• Leontiskos
    1.6k
    Yes, but this does not permit them to sacrifice innocent people to fulfill such duty.Bob Ross

    But their duty as pilot allows them to stop flying the plane, even though they know that by doing so innocent people will die?

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

    :wink:

    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 victimsBob Ross

    Did I? Not that I know of...?

    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).
    Bob Ross

    It seems to me that you have given two different scenarios, one to which you have given a theoretical answer and a different one to which you have given a practical answer. In the scenario I gave, the driver knows that if he swerves left to try to avoid the pedestrians he will hit the two on the left, and that if he swerves right to try to avoid the pedestrians he will hit the two on the right. In your "practical life" scenario he has gained a new option: swerve without knowing that he will hit anyone. But it is not permissible to change the constraints of the problem in this way, and this makes sense because we intuitively know that one problem cannot simultaneously have two different solutions. There are two solutions because there are two different problems. We must go back to the single problem, the single scenario.

    According to the standard Catholic version of double effect, one can swerve with the intention of avoiding pedestrians even though they know with certainty that they will hit pedestrians on the left or the right. They are permitted to do this only on two conditions: 1) that the evil effect is not a means to the good effect, and 2) that there is a sufficient proportion between good and bad outcomes to justify acting thusly (note that this is a consequentialist condition, necessary but not sufficient). Cf. <One interpretation>.

    In the case of the car I would say that the second condition is clearly fulfilled: hitting two people instead of four is a significant improvement. I also think the first condition is fulfilled, but this has been one of the points of controversy within the thread. It is therefore needful to think further about what it means for one effect to be subordinated to another as a means.

    The pilot is not, in your example, in a situation where they are morally responsible for the deaths of innocent lives.Bob Ross

    I agree, and I talk about this in my analysis.

    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.Bob Ross

    In my analysis I claimed that the pilot has two duties, not just one:

    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.Leontiskos

    ... if the pilot takes your recommendation then he would apparently be without moral fault according to his first duty, but not according to his second duty.

    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).Bob Ross

    The proximate question at hand is whether the evil effect that the pilot foresees is a means to the good effect that the pilot desires. In the first place I would want to stress that the two effects are intended in wholly different ways.

    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

    Okay, interesting response. For now, I am going to leave this issue of self-defense to the side for the sake of time.
  • Fire Ologist
    349

    Curious if you agree with the thrust here but for different reasons.

    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

    Although I wouldn’t pull the lever, I don’t think we precisely agree on the reasons. So you are not missing something (we do disagree a bit).

    I see what you are saying, about the primacy of moral agency, that the moral law (that one can never intentionally kill innocent human life) must be acted upon, so that in any circumstance, if one would be forced to intentionally sacrifice an innocent life (pull the lever), one cannot act. One cannot be an agent of dead innocent lives and have acted morally.

    And I do see that the plane example can be seen as the same as the trolley. But it can be different.

    I agree that there are moral laws we cannot break and be justified as moral, or good. Not killing innocent people is one of them.

    And I would not pull the lever on the trolley example. But the plane and trolley can be viewed differently from each other and used to show why I would land the plane intentionally where there were less people.

    You said:
    If the plane is out of fuel, and it is not the pilot’s faultBob Ross

    In the trolley example, the situation is thrust upon me from nowhere and I am shown how to direct the trolley - left or right. I am sitting there, and then I have to make a decision with innocent lives about to be killed.

    In the plane example, I am the pilot. There is no scenario where the pilot has not caused the outcome at least in part; the pilot has already pulled the lever so to speak and has implicated himself in the innocent death.

    If I was the pilot, even unintentionally running out of fuel and blown by the wind over a festival, I have already intentionally flown the plane into that scenario. I have flown the plane. I have created this danger. And if I know the plane is going down, I already have to take responsibility for innocent death, so I have killed innocent people. It’s done for me the minute I see my plane is going down. I know this before the plane lands because I am the pilot, the intentions and some of the reasons the plane is in the air at all.

    So now, being responsible for innocent death, I have a second choice to make; I can choose to also be responsible for killing as few people as possible. This is why I intentionally land the plane in a less populated area.

    It’s not the principal of double effect that permits me to land where there are fewer people. (I don’t really like the principal either.). It’s because the choice is now more or less equally innocent people I will kill, it’s not whether or not I can kill an innocent person, because I know I’ve already done that.

    In the trolley example, I didn’t start the trolley. I didn’t put it on those tracks. I am being asked to go from sitting there taking a trolley ride to implicating myself in the trolley ride of death. Either five or one die depending on whether I stay seated or pull the lever. No, I will not do either, because it is wrong to kill any innocent life.

