The Trolley Problem

The trolley problem is a classic philosophical experiment that was introduced by Philippa Foot in 1967. The trolley problem is evident to raise tension in moral thoughts. For instance, from the utilitarian lens, it is argued that an appropriate action is that which “achieves the greatest good for the greatest number.” On the other hand, the deontological perspective asserts that “certain actions-like killing an innocent person-are just wrong even if the consequences are good.”  In most cases, the trolley problem is agreed on by the utilitarians who deem it morally acceptable to kill one and save the five others. Just like the utilitarians, my stance is that it is more ethical to pull the lever to the side track where one person is lying in order to save the other five persons on the main track. My moral intuitions accord with the utilitarian principle on the need to deflect a threat from many people onto an individual or a small group. In most cases, people are faced with the dilemma to do good in the conflict of negative and positive duties. In order to demonstrate the morality of this problem, negative duties are perceived as refraining from hurting others while positive duties entailed doing good to save lives. In this case, my argument is based on the principle that negative duties are always vital and quick to bring positive consequences as opposed to positive duties. For instance, pushing the lever to the side will lead to a loss of one individual but at the same time saving five. However, it should be known that a person cannot be justified when violating a negative duty to accomplish a positive duty which is favorable in helping others.

Through this line of reasoning, we get the idea that moral dilemma challenges our value system in the sense that we are faced with the decision to identify ourselves during the intervention time. Under the trolley scenario, it is evident that a person is challenged with the choice to do one thing, and not to do it govern the fact that all the choices have possible consequences. It is factual that our inner-selves are socially engineered under the utilitarian principals as well as the consequentialism values which are necessary for the evaluation of a person’s rights as part of a collective. It is morally wrong to take the life of an innocent person, however, situations forces and at the end of it all, a moral dilemma must be solved. Any examination of a moral dilemma in most cases evoke various reactions from us in the sense that there are possible implications for us as agents of intervention and from a utilitarian perspective, the impacts on us as agents in the scenarios. Considering the trolley scenario, killing one to save five seems to be the right decision for those who believe in utilitarian. However, deontologists argue against the utilitarian fact since they think it is not acceptable to kill the person to save others. What seems to be the reason behind this discrepancy is that people’s moral intuitions are supposed to be guarded that they may become good social partners. We learn from a very young age that any act that is violent towards another person is punishable in society. It means that our moral intuitions alerts us and warns us against taking actions that can harm others physically. From this fact then as in the case of the trolley problem, critics argue that the problem entails physical contact in the sense that one life is to be lost while five others to be saved. According to these critics, this action is not acceptable. In simple words, they argue that it is not morally right to treat other people as objects to be used yet they have their rights, needs, and wishes.

Comparing the trolley problem to real life morality, we get so many scenarios that are faced with moral dilemmas yet they ought to be solved. For instance, given the fact that the world today is driven with technology in all industries, can we say that a self- driving car can protect its passengers’ lives at the expense of a pedestrian? It is evident that technology is increasingly apparent to take control of our moral decisions, but understanding our moral intuitions is crucial in solving situations that are faced with a moral dilemma. The scenario above is different from the trolley problem. Looking at real-world occurrences and outcomes, many instances of the Trolley problem occur every day in our daily discourse. Looking at the Trolley problem once again, it is factual that a person is faced with two choices to make.

In most cases, the two choices we face can solve one problem but create another one. According to Thomson, a dilemma can be resolved through diverting a threat, but just as the problem seems solved, a new threat is introduced. For instance, pushing the level to cause the Trolley to hit only one person is right, but the fact that you have saved the other five does not guarantee to be a permanent solution to the problem. An innocent soul is lost, in other words, a new threat is introduced. This is supported by deontologists who argue on the fact that it is morally unacceptable to solve a problem if another one is created. In the first place, the new threat was not there but only introduced while solving the already existing one. Pulling the lever diverts the current threat from five people and channeling it to one. The action creates a new threat which is considered morally unacceptable. Despite the depth of any situation, we are always left with two choices we have to decide from. In other words, the decision for us to decide on an issue motivates us to make a suitable decision that is moral. Under the Doctrine of Double Effect, we solve the Trolley problem based on two choices; the harm that is intended from a foreseen harm.  All the choices contain damage in the sense that as much as the problem is solved, there is harm caused. , in this case, depends on the consequences which are weighed on the scale of killing as well as letting die. These are what explains our intuitions in circumstances that can be solved but again raises disagreements. He Trolley driver has to choose between killing one as opposed to killing many. Although this problem is associated with the concept of doing versus allowing distinction, we can assert that by using the pull lever to stop the trolley from hurting the five people will imply doing harm, which can be morally significant at some point and also not. According to Fitzpatrick, the act of sacrificing others and not sacrificing ourselves is permissible. However, we know that morality cannot allow for people to reach such extremes of self-sacrificing, but this can be at the same time compelling in cases where damage such as injury or death can be minimized.  For us to respond to a challenge such as the Trolley problem, it is vital to consider the immediate moral implications. If one choice is possible to bring positive consequences, then we can go for it and prevent huge damages. It is true that we are always responsible for the things that we are causally responsible for. In this case, pulling the lever to save the lives of five people is worthy than standing there and watching them die yet you could have prevented it.