Ross

    Well the pilot is flying the plane, but the person in the trolley problem is not driving the trolley. Therefore to "do nothing" would seem to be quite different in the two cases. In the case of the pilot he would not be doing nothing, but would instead (or also) need to stop flying the plane.

    To me, the principle of Double Effect rests on a vague and (typically) biased distinction between intending to do something and intending to do something which also has bad side-effects.Bob Ross

    A locus classicus for double effect is Aquinas' ST II-II.64.7:

    I answer that, Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention. Now moral acts take their species according to what is intended, and not according to what is beside the intention, since this is accidental as explained above (II-II:43:3; I-II:12:1). Accordingly the act of self-defense may have two effects, one is the saving of one's life, the other is the slaying of the aggressor. Therefore this act, since one's intention is to save one's own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in "being," as far as possible. And yet, though proceeding from a good intention, an act may be rendered unlawful, if it be out of proportion to the end. Wherefore if a man, in self-defense, uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repel force with moderation his defense will be lawful, because according to the jurists [...], "it is lawful to repel force by force, provided one does not exceed the limits of a blameless defense." Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense in order to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's. But as it is unlawful to take a man's life, except for the public authority acting for the common good, as stated above. . .Aquinas, ST II-II.64.7: Whether it is lawful to kill a man in self-defense?

    I accept a relatively uncontroversial form of double effect whereby the unintended effect must only be possible and not certain.

    Regarding a more controversial form, we could think about Aquinas' example. Self-defense must by nature be at least proportionate to the aggressor's level of force, if it is to be adequate. So if a child attacks me I could restrain them easily without risking harming them. But as the aggressor's level of force increases, the level of force required to repel the aggressor in self-defense also increases. So if the aggressor has a knife then I will need to at least disarm or incapacitate them to successfully defend myself. If the aggressor has a gun then I will very likely need to shoot them with a gun to defend myself (if I cannot escape). As the level of necessary force rises, the risk of killing the aggressor also rises, but this rising risk does not necessarily imply that I am no longer justified in using adequate self-defense. The doctrine of double effect at this point seems to be a foregone conclusion, namely at the point where lethal force is necessary to repel an aggressor. At that point you say, "They might die, but I am nevertheless going to defend myself."

    For my money, <Aquinas> accepts the principle that one intends any effect which is known to be "always or frequently joined to" an act, and therefore in order to not-intend to kill one must perform an act that does not necessarily result in death. But this opinion is controversial.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    I wasn't suggesting general in that sense. My point is that killing an innocent person could be wrong. But saving the human race could be right. At the same time. Irreconcilably.

    Are you saying it is absolutely right to save the human race, and absolutely right not to sacrifice an innocent person; and that sometimes they are in conflict?

    If so, then I would say that one has to trump the other; or some other principle has to supersede them both. This is a half-baked ethical system (otherwise).

    I haven't been assuming anything about obligations but I struggle to see how someone who refusing to save the world wouldn't have any moral significance

    You are saying that one is obligated to save humanity and not to sacrifice a person to do it. Without further elaboration, you just have a moral antinomy in your view.

    I personally think that saving humanity is only obligatory if it can be done in a reasonable and permissible manner.

    I am just not necessarily sold on this conceptualization or language in terms of forfeiting life.

    It helps avoid morally counter-intuitive (and immoral) conclusions; like in the axeman example where someone may say “it is wrong to lie, so I must tell the axeman the truth even though it will help them find and kill an innocent person”.

    The meaningful difference between lying in general being wrong and these sort of cases where it is right to lie; resides in the fact that when one should lie to a person that person is actively doing something which causes them to forfeit their right to be told the truth (for that instance). The axeman is trying to violate someone else’s rights, and so they have forfeited the right to be told the truth about where that person is.

    Same with self-defense: an attacker has forfeited their right to be unharmed or killed by the fact that they are actively trying to illegitimately harm or kill another person.