    To ask me to treat the trolley ride where drivers disappear, where people are tied to tracks, where I learn what levers do on trolleys - and to then be the cause of five or one innocent deaths? No. No one can be expected to decide which track to take in that circumstance. Who is telling me about the people and the lever? As a moral agent, provided the option to let five tied to trolley tracks die or pull the lever, it would be irresponsible (immoral) of me to just join the scenario. Irresponsible because people are now asking me to participate in the killing of innocent life which is always wrong. . If there is a voice telling me about the tracks and the lever and the people, but not telling me what to do with the tracks and the people and the lever, nothing makes sense and I should not act.

    The same could be the case for the plane, say if the pilot dies when the plane runs out of fuel and you, a passenger, are told how to land a plane. Where all things are equal prior to the moment where you are asked to guide the plane or the trolley - the question what would you do then is equal too. You can see the trolley as the same as the plane - but this is how I think we differ. If there is nothing to consider prior to that moment, then you can only be implicated in its outcome if you participate - if you take the yoke of the plane or stand up and pull the lever. Once you know in advance (as when you are told on the trolley that five or one will die, or when your engine shuts off over a festival), it is then a matter of whether you are implicated in that certain outcome. In the trolley example, you can avoid participating in the possible outcomes, and can remain separate from any outcome. It’s not because pulling the lever is you killing one or sitting still is something else killing five. It’s because something else that you are not a participant of is killing any of them. But if you are the pilot (or a trolley driver who knows where he is going and what pulleys to pull to get there), you have to take some responsibility for the outcome already, for the fact that any of them will die, so the choice that is now thrust upon you is how many innocent deaths will you be responsible for, and how many innocent lives can you spare.
  • AmadeusD
    2k
    Nor is there any differential value in the variant examples I offered unless you have something against fat men or people who need transplants. Let me say something callous sounding.

    There are way more people in the world than it can sustain, and we are destroying the ecosystem on which we depend. Therefore it is better that five people die than one. Assume the facts are true; is the moral logic wrong? This is the logic of accelerationism. Human population is in overshoot and the sooner it is radically reduced, the better it will be both for the planet and for humanity. Only the most fortunate will have a quick death by trolley; most will die of heat-stroke or starvation.
    unenlightened

    Hoo boy, this is going to be fun.

    There is a patent difference between not knowing the identity(and potential value) of the people, and knowing the identity (and potential value) of those people. Ignore it? Sure. That's probably more moral. But if you simply don't see it - well, that's something for you to have a look at.

    The bolded is clearly wrong. If you've had a look at the concentration of populations (take Bangladesh as an extremely inarguable example) resource management is clearly humanity's problem. Not space or available resource. Particularly not now (as opposed to say 1400AD (pretend the population was comparable globally)). It is absolutely stupidity to think that humans have somehow outgrown the planet. Like - that's Mikie level delusional.

    That takes care of hte remainder, save for one thing: As against your suggestion, it is better for humanity and the planet that we go extinct over a reasonable time-line. These are simply positions we can claim without argument. I don't really understand how this comes along with 'the arguments' anyway.
  • jorndoe
    3.4k
    Doing nothing is still a decision in the scenario.
    Besides, it's easy enough to come up with a scenario where doing nothing would result in more deaths than, say, two other options.
    Say, pulling lever left results in x deaths, pulling lever right results in y deaths, doing nothing results in x+y deaths.
    Inaction is just one aspect of the conundrum, it's not so much about rejecting personal responsibility, more about pitching ethics against psychology, I think, or something, where there may not be a definitive answer.
    Another (minor) aspect could be: swift decision-making.
    Given no time to think it over, what would be the most likely decision?
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    Doing nothing is still a decision in the scenario.
    Besides, it's easy enough to come up with a scenario where doing nothing would result in more deaths than, say, two other options.
    Say, pulling lever left results in x deaths, pulling lever right results in y deaths, doing nothing results in x+y deaths.
    jorndoe

    Right, a la:

    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?Leontiskos

    ---

    Leontiskos
    Curious if you agree with the thrust here but for different reasons
    Fire Ologist

    Good thoughts. I agree with some angles and disagree with others, but I see no need to intervene. I think your post will help stimulate fruitful discussion. :up:
  • Herg
    217
    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
    Well, firstly, you can't decide questions in moral philosophy by appealing to courts of law. The most a study of legal systems can tell you is what the people who drafted the laws thought was morally right; it won't tell you if they were correct.

