Monday, 28 April 2008

Ethical Decisions


I’m reading a section in the God Delusion discussion how our ability to make moral decision has come about as part of the evolutional process. He goes on to describe thing moral questions that have been posed to people as part of test that was done to examine the thought process of moral and ethical decisions. It really caught my attention because it goes along really well with the current serious of questions am posting as part of the QotW I do on Communitas Paganus. Basically as a group we have discussed the traditional rules and beliefs of being a Witch or Wiccan and now am posing some ethical questions and putting the beliefs to the test.

Here are the three questions that are posed where do you stand on them?

  • A train is out of control and racing down the track towards another car with 5 passengers who are trapped inside. You are at the switch and can redirect the car however the only track you can redirect it to has a single person trapped in a car. Do you redirect the runaway train, to kill the one person or let it continue towards the five?
  • Now what if the same on coming train could be stopped by dropped a heavy weight from and over head bridge. Would you drop the weight? Even if the only weight available was a very fat man sitting on a bench admiring the sun set?

Both options require you to kill one person to save five. To quote Spock “The good on the many out way the good of the one?” So on the surface they would seem similar but there is a difference in that the second one requires us to talk direct hands on action resulting in the death of the very fat man. I think the argument runs on the same line of thinking that people often use when complaining about the automation of war. It becomes too impersonal, and it is much easier to cause someone’s death by throwing a switch or pushing a button.

  • If you found that you able to kill the one to save the five then I offer you this last possibility which is an all too real situation. A doctor in a hospital has five patients all terminal each with a different organ failing and causing their deaths. In the waiting room sits a healthy man, who is also the perfect match to all five patients. Would it be moral to take the life of the healthy man to save the five?

They may seem like silly questions on the surface, but they go to how we think and also how we value or devalue life. My own personal take on each of them is that I wouldn’t take any of the options posed. I certainly wouldn’t throw the switch to divert the train, I have no right or desire to decide who lives or dies. I would have to pick the third unmentioned option try and rescue the trapped people.

1 comment:

Howling Hill said...

It becomes too impersonal, and it is much easier to cause someone’s death by throwing a switch or pushing a button.

When I was in school I often heard Iraqis are OUR enemies. Time and again I said "No Iraqi has ever done anything to me right or wrong. They are not my enemies and even if they were, I wouldn't kill them." I refused to get pulled into the enemy/ally dichotomy.

I'll answer your questions on my blog.