    Oh, so what he is guilty of in this scenario is not saving lives ans thats why he deserves to die? Yup, its a tough one for me.

    I was agreeing with you: I would not pull the lever because he is presumed innocent. I would have to know, without a reasonable doubt, that he is on the tracks due to some sort of severe negligence or stupidity to find it permissible to sacrifice him to save the innocent five people.
  • Frog
    11
    Thank you! This has given me a lot to think over. I appreciate your words, and will think on this idea of an Objective Morality.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Well the pilot is flying the plane, but the person in the trolley problem is not driving the trolley. Therefore to "do nothing" would seem to be quite different in the two cases. In the case of the pilot he would not be doing nothing, but would instead (or also) need to stop flying the plane.

    This is a difference, no doubt; but not a relevant difference (to me).

    If one amends the trolley example such that the person who decides whether to pull the lever is actually, instead, the train operator and can choose to divert the train to the track with the 1 or stay on the track with the 5; then I would say it is immoral for the operator to divert the track. They cannot intentionally sacrifice one person to save five: they are still using that sacrificed person as a means towards an end.

    Same with the airplane.

    By “doing nothing” I mean that they let the train run over the five: it is stipulated that them stopping steering will do nothing to help save the five, but nevertheless they should stop steering. In normal circumstances, where this stipulation would not exist, one would be obligated to try to do everything they can besides sacrificing someone else to get the train to stop before it runs the five over.

    I accept a relatively uncontroversial form of double effect whereby the unintended effect must only be possible and not certain.

    Isn’t one certain, in your airplane example, that they are going to kill innocent people to save more innocent people?

    With respect to self-defense, I would say that the aggressor has forfeited their rights proportionately to their assault; and this principle of forfeiture is doing the leg-work here, and not a principle of double effect.
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    This is a difference, no doubt; but not a relevant difference (to me).Bob Ross

    Does a pilot have a duty to fly his plane?

    If one amends the trolley example such that the person who decides whether to pull the lever is actually, instead, the train operator and can choose to divert the train to the track with the 1 or stay on the track with the 5; then I would say it is immoral for the operator to divert the track. They cannot intentionally sacrifice one person to save five: they are still using that sacrificed person as a means towards an end.

    Same with the airplane.

    By “doing nothing” I mean that they let the train run over the five: it is stipulated that them stopping steering will do nothing to help save the five, but nevertheless they should stop steering. In normal circumstances, where this stipulation would not exist, one would be obligated to try to do everything they can besides sacrificing someone else to get the train to stop before it runs the five over.
    Bob Ross

    Suppose you are driving your car. Four people appear on the road, two on each side. If you keep going in the same direction you will hit all four. If you swerve left you will only hit the two on the left. If you swerve right you will only hit the two on the right. You don't have time to stop. What do you do?

    (See also 's thread)

    Isn’t one certain, in your airplane example, that they are going to kill innocent people to save more innocent people?Bob Ross

    I would highlight two things that I said earlier:

    given that the pilot literally has no choice but to cause the death of innocents, the consequent death of innocents cannot be imputed to his free actions.Leontiskos
    Some might reasonably argue that this falls short of an authentic case of double effect insofar as the act with the double effect (or side effect) is involuntary (i.e. the act of landing the plane, which is not strictly speaking a choice at all).Leontiskos

    Beyond that, the further question lies here:

    This intersects with the trolley scenario via the difficult question of whether the evil effect is a means to the good effect.Leontiskos

    In the airplane or car scenario it is not at all clear that the evil effect is a means to the good effect. The good effect would be chosen with or without the evil effect. Of course the trolley introduces an obvious counterargument...