    Secondly, I agree that the operator intentionally sacrifices 1 person to save 5. Since either 1 or 5 people must die, and he can't prevent that, and since 5 lives are more valuable than 1, sacrificing 1 to save 5 is the morally right thing to do. The fact that he may be punished for doing it is irrelevant.

    Thirdly, you did not answer my point, which was that the 1 person who is killed is not the means of saving the other 5. I may be wrong here, but I wonder if you think that if X fails to treat Y as an end, then he must be treating him merely as a means. This is not true, because there could be another reason: it could be that something prevents X from treating Y as an end. This is the case in the trolley problem: someone is bound to die, and therefore not be treated as an end, but the operator can't do anything about this. His only choice is between failing to treat 1 person as an end, and failing to treat 5 people as ends. The morally right thing to do is to fail to treat the least number of people he can as ends, which means switching the train.
  • Apustimelogist
    395


    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.Bob Ross

    I disagree. I don't see the need to come up with a fixed solution to this problem if there is no fully satisfactory choice. No ethical view will do that and imo, choosing a strongly well-defined ethical framework may even lead to more unintuitive consequences elsewhere, as I find with your ethical framework from my perspective. Not only am I unsure about the ethics of killing the disobedient man on the tracks in the trolley problem, but this view you have stated below I find explicitly very unintuitive:

    "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."

    It seems very straightforward to me that in a scenario where either everyone was going to die or only two people, it is better to choose two.

    In general, I feel like people can have a reasonable sense of right and wrong without an explicit moral framework. I would say maybe people are picking preferred moral frameworks after the fact based on their intuitions of right and wrong - they are clarifying their own prior beliefs rather than choosing some framework which will reveal to them beliefs that they probably did not already hold.

    What do my intuitions say? That flexibility and vagueness (rather than restrictiveness) in terms of a moral framework is more likely to resonate with my moral intuitions as opposed to picking a single more rigid or rigorously defined moral framework which occasionally gives outcomes that I don't morally resonate with at all. And this is the thing with moral frameworks - they all do this from what I can tell. Imo, that is because they all attempt to simplify moral thought into clear, tangible latent principles. I feel like different moral frameworks will then emphasize different intuitions about the underlying regularities of morality, but usually in order to articulate this clearly, they exclude other intuitions. For instance, deontology and consequentialism I think both capture and isolate different aspects about people's moral intuitions in daily life.

    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).Bob Ross

    To be honest, I can almost give the same reply as before:

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

    Well, I don’t mean forever.Bob Ross

    I didn't either! By black-and-white I mean it seems implied that once someone gives up their right to something like life then it removes the badness of killing them, which isn't intuitive to me. But again, possibly this is better in some kind of legal or other legislative context.

    You think that the five innocent people should die because the one person was being extremely negligent?Bob Ross

    There is no scenario that has been discussed in this thread I think where the five people should die or deserve to die or that it is morally good that they die. It's not clear to me either that one person deserves to die for being extremely negligent; and so this dilemma doesn't seem a great deal less problematic than the regular trolley problem to me.

    Edit: lots of cleaning up
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    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’).
    Bob Ross

    No disagreement, I agree.

    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.
    Bob Ross

    I'm not trying to play any hidden tricks here. We'll assume they mean it and are just very dramatic about it. :)

    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.
    Bob Ross

    This is the point I was trying to get to. For you, if the case of human agency is a non-factor, you'll pull to save the greatest number. But you favor human agency over the the greatest number. I also don't disagree with this.

    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 was just to see if numbers ever came into play. No worry.
    Bob Ross
  • Pantagruel
    3.3k
    The trolley problem is a thought experiment where you’re asked to either watch five people be killed or pull a lever so that only one person gets killed.

    In this hypothetical scenario which choice would you make?

    For those who would let the five people die by not pulling the lever to kill one person is there a minimum number of people on the track that would make you choose to kill the one person?

    50? 100? 1,000? 10,000?

    What is your reasoning?
    Captain Homicide

    Does this not seem like a case where the whole problem just typifies the fallacy of the excluded middle? Like there is a right and a wrong answer? If anything, what the problem reveals is that there will always be multiple answers. Ultimately, one does not even require justification. What if someone puts a gun to my head and forces me to choose or die? It's a concocted scenario designed to highlight the complex nature of morality. In fact, in a real moral scenario what we perceive as choices will normally not be so equally balanced in theatrically catastrophic consequence. Do you sacrifice something to benefit someone else? Or do you always put yourself ahead of others? Those are the important motives underlying everything that people do. Trying to turn it into a a complex equation is just misleading rationalization.
  • Herg
    217
    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.
    Bob Ross
    Exactly so. The whole point about the greater good is that it IS the greater good, i.e. is better than the alternative. That is precisely why one should aim to achieve it. (And yes, I am a consequentialist. Tell me what you think is wrong with that.)

