The PRSI Philosophical Conundrum (now with scenario 2)

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by .Andy, Jun 15, 2008.

  1. .Andy macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    #1
    I thought this might be a fun test of PRSI intelligence/instruction following ability ;). The scenario would be familiar to many of us who've taken a philosophy course/read The God Delusion. The instructions are very clear;

    1. Answer the question with a simple I would flip the switch or I wouldn't flip the switch.
    2. Justify your answer with a paragraph or two.
    3. There is no (I repeat NO) additional information you can add to the scenario. i.e. I don't care if you have a rocket launcher.
    4. Feel free to ask questions to explore other people's answers.

    If you fail to adhere to rules 1, 2, and 3 you are of low IQ, deserve ridicule, and mankind hopes you never procreate :).

    Scenario A (shamelessly pulled from wikipedia);

    A trolley/tram/train is running out of control down a track. In its path are 5 people who have been tied to the track by a mad philosopher. Fortunately, you can flip a switch which will lead the trolley/tram/train down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. Should you flip the switch?

    (edit: assuming the thread is popular I'd like to use the additions/changes the scenario in coming pages to further examine people's train of thought).

    edit 2:
    Scenario B
    There are five young people in hospital suffering from terminal illnesses that are genetic in origin (they by no means brought their imminent deaths upon themselves). Their only hope is a transplant which will definitely save their lives. Assuming no donor organs are available before they die, is the death of a single, healthy, innocent individual as an organ source justifiable to save these five people? Does your answer differ between the two scenarios? If so, why?
     
  2. .Andy thread starter macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    #2
    I'd flip the switch.

    The scenario is so tight and restrictive that it doesn't allow time to assess the situation (such as the age of the people involved) so it really comes down to a decision of numbers to me. Although giving it thought I'm never sure if there could be any attributes assessable under those conditions that should sway my actions. Would it not be completely arbitrary to kill off five people of any age to save another of a different age?

    1 dies to 5 can live.
     
  3. Cromulent macrumors 603

    Cromulent

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    #3
    Well trolley is a rather vague name to give it. Makes it sound light and not going particularly fast.

    Given the lack of information I would flick the switch because doing so guarantees that only one person will be injured / killed. The problem is that given the lack of information we have no idea if the first person of the group of five would be enough to derail the trolley, if so either track would result in the same outcome.
     
  4. .Andy thread starter macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    #4
    Damn Cromulent :D;)! Derailed on the first post! Ok to clarify a trolley is another name for a tram/train. It's heavy, going fast, out of control and will obliterate anything in it's path. The scenario is to more examine your thought process and how you justify your actions in the situation.
     
  5. Cromulent macrumors 603

    Cromulent

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    #5
    When you're hot, you're hot :).

    Ah I see. In that case the only possible option would be to flick the switch in the first instance then. If you only have two options available to you then you should pick the option that results in the least loss of life possible.
     
  6. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #6
    I have to agree that you should flick the switch.
     
  7. mpw Guest

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    #7
    Flip it.

    If that's all the information then for me it'd be a no-brainer, I'd trade the one life for the five.
     
  8. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #8
    Playing god, are we? There is no possible way of making a reasonable assessment of the relative "worth" of the imminent victim(s). And how does sentencing one person to certain death who would otherwise survive make saving five others the "correct" answer? Perhaps the most "reasonable" solution would be to leave the switch alone and shoot the other person, just to even things up.
     
  9. Cromulent macrumors 603

    Cromulent

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    #9
    It is not about worth of the individuals it just the logical choice to pick the option that saves the most lives. There is nothing about worth in the decision.
     
  10. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #10
    This has absolutely nothing to do with logic, and everything to do with unqualified decisions.
     
  11. mpw Guest

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    #11
    It's hardly 'playing god'. It's deciding whether to save the lives of five people, and accepting the consequence this would mean to one other person.

    In my answer I made no effort to assess any relative worth of the victims, simply decided to save the greater number of people. I'm also not saying mine is the 'correct' answer, just my answer.

    Given just one more relevant fact I might choose to not flip the switch, but with the only the facts to hand I'd save the greater number.
     
  12. Queso macrumors G4

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    #12
    I wouldn't flip the switch.

    I've a nasty feeling I'm the one tied to the alternative track :D
     
  13. mpw Guest

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    #13
    So what would you do skunk? Say that you were not able to qualify your decision, stand back, do nothing and let the five die?
     
  14. Chaszmyr macrumors 601

    Chaszmyr

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    #14
    Rather than simply asking what people's opinions are, it should probably be specified what is being examined here. It's possible that maybe various people have different values attached to their lives, and the one person is a very good person and the five people are all bad people, but let's say you have no idea who the people are. The heart of the issue is if you do nothing, more net damage is resulting, but from your perspective as an ethical agent, things are just running their course. If you flip the switch, however, while you save 4 net lives, you are directly responsible for choosing that the one person should die. Of course, if you're of the persuasion that you should sit by and do nothing, you'd also have to ask yourself if there'd ever be a point where you'd draw a line. Would you let a billion people die rather than choosing for one to die?
     
  15. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #15
    You have no way of making that judgment, or of knowing what it would mean to the future of the universe.
     
  16. miniConvert macrumors 68040

    miniConvert

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    #16
    I wouldn't flip the switch.

    The five people have been tied to the track by the mad philosopher. Now, he may be mad, but he's a philosopher and I'm going to assume that he has his reasons. I know that if I flip the switch I will kill another person, who I'm going to assume isn't related to whatever is happening with the mad philosopher and is tragically tied there for some other reason - perhaps knowing that no train is due to come along.

    So, the mad philosopher gets his way and, as I didn't touch anything, I didn't 'kill' anybody. Really don't know if I'd do this IRL, but it was fun to think about.
     
  17. Chaszmyr macrumors 601

    Chaszmyr

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    #17
    We make decisions all the time without knowing what consequences they'll have down the road, and as soon as we're made aware of the situation in this scenario, we can't simply make no decision because we don't have enough information, whatever ends up happening constitutes a decision we made.
     
  18. mpw Guest

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    #18
    But the same could be said about absolutely everything anybody does everyday.

    If I swat the mosquito that buzzes about my room at night, it might not go on to fatally infect person x with malaria, person x then goes on to commit genocide in 20years. Did I play god, or swat a bug? ...or both?
     
  19. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #19
    Let's make the question more difficult: what if there were five people tied to one track and four to the other.
     
  20. Mord macrumors G4

    Mord

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  21. Queso macrumors G4

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    #21
    In that case you could sit playing with the switch with your eyes covered and allow the decision to chance :)

    *ahem*

    ;)
     
  22. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #22
    That might actually be the only sensible solution.
     
  23. Cromulent macrumors 603

    Cromulent

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    #23
    Of course it is to do with logic. You don't have any information other than you can kill or injure one person or you can kill or injure five people. Which is the more logical choice?
     
  24. aLoC macrumors 6502a

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    #24
    I would not flip the switch.

    Life is not perfect. Accidents happen, people get kidnapped, shot, have car crashes etc. The fact that those 5 got a bum deal is sad, but it doesn't give them a right to have someone sacrificed to save them.

    None of us have a right to have others sacrificed to save us from the misfortunes of life. We just have to face it the best we can, even if it's not our fault.
     
  25. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #25
    Well, no, your choice is between injecting yourself into the equation or not.
     

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