    -

    With respect to self-defense, I would say that the aggressor has forfeited their rights proportionately to their assault; and this principle of forfeiture is doing the leg-work here, and not a principle of double effect.Bob Ross

    Okay, interesting. I suppose the question is whether someone can forfeit their right to life vis-a-vis a private party. A criminal forfeits their rights and then the community or state punishes them accordingly, but it's not clear that this sort of forfeiture and punishment is applicable to private citizens.
  • Herg
    217
    If one amends the trolley example such that the person who decides whether to pull the lever is actually, instead, the train operator and can choose to divert the train to the track with the 1 or stay on the track with the 5; then I would say it is immoral for the operator to divert the track. They cannot intentionally sacrifice one person to save five: they are still using that sacrificed person as a means towards an end.Bob Ross
    This is incorrect. The means they are using to save the 5 is the lever by which they divert the train. The 1 who dies is not the means, but merely someone who unfortunately happens to be on the other track. In this way the trolley problem differs from the transplant problem, where the healthy patient actually IS the means of saving the 5 unhealthy patients.
  • Apustimelogist
    395


    If so, then I would say that one has to trump the other; or some other principle has to supersede them both. This is a half-baked ethical system (otherwise).Bob Ross

    I haven't proposed an ethical system but I haven't seen any that successfully resolve this issue in a fully satisfactory way... which I guess is why it is being talked about in the first place.

    You are saying that one is obligated to save humanity and not to sacrifice a person to do it. Without further elaboration, you just have a moral antinomy in your view.Bob Ross

    Yes, this is the point I was conveying. Sometimes these kinds of paradoxes just exist. But I don't like the word obligated. I find that term a bit loaded. I don't even know what it really means to be obligated to do something unless this obligation is being enforced by some kind of legislative body or something like that.

    It helps avoid morally counter-intuitive (and immoral) conclusions; like in the axeman example where someone may say “it is wrong to lie, so I must tell the axeman the truth even though it will help them find and kill an innocent person”.Bob Ross

    Well I think people can avoid this kind of issue in other ways. I think I am probably more comfortable with it as maybe more along the lines of legal concepts but morally it seems a bit too dispassionate for me and sometimes a bit too absolute in how you can suddenly just lose a "right". Maybe my thinking is along the lines of : just as how many of these antinomies don't feel satisfactory when I apply a black-and-white wrong/right label to their outcomes, I don't think that the idea of losing or gaining "rights" should be so black and white either. Again, I think in a setting more explicitly about law or formal rules, I might think differently.

    I was agreeing with you: I would not pull the lever because he is presumed innocent. I would have to know, without a reasonable doubt, that he is on the tracks due to some sort of severe negligence or stupidity to find it permissible to sacrifice him to save the innocent five people.Bob Ross

    I think some of our wires must have been crossed in this particular conversation, perhaps when I was talking about the "a man on a regular rail" where I meant (maybe unclearly) just a man on a single pair of tracks walking about, no other people involved. My thought then was that even if the man had refused to obey the rules of being on the track we wouldn't normally think he deserved to be killed by the train or that it would br acceptable for the train driver to acknowledge that there was a man on the tracks and plow him down anyway without any intent in trying to stop.

    Its not clear to me either, that if we have a variation of the regular trolley problem where the 1 person on the tracks could have got off but didn't or knew they shouldn't be there but chose to, that it would be vastly more acceptable to pull the lever and run him over than in the regular scenario. I am not entirely sure.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Does a pilot have a duty to fly his plane?

    Yes, but this does not permit them to sacrifice innocent people to fulfill such duty.

    Suppose you are driving your car. Four people appear on the road, two on each side. If you keep going in the same direction you will hit all four. If you swerve left you will only hit the two on the left. If you swerve right you will only hit the two on the right. You don't have time to stop. What do you do?

    This is a really good example, that tripped me up a bit (:

    Firstly, I would like to disclaim that this is different than the airplane example because you are stipulating that the people being sacrificed are actually already victims—which spices things up significantly (;

    Secondly, I would say that one must continue to go straight, assuming they cannot try to veer away to avoid all 4 altogether (and have to choose between intending to kill the two to save the other two and letting all 4 die), because, otherwise, they would be intending to kill two people as a means toward the good end of saving two people.