    You need to show either that killing only 2 people instead of killing all 4 is NOT the greater good, i.e. that it is a mistake to label it so, and if so, wherein the mistake lies. Or you need to justify your apparent belief that killing 4 people is morally preferable to killing only 2, which frankly just looks callous and irrational.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    But their duty as pilot allows them to stop flying the plane, even though they know that by doing so innocent people will die?

    Let me clarify, as I may have said differently before: the pilot wouldn’t let go of the steering wheel but, rather, would keep flying as best they can to avoid any collisions. My point is that they are not permitted to sacrifice other innocent people to avoid an otherwise inevitable collision with another set of innocent people. That’s no different than the trolley problem (in my eyes).

    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 — Bob Ross

    Did I? Not that I know of...?

    Maybe I misunderstood, then. Were you positing that I could either (1) continue and run over 4 people or (2) swerve and hit 2 of those 4 instead of all 4? Or were you positing that I could either (1) continue and hit 4 people or (2) swerve and hit 2 separate (to the 4) people?

    Either way, I would say that I must continue driving and hit the 4 (given those options).
    It seems to me that you have given two different scenarios, one to which you have given a theoretical answer and a different one to which you have given a practical answer.

    Correct. The practical one was just an additional FYI; and not an intended answer to your question. The theoretical one is my answer.
    We must go back to the single problem, the single scenario.

    Like I said, my answer is that I would hit the original 4; because I cannot intentionally sacrifice 2 people to save those 4.

    According to the standard Catholic version of double effect, one can swerve with the intention of avoiding pedestrians even though they know with certainty that they will hit pedestrians on the left or the right.

    See, this is where it gets interesting; because, to me, this is a cop-out: it is a consequentialism-denier coming up with a way to be a consequentialist on some issues. If one swerves to the left to hit 2 people to avoid hitting 4, then they have absolutely intended to sacrifice those 2 people to save the 4 and, consequently, used those 2 as a mere means toward a good end. Am I missing something?

    They are permitted to do this only on two conditions: 1) that the evil effect is not a means to the good effect, and 2) that there is a sufficient proportion between good and bad outcomes to justify acting thusly

    This seems to sidestep the issue: to justify this “Double Effect”, you would have to sufficiently demonstrate that swerving to hit 2 people instead of 4 is not an intention to hit those 2 people to save the 4...what say you? Your analysis in the above quote just assumes it is merely an evil effect, without commenting on the intention.

    In my analysis I claimed that the pilot has two duties, not just one:

    A duty towards something cannot excuse a person from their other duties. A pilot’s duty to fly cannot excuse them from their duty to not intentionally kill innocent people.
    ... if the pilot takes your recommendation then he would apparently be without moral fault according to his first duty, but not according to his second duty.

    The pilot would be without moral fault in both; because one cannot blame a person for not fulfilling their duty to A because the only way to do so would have been to violate a more important duty to B.

    In the first place I would want to stress that the two effects are intended in wholly different ways.

    I don’t see how…
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    In the trolley example, the situation is thrust upon me from nowhere and I am shown how to direct the trolley - left or right. I am sitting there, and then I have to make a decision with innocent lives about to be killed.

    In the plane example, I am the pilot.

    This is, indeed, a difference; but I don’t think it is a relevant difference. Let’s amend the trolley problem: imagine you are the train operator...does that change your response? It wouldn’t for me, because, as the driver, I still cannot intentionally sacrifice the one to save the five. The principle remains the same.

    And if I know the plane is going down, I already have to take responsibility for innocent death, so I have killed innocent people. It’s done for me the minute I see my plane is going down. I know this before the plane lands because I am the pilot, the intentions and some of the reasons the plane is in the air at all.

    This is false. Just because the plane goes down and kills people, DOES NOT mean you are responsible for those deaths—same as the train running over those people. You are not morally responsible if you abstain from saving those people because your only other option was to sacrifice other innocent people. It doesn’t matter (to me) if you are the driver or a passenger.

    Your argument rests on the same false assumption as the consequentialist in the 1 vs. 5 problem: they think that they are responsible for the deaths either way, and so it becomes a simple calculation of saving the most. This is false, and misunderstands the nature of moral responsibility.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Well, firstly, you can't decide questions in moral philosophy by appealing to courts of law. The most a study of legal systems can tell you is what the people who drafted the laws thought was morally right; it won't tell you if they were correct.

    It was an analogy, and perfectly sound.

