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Author Topic: Killing people on trains (a thought experiment in morality)
frogpond
Jingle Sales


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quote:
Originally posted by tribrats:
I don't see it making someone a bad member of society. That is once again societies way of judging people. Society has beaten into people that the only "right" answer is to sacrifice your own. I don't agree with that.

Then again, maybe it is just the maternal animal instinct coming out. We are after all just another animal on this planet trying to pass on our bloodline.

Somehow society has not beaten this answer into me. I feel quite certain that I would act to save my family. Yes, I'd feel horrible about the 1500 who would die but my family always comes first with me. It isn't too much different from loaning family members money and giving them help that I wouldn't give to strangers.

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tribrats
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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Logoboros, you paint with a very wide brush. I already stated earlier that I could not guess how I would respond in a real-life situation. This is an exact situation with predetermined and exact outcomes. I have stated how I would react in this scenario with the strict guidelines put in place by the OP.

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Damian
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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Even though I would give my life in an instant to save my 3 children, I would have even less qualms about sacrificing anonymous people.

I like to think that instead of being burdened with guilt, my children would be thankful that I loved them enough to "kill" for them.

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"I always tell the truth. Even when I lie." - Tony Montana

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Jay Temple
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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Here's a slight variation on Part 1: Your children and a dozen or so other People You Care About are on the second train, but your SO, who is your children's other parent, is safe at home.

If there's any chance that I'd save the 1500 in the original scenario, there isn't any chance that I'd save the 1500 knowing that I'll have to tell my wife that I let our kids die.

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"Well, it looks we're on our own ... again."--Rev. Lovejoy

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Stormfeather
Silver Sells


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Interesing twist, Jay. [Wink]

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DemonWolf
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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My question, do I work in the switch room in which I am standing?

If yes, then I must make the decision for the good of the many. It is my duty.

If no, then my duty lies to protect my family.


quote:
Originally posted by Logoboros:
Admittedly, the train example is abnormally high stakes. But if the general principle applies that the proper morality is "The life and happiness of my children over all others," then you have a society in which you could never trust a parent, because a parent has the moral right to stab you in the back at a moments notice if their child's position might be advanced

Not so. I trust that you will make decisions that favor your own intrests. You can trust that I will make my decision in for my own benifit. When our intrests are similar, you can trust me to cooperate toward our mutual benifit. When my intrests lies in opposition to yours, I know that I can expect little or no cooperation from you.


Look at taxes. We both pay taxes to pave our roads. If you do not own a car, you still benifit because well maintained roads allow for goods and severvices to be provided to you at lower cost. We pay taxes to educate our children to educate our children. If you have no children, you still benefit because these children will grow up and become your co-workers and bosses. Even though I do not collect welfare, I benifit because poor families have a source of income and do not need to resort to crime to survive (also, because it is there should I ever need it).

Should a "Buy DemonWolf a New House" tax hike be proposed, I would anticipate your opposition to the measure as there is no benifit to you. Similarly, I would expect the rich to oppose tax hikes in general and I would expect liquor store owners to oppose bill to make a town "dry."

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masterlegomom
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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quote:
Originally posted by BeachLife:
Part 1: Everyone would die why I contemplated the questions:

- How did my mother and father ever agree to get on the same train together?

- I have sisters ?!?

- I have grandchidren ?!!!?

- Who exactly are my five best friends?

- What the hell are all these people doing on a train without me?


Part 2: I'd Macgyver it to make the track 'think' something was being electrocuted.

I BeachLife 's answer the best.

I can't truly believe that all these people are traveling together and have left me to man the station alone. WTF???

Sadly I would have to say that I would save my family in option 1, and then in option 2 I would do the same. There is no way that I am letting my ex-husband raise my children. He can't even get a fish to live longer than a month.

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Eddylizard
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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quote:
Originally posted by Logoboros:

And perhaps this is a bit mean-spirited of me, but let's ramp up the dead child factor. Say you know that on the one train are your three children. On the other are train are 180 other mothers' children. All the other mothers are watching this disaster unfold on television, with you at the controls, the only one who can alter the outcome. Does your decision remain exactly the same? Maybe it does. If you were one of the other mothers in the stands, looking down at yourself, would you say "She did the right thing!"?


Not quite the same thing, but this sort of reminds me of the case of Peter Nielsen, the air traffic controller involved in the 2002 air crash between a Russian passenger plane and a DHL cargo plane over Germany.

The main cause of the crash was a string of failures in the ATC system that evening, and the differing views of the pilots as to follow the commands given by ATC or by their on-board TCAS. Technical problems led to Nielsen making a bad decision.

Nielsen blamed himself entirely, and left the ATC service a broken man.

About a year and a half later, a man who had lost his wife and two children in the crash tracked down Nielsen and stabbed him to death.

Edited to spell Logoboros' name correctly. Apologies. [Smile]

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Jay Temple
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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quote:
Originally posted by DemonWolf:
We pay taxes to educate our children to educate our children. If you have no children, you still benefit because these children will grow up and become your ... bosses.

I agree with your general point here, but I hardly consider this to be a benefit!

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"Well, it looks we're on our own ... again."--Rev. Lovejoy

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Mr. Billion
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by tribrats:
[QB] Society has beaten into people that the only "right" answer is to sacrifice your own./QB]

I don't have any statistics to back this up, but I bet that society (defined as either the U.S. as a whole or the world as a whole) would say they'd do the same, if you polled everybody in the same way as we've been polled here.

Like Chloe said:

quote:
Hundreds of people died in a typhoon in the last couple of days. If you could, would you save them by killing the person closest to you in the world? Sorry, no.
I think we kind of already do something similar every day. It's natural to put the interests of ourselves and our loved ones first. Would you rather buy mosquito netting for a family in Burundi to protect them from malaria for a year, or buy your kids Christmas gifts?

(It's the Monkeysphere!)

The exercise MapleLeaf gave has us weigh the needs of the many vs the needs of the few, but with the added twist of the few being our loved ones. If the 1500 and the 25 are both groups we don't know, most people would agree intellectually that it's more moral to save the 1500 than just the 25. It's when the 25 includes our own kids that it just hurts too much to do that.

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"For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over who's going to govern Iraq strikes me as a classic definition of a quagmire." ~Dick Cheney.

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Mr. Billion
The First USA Noel


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Whoops, I just realized that that first sentence should say "I bet that most people would choose to save their own family". Saying "do the same" was unclear.

I'd edit my message, but the board is telling me "Sorry, the time in which you may edit your message has elapsed." Hmmm, this must be new.

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"For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over who's going to govern Iraq strikes me as a classic definition of a quagmire." ~Dick Cheney.

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