    A person that says otherwise, would be acting like a consequentialist full-stop: they would be allowing a person to intend to kill an innocent person for the sole sake of the greater good. I don’t see how the principle of Double Effect gets one out of this without it becoming inherently consequentialist.

    Now, in practical life, since such stipulations are not in place, I would veer away intending to miss all 4 and would not ever intend to kill two to save the other two. If I happen to kill two instead of four because I didn’t manage to swerve far enough away; than that is a bad outcome but I had good intentions and thusly didn’t do anything immoral (unless, of course, there is reason to blame me for reckless driving or something).

    I would highlight two things that I said earlier:
    given that the pilot literally has no choice but to cause the death of innocents, the consequent death of innocents cannot be imputed to his free actions. — Leontiskos
    Some might reasonably argue that this falls short of an authentic case of double effect insofar as the act with the double effect (or side effect) is involuntary (i.e. the act of landing the plane, which is not strictly speaking a choice at all).

    The bolded is the important mistake you are making, that consequentialists make in the trolley problem: letting something bad happen is not the same thing as doing something bad. The pilot is not, in your example, in a situation where they are morally responsible for the deaths of innocent lives. If they keep flying because there are no ways to crash land without intentionally killing innocent people and the plane eventually just crash lands itself (by slowing falling to the ground) and it kills innocent people, then the pilot would be without moral fault. Just like how the person who doesn’t pull the lever would be without moral fault.

    In the airplane or car scenario it is not at all clear that the evil effect is a means to the good effect.

    You don’t think that that pilot, by intentionally veering into an area of innocent people to crash land to avoid crashing into more innocent people in a different area, is intentionally killing innocent people? I don’t see the reasoning there. It isn’t merely an evil effect: the pilot has an evil intention (to sacrifice innocent people for the greater good).

    Okay, interesting. I suppose the question is whether someone can forfeit their right to life vis-a-vis a private party. A criminal forfeits their rights and then the community or state punishes them accordingly, but it's not clear that this sort of forfeiture and punishment is applicable to private citizens

    I think so; but only proportionally to whatever they are doing to forfeit it. For example, the axeman should be lied to (even though one should normally tell people the truth) because one knows the axeman is using that information to actively hunt and kill an innocent person—this causes the axeman to forfeit their right to be told the truth (in this instance).
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    The 1 who dies is not the means, but merely someone who unfortunately happens to be on the other track. In this way the trolley problem differs from the transplant problem, where the healthy patient actually IS the means of saving the 5 unhealthy patients.

    If one diverts a track to save 5 people knowing 1 person will die as a result of it (that wouldn’t have otherwise), then they are intending to sacrifice that 1 person to save the 5. They cannot validly say “the 1 person was merely a bad side-effect of saving the 5”. That doesn’t cut it, nor has anything remotely similar cut it in the court of law.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Yes, this is the point I was conveying. Sometimes these kinds of paradoxes just exist.

    That’s fine. I just think this indicates that your ethical view isn’t fully fleshed out; and you will have to hierarchically adjust your moral principles to fix this paradox/antinomy. I have my solution, which you already have heard, but if you don’t like it then you will have to come up with your own.

    I don't even know what it really means to be obligated to do something unless this obligation is being enforced by some kind of legislative body or something like that.

    I would say obligation is a duty towards something; and duty arises out of commitment to what is (actually) good (viz., commitment to being moral).

    but morally it seems a bit too dispassionate for me and sometimes a bit too absolute in how you can suddenly just lose a "right".

    Well, I don’t mean forever. I mean that in a given circumstance a person may be morally obligated or permitted to do something to another person which is normally impermissible as a proportionate reaction to what that other person is immorally doing. E.g., the axemen doesn’t deserve to be lied to their entire lives because of that one incident.

    My thought then was that even if the man had refused to obey the rules of being on the track we wouldn't normally think he deserved to be killed by the train or that it would br acceptable for the train driver to acknowledge that there was a man on the tracks and plow him down anyway without any intent in trying to stop.