    Secondly, I agree that the operator intentionally sacrifices 1 person to save 5. Since either 1 or 5 people must die, and he can't prevent that, and since 5 lives are more valuable than 1, sacrificing 1 to save 5 is the morally right thing to do. The fact that he may be punished for doing it is irrelevant.

    This rests on a false understanding of moral responsibility; that most consequentialists have.

    Thirdly, you did not answer my point, which was that the 1 person who is killed is not the means of saving the other 5

    It absolutely is, if you intentionally kill one person to save five. No way around that.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    I don't see the need to come up with a fixed solution to this problem if there is no fully satisfactory choice.

    That’s fine. If you aren’t convinced, then suspend judgment. For me, I am convinced.

    It seems very straightforward to me that in a scenario where either everyone was going to die or only two people, it is better to choose two.

    Hmmm. Ok. Imagine a serial killer has 12 people in their basement and are torturing them. Imagine the serial killer tells you that they will let 11 people go if you personally go kill 1 of them: would you do it?

    If so, then you do not think it is immoral to, per se, to kill an innocent person; which is incredible to me.

    By black-and-white I mean it seems implied that once someone gives up their right to something like life then it removes the badness of killing them, which isn't intuitive to me

    An easy example is self-defense: a person is morally permitted to kill another person if that person is an aggressor and their response is proportional. This only works with this kind of “counter-intuitive” thinking your profess here.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    This is the point I was trying to get to. For you, if the case of human agency is a non-factor, you'll pull to save the greatest number. But you favor human agency over the the greatest number. I also don't disagree with this.

    For me, it is that I cannot intentionally kill an innocent person (where it is implied it is against their will) period.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    The biggest problem with consequentialism I have is that it rests on a false assumption of how moral responsibility works. Not sure how deep you want to get into that debate though.
  • Herg
    217
    It was an analogy, and perfectly sound.Bob Ross
    Arguments by analogy are never sound, they just confuse the issue.

    Thirdly, you did not answer my point, which was that the 1 person who is killed is not the means of saving the other 5 — Herg
    It absolutely is, if you intentionally kill one person to save five. No way around that.Bob Ross
    A means is something that facilitates or enables the performance of some action. The presence of the 1 person on the track does not facilitate or enable the switching of the train to another track and the consequent saving of 5 lives; it's the lever that does that, the presence of the person on the track is irrelevant.

    The biggest problem with consequentialism I have is that it rests on a false assumption of how moral responsibility works. Not sure how deep you want to get into that debate though.Bob Ross
    There is no such thing as moral responsibility, because it would require free will, and there is no such thing as free will.
  • Apustimelogist
    395
    Hmmm. Ok. Imagine a serial killer has 12 people in their basement and are torturing them. Imagine the serial killer tells you that they will let 11 people go if you personally go kill 1 of them: would you do it?

    If so, then you do not think it is immoral to, per se, to kill an innocent person; which is incredible to me.
    Bob Ross

    This is a completely different scenario though witli different connotations where you are introducing another malevolent agent who you are bargaining with. This makes the scenario a lot less straightforward. You have also completely complicated the choice because here it is not about an arithmetic of deaths but also torture.

    This is a totally vastly different scenario to one where you're driving in a car and for whatever reason, lets say just a horrible accident, there are 4 people in the road and you can make a choice to save 0 lives or 2 lives. The scenario you have brought up just now cannot be compared and the car one is much more straightforward.

    An easy example is self-defense: a person is morally permitted to kill another person if that person is an aggressor and their response is proportional. This only works with this kind of “counter-intuitive” thinking your profess hereBob Ross

    My point is that just because its we can mitigate much if not all of the blame for killing someone in self-defence doesn't mean that killing anyone still isn't bad. To my mind, the idea of this forfeit you talk about implies that this badness is completely removed. Thats why I dont like this language. It works better in a kind of legal context, not a moral one imo.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    This is the point I was trying to get to. For you, if the case of human agency is a non-factor, you'll pull to save the greatest number. But you favor human agency over the the greatest number. I also don't disagree with this.

    For me, it is that I cannot intentionally kill an innocent person (where it is implied it is against their will) period.
    Bob Ross

    Interesting. So if we have the trolley problem, both sides have innocent people, and both sides plead for you to save them by throwing the switch or walk away, what would you do?
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    Let me clarify, as I may have said differently before: the pilot wouldn’t let go of the steering wheel but, rather, would keep flying as best they can to avoid any collisions.Bob Ross

    Does the pilot have "a separate but related duty to cause as few deaths as possible in the event where he cannot avoid causing deaths"? ()

    A duty towards something cannot excuse a person from their other duties. A pilot’s duty to fly cannot excuse them from their duty to not intentionally kill innocent people.Bob Ross

    So I am wondering if they have a second duty at all. If they do then we have a case of what is sometimes called moral perplexity, where two duties come into conflict.

    Maybe I misunderstood, then. Were you positing that I could either (1) continue and run over 4 people or (2) swerve and hit 2 of those 4 instead of all 4? Or were you positing that I could either (1) continue and hit 4 people or (2) swerve and hit 2 separate (to the 4) people?Bob Ross

    I was thinking of the former. Presumably you are saying that the relevant difference between the airplane and car scenarios is that in the car scenario all of the potential victims were initially in the path of the vehicle?

    Correct. The practical one was just an additional FYI; and not an intended answer to your question. The theoretical one is my answer.Bob Ross

    Okay, sounds good.

    See, this is where it gets interesting; because, to me, this is a cop-out: it is a consequentialism-denier coming up with a way to be a consequentialist on some issues.Bob Ross

    Well, the second condition is a consequentialist condition. I admitted that, but it is not a sufficient condition (and that is what we mean by consequentialism tout court).

    If one swerves to the left to hit 2 people to avoid hitting 4, then they have absolutely intended to sacrifice those 2 people to save the 4 and, consequently, used those 2 as a mere means toward a good end. Am I missing something?Bob Ross

    If two people are dying of heart failure and two others are dying of liver failure, and I kill the former two, take their livers, and give the latter two liver transplants, then I have sacrificed two to save two. It's not at all clear that the same thing is happening in the car scenario.

    Indeed, it is not clear that they are a means to an end at all, much less a "mere means." Perhaps when I see people in front of my car on the median I have a rule to swerve into the ditch. My swerving is a means to the end of not-hitting the pedestrians on the median. If someone is on the shoulder, and I hit them, and I knew I was going to hit them, it does not follow that hitting them was a means to avoiding the others. The circumstances here are very different from the transplant case. In the transplant case two literally need to die in order to save the four. How do you differentiate these two cases?

    A police officer might investigate and ask my why I swerved. I might say, "I swerved to hit the guy on the shoulder, because I knew that if I could hit that guy on the shoulder then I would be able to avoid the two on the median." Or else I might say, "I swerved to avoid the two on the median. I didn't want to hit the guy on the shoulder, but I couldn't find a way around him." Are these legitimately different answers?

    This seems to sidestep the issue: to justify this “Double Effect”, you would have to sufficiently demonstrate that swerving to hit 2 people instead of 4 is not an intention to hit those 2 people to save the 4...what say you? Your analysis in the above quote just assumes it is merely an evil effect, without commenting on the intention.Bob Ross

    No, not really. I could turn this around at you and say, "To deny 'Double Effect,' you would have to sufficiently demonstrate that swerving to hit two people instead of four is based on the intention to hit those two people to save the four. What say you?" I am not saying that there is no possible case where someone would act with a bad intention (and Aquinas says this explicitly, if you recall), but rather that a bad intention is not necessary. On the other hand, if double effect is wrong then you would be required to show that the bad intention is necessary.

    The key in these scenarios is that there are two acts (or two sub-acts, depending on how you parse it). The first is the act "to cause the death of innocents," and the second is the "choice over how many innocents die" (). The plane/car will cause the death of innocents no matter what, and therefore the first act is inevitable, and one is not responsible for the inevitable. But the second act is not inevitable: more or less people could die, and here the second duty comes in.

    (Again, I have no idea how I would square my own reasoning with the trolley :lol: )

    The pilot would be without moral fault in both; because one cannot blame a person for not fulfilling their duty to A because the only way to do so would have been to violate a more important duty to B.Bob Ross

    Why is B a more important duty?
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    A means is something that facilitates or enables the performance of some action.

    Killing one person to save the five is what enables the person to save the five. Without being able to kill the one person, they cannot save the five.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    This is a completely different scenario though witli different connotations where you are introducing another malevolent agent who you are bargaining with. This makes the scenario a lot less straightforward. You have also completely complicated the choice because here it is not about an arithmetic of deaths but also torture.

    This is a totally vastly different scenario to one where you're driving in a car and for whatever reason, lets say just a horrible accident, there are 4 people in the road and you can make a choice to save 0 lives or 2 lives. The scenario you have brought up just now cannot be compared and the car one is much more straightforward.

    I agree they aren’t the same; but I brought it up to counter your view that: “It seems very straightforward to me that in a scenario where either everyone was going to die or only two people, it is better to choose two.”.