    Assuming there aren’t innocent people on the current track, then I agree.

    Its not clear to me either, that if we have a variation of the regular trolley problem where the 1 person on the tracks could have got off but didn't or knew they shouldn't be there but chose to, that it would be vastly more acceptable to pull the lever and run him over than in the regular scenario. I am not entirely sure.

    You think that the five innocent people should die because the one person was being extremely negligent?
  • Kizzy
    94
    Yeah again, you don't actually believe this. Here's the thing. Emotionally? I hardly care about anyone. I could kill, steal, and lie to people and it wouldn't impact me negatively. Also, I don't feel any particular joy or triumph from committing evil to another person either. Meaning, I have every right to believe that there is no objective morality and that nothing matters, but I don't. Why? Because emotions are guides, but they are not ultimately why we should make rational decisionsPhilosophim
    nice :strong:

    Since the complex parameters always matters in real situations, I'd much rather try and find a method of thinking that can incorporate variables and speed up decision makingChristoffer
    hmm, interesting



    also an interesting take...

    Now, I don't mean to say that all people of these cultures act and value the exact same, and these are simply observations I myself and those around me have noticed, one must admit that there are different "objective" moralities around the world. I would instead argue for a sort of cultural morality, wherein the morals of a person are shaped by their culture mainly, rather than being completely innate.Frog
    interesting...you are onto something but although I have an opposing overall take (I believe an objective reality) I think what you bring up is and has been before worthy of mention.

    That it is important to consider the range of affect each person has - the reach of their impact, based on their birth-death places, families origin and where their parents parents settled to where they currently are located, geographical range of impact of individual. I believe a person can live out a fulfilling life without being actually effected whatsoever by another persons life, because paths wont/dont cross and they were never made to cross from the start because of TIME amongst other things [in some cases-(distance in geolocations )]

    Reading your words while brain is ringing a bell...Memory from another thread on TPF...maybe a few threads but I know it definitely was brought up a few times because I agree with you that it may be worth considering location, positions, paths, range, scope, kinda like a carbon footprint but more details from this traced / followed specific path and see it to be important to consider for a further deeper understanding of the nature of human and its conscious mind....

    While I think I agree with the point you bring up and acknowledge the matters relevance...I want to sayI think while its true nurture vs nature plays a role, I think its important to keep in mind when considering moralities It gets a bit tricky especially when you begin to categorize the standards of morality and hold the specific (bounded) group you to those standards (beliefs) that can be then used and compared from group to another group (improper judgement may happen and that is immoral at this wrong time right place situation perhaps) but these same individuals can represent the group as each subject is complex and of a unique make up--its possible to mask intentions within groups and may use the religion, culture, association, community, society, as an excuse to act a certain way --whether they believe it is the "right" thing to do or not, the choice is made to practice life the way you present in day to day experiences and behavior is observable and ought to be verified by a source that can vouch for their being, who knows them best, who do they live with, who do they see everyday, who is the neighbors, who do they work with, who are the parents?

    its telling....and quickly a story can be and is painted. In a world with an objective reality we hold up subjective experiences that show the complex subjects human nature and especially links can be made between people who can relate culturally within a similar realm of reality of another culture or group both experience reality in a similar manner, its relatable enough for results or patterns to be spotted (transcends more than just geolocation similarities)

    Shared experiences from appeal to emotions triggered from a sensation and caused by an outside force (from your body mind being self) into your senses communicated from body to mind, emotional state is revealed and usual behaviors parallel with how subject is displaying emotional states...behaving is the display of emotions in action, the control of them differs but is that linked to the source of it from the individual?


    See below for quote i felt like including from the long read of a contribution i shared to the thread "A Case for Moral Subjectivism" that i believe is saying something along the similar lines you mention. I think what you are trying to explain by saying "objective moralities exists for different people and cultures" I underline where I directly mention my views explained above.