    My point is that just because its we can mitigate much if not all of the blame for killing someone in self-defence doesn't mean that killing anyone still isn't bad. To my mind, the idea of this forfeit you talk about implies that this badness is completely removed. Thats why I dont like this language. It works better in a kind of legal context, not a moral one imo.

    Are you saying that it is bad to kill a person in self-defense, to some degree, while still being morally permissible to do so (in appropriate self-defense scenarios)?
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Interesting. So if we have the trolley problem, both sides have innocent people, and both sides plead for you to save them by throwing the switch or walk away, what would you do?

    Walk away. I cannot sacrifice innocent human beings to save other innocent human beings: the consequences are not what dictates what is right or wrong but, rather, the act—and the act is immoral.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    Walk away. I cannot sacrifice innocent human beings to save other innocent human beings: the consequences are not what dictates what is right or wrong but, rather, the act—and the act is immoral.Bob Ross

    You didn't strike me as one to believe in fate. So because one innocent person would die if you saved five people, you would let the five people die because other forces that are already in motion would lead to their death. If that is your answer, how do you arrive at that decision?
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    Does the pilot have "a separate but related duty to cause as few deaths as possible in the event where he cannot avoid causing deaths"?

    Yes, if by “he cannot avoid causing deaths” you mean his actions. If he has to either (1) kill 2 innocent people or (2) 4 innocent people; then I agree he should go with 1. But that is not the situation the pilot is in in your hypothetical.

    So I am wondering if they have a second duty at all. If they do then we have a case of what is sometimes called moral perplexity, where two duties come into conflict.

    I guess. I would say that the duty to fly the aircraft safely is a duty which does not obligate one to commit anything immoral for its own sake; whereas it seems like you may think that it might.

    Presumably you are saying that the relevant difference between the airplane and car scenarios is that in the car scenario all of the potential victims were initially in the path of the vehicle?

    Yes, that is what tripped me up for a bit.

    It's not at all clear that the same thing is happening in the car scenario.

    How? Both situations have a person who knows they have to sacrifice someone to save someone else, and they act upon it. To me that is a sufficient condition to say they intended to do it.

    If someone is on the shoulder, and I hit them, and I knew I was going to hit them, it does not follow that hitting them was a means to avoiding the others. The circumstances here are very different from the transplant case. In the transplant case two literally need to die in order to save the four. How do you differentiate these two cases?

    I think the difference you are talking about is merely that it seems like the person in the shoulder example is intending to save the pedestrians and the person on the shoulder is just an unfortunate side-effect; whereas the two in the transplant are definitely not a side-effect.

    I disagree; and here’s the real difference between us: when you speak of intentions in these two examples, you are referring to only what the person is aware of what they are doing. I, on the other hand, attribute what they know into what they intend even if they don’t realize it.

    For example, if I see someone in need of water (as perhaps they are thirsty) (let’s call them the first person) and I see someone else with water (let’s call them the second person) and I walk over to the second person and take their water to give it to the first person, then I am intending to take the water from the second person to give it to the first person even if my self-explicated intention is to get the first person water. You are saying, by analogy here, that if the person is just intending to help the first person in need, and isn’t executing consciously a plan to take it from the second person, that the taking of the water of the second person is merely a side-effect of the intention.

    The difference between the transplant and the shoulder example, is merely that in the former the person is consciously aware that they are using people as a means. The latter example is iffy: someone may realize they have to kill the shoulder person to save the other people and continue anyways (thereby making it a conscious intention of theirs) whereas another person may not realize it and only think to themselves that they are saving the pedestrians.
    A police officer might investigate and ask my why I swerved. I might say, "I swerved to hit the guy on the shoulder, because I knew that if I could hit that guy on the shoulder then I would be able to avoid the two on the median."

    I am seriously struggling to see how the police officer would not communicate in their report, just based off of your statement to them here, that you intended to kill the guy on the shoulder to avoid hitting the two on the median; and this is essential to your argument that you provide a basis against this.

    you would have to sufficiently demonstrate that swerving to hit two people instead of four is based on the intention to hit those two people to save the four. What say you?

    If they know that swerving will most certainly (or as a probabilistic certainty) will kill those two people and they continue with their plan of swerving, then they thereby intend to kill those two people to save the other people. I am tying the sufficient knowledge the person has, to what they intend to do. I think this is pretty standard practice in law.

    The plane/car will cause the death of innocents no matter what, and therefore the first act is inevitable, and one is not responsible for the inevitable.

    But you are responsible if you veer the plane/car to sacrifice innocent people….. (:

    (Again, I have no idea how I would square my own reasoning with the trolley :lol: )

    To be completely honest, I think your line of reasoning entails that one should pull the lever.

    Why is B a more important duty?

    So, this just boils down to the hierarchy of moral values. I think that rights are more fundamental than social duties (like flying airplanes, driving buses, etc.): the latter assumes the duty to protect and are birthed out of the former, so the former must be more fundamental.
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    You didn't strike me as one to believe in fate. So because one innocent person would die if you saved five people, you would let the five people die because other forces that are already in motion would lead to their death. If that is your answer, how do you arrive at that decision?

    I don't believe in fate; and I am not following how that relates to the trolley problem.

    My position is simple: it is immoral to kill an innocent human being. In the trolley dilemma, I am not morally responsible for abstaining from committing an immoral act (e.g., sacrificing the one person) to avoid a bad outcome (e.g., the five dying). If I can only do immoral acts to prevent something bad from happening or I can do nothing, I am always going to do nothing: one cannot commit an immoral act to avoid a bad outcome or produce a good outcome.

    Letting something bad happen is sometimes morally omissible.

    From what you said (in the above quote), you are implying that I would be equally morally responsible for the five deaths as the one; and thusly it wouldn't make sense to, then, let the five die at the expense of the one. However, this rests on a false understanding of moral responsibility: especially how it relates to intentions and actions. Letting something happen is NOT an action, and some inactions are morally omissible exactly because no action can be taken which is morally permissible.

    Does that help? I wasn't sure how fate got sprinkled into the conversation (:
  • Apustimelogist
    395


    I agree they aren’t the same; but I brought it up to counter your view that: “It seems very straightforward to me that in a scenario where either everyone was going to die or only two people, it is better to choose two.”.Bob Ross

    Its not a counter because it is a completely different scenario with new constraints that change the issue. It's totally reasonable to have a completely different answer to these different scenarios and still be coherent or consistent but the things that make this scenario more difficult are not in the other one at all.

    Are you saying that it is bad to kill a person in self-defense, to some degree, while still being morally permissible to do so (in appropriate self-defense scenarios)?Bob Ross

    Well yes, killing anyone is bad. A death is bad. Its preferable that no one dies during an altercation. If someone does die then that is still a negative thing even if it was due to justifiable self-defence.
  • Philosophim
    2.4k
    From what you said (in the above quote), you are implying that I would be equally morally responsible for the five deaths as the one; and thusly it wouldn't make sense to, then, let the five die at the expense of the one.Bob Ross

    No, I wasn't trying to imply that you had responsibility. I was asking what you felt would be right.

    In the trolley dilemma, I am not morally responsibleBob Ross

    I think I see our difference here. I don't hold morality is a responsibility. I hold it as a choice. So for you, its not about choice, but responsibility. Thus you can be absolved of responsibility in certain situations no matter the outcome. The 'fate' part was more about outcome, so we don't need to focus on it.

    I view morality as a matter of preferable outcomes based upon our choices. Responsibility doesn't enter into the equation for me. Mostly because I don't know what would be dictating responsibilities, and it seems to add a layer of complexity on a topic that is already complex enough. So to that point, what is dictating moral responsibilities? How do we rationally determine what we are, and are not responsible for?
  • Bob Ross
    1.4k


    I see! I agree that being moral is a choice; but being a moral agent, which is a choice, entails that one has, upon choosing to be such, moral responsibilities. I am NOT actually a moral agent, even if I make the decision to be one, if I don't have a duty to not do immoral acts and to do moral ones: that would be akin to saying that a firefighter doesn't have a duty to put out fires. Likewise, we determine what we are morally responsible for by way of analyzing deliberate acts and lack of acts (e.g., negligence) in relation to what is (intrinsically) good and bad.

    Without moral responsibility, an ethical theory cannot supply any analysis of moral agents; which is arguably the most practical and, consequently, important aspect of ethics.
  • Leontiskos
    1.6k
    I am going to come back and make a full response when I have more time, but let me respond to this one thing quickly:

    I am seriously struggling to see how the police officer would not communicate in their report, just based off of your statement to them here, that you intended to kill the guy on the shoulder to avoid hitting the two on the median; and this is essential to your argument that you provide a basis against this.

    [...]

    If they know that swerving will most certainly (or as a probabilistic certainty) will kill those two people and they continue with their plan of swerving, then they thereby intend to kill those two people to save the other people. I am tying the sufficient knowledge the person has, to what they intend to do. I think this is pretty standard practice in law.
    Bob Ross

    According to what you say here the driver should be convicted for murder, no? You seem to think he murdered the pedestrian on the shoulder.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.