    "The chance doesnt exist, that my life will not interact or be known to many or anoher person whom is far far away from me and my world, that is my realm of reality and theirs is theirs but we both can live objectively without even knowing that we are moving together without bounds, doing our part, living our lives is doing our part and losing our lives is also our part, life and death, starts are ends...but we are unbothered by eachother because we dont know what about the existence of another, its impossible to know....I always think about stuff like that, that someone exists out there that cannot be bothered by me, even with all the authority I have.

    Free will? Or free from a will to worry? That is a choice, i think...What do I know? I know that we can get to the bottom of things, but where we chose to go wont tell us anything about a real ETA because we dont have a GPS that takes us, we dont have an address to type into one! We dont even have the means to get there...but we dont stop...we keep moving, not just in time WITH IT..."

    AND another time I can reference the point being repeated, of the same one you made here:

    See https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/898453 for thread where old old pal Chet called my comment a "word salad" and fairly so. After questioning my way of articulating "relevant realms of reality" [fair of him to doubt and reasonable as well to question] but i can see how i could be more clear because of how this was mistakenly read, he sensed something was off but he decided to assume his assumption was correct and ran with it... wrong on my part, makes it (his doing) justified on his end.
    --- its like, how i assumed your use of "different objective moralities" was a bit off, Chet thought my idea of "relevant realms of reality" was wrong too and he thought I was implying that more than one reality exists...I was not saying that, [it was wrong on his part, not in general but in his assumption-which can/is excusable after further clarifying resulting from continued reciprocated discussion its made right from a wrong (my poor communication of complex ideas(give me a break)]
    --- BUT STILL we can see in his reply that Chet and I both agree on some ideas surrounding an objective morality existing and its in that we understand that reality is just one thing.

    I look at it like: Objective Reality exists but it has just not been attained yet at this time regardless if not known [though knowable] to some it may exists in the future from our subjective parts as one objective whole for what its worth at end. (we cant know because human lifespan is not long enough to see the long term results to come from acts taken today in motion)[thats why seems impossible or pointless of trying to understand, time constraining learning and there is not more than one objective reality like you seem to see it (how i understood you, correct me if I am wrong)]


    Belief does not have to exist in the purpose on intentions, but the purpose of the individual with intentions linked to beliefs can be traced to a foreseeable outcome but that outcome itself is both cause and effect...the causality is also not grounding enough to be a base alone, perhaps it is when intentions are properly judged and considered along with the causality in a relevant realm of reality. — Kizzy

    This is getting to be word salad to me, I admit.

    Reality is only one thing, and it is relevant. There are no other relevant realms. Imagination and all of its devices and objects are WITHIN reality, not, as most poor thinkers might think, outside of it.
    Belief DOES have to exist in any choice, any act, any purpose. Either that or the definition of belief is wrong/not-what-I-mean-by-belief.

    The outcome IS NOT EVER the cause and effect. That is because there is error in the choice. The objective nature of a consequence leave it surprisingly unrelated to the belief or intent. Your statements here are part of consequentialism, a deadly lie.

    The cause is a belief, only and always. The belief is partly in error, always. But the belief side is informed by the ideal of perfection, sensed erroneously, but still sensed. Over time this process narrows towards perfection and that again is evolution. But the sensors and the choosers other inputs to choice, other beliefs, all causal, are all flawed and by degrees. They fail to care enough, to be aware enough, to be in harmony enough (beauty), and in being accurate enough. That is not a complete list of the virtues. It is only a set of examples. So the consequential outcomes IS NOT as predicted. If it is as predicted the prediction itself was flawed. It (the prediction) was too vague, too undemanding, too wrong.
    Chet Hawkins
    "


    This just serves as confirmation. I agree with a pieces of what you mention in the original quote that I used. The quote holds a piece of your comment, that moved me to reply because i believe too that it brings up relevant questions surrounding cultural standards held in a community and of course it deserves more attention and deeper considerations worth acknowledging to see root of intentions and surety of self within group based on roles/life you lead.
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