Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I should think more.

There's an old moral question about two different situations. One you can pull a lever and change the tracks of the train and therefore redirect a train away from killing five children and into killing one hobo. And comparing this to a situation where you can push a button, which will abduct a hobo harvest his organs and use his death to save five children. And the question is why does the first one feel okay but the second one feel completely unacceptable, when they are really the same situation? You are exchanging one life for five lives.

I just thought this was rather interesting and didn't bother to think about it. But, in reality the two situations are completely different. I just hadn't posed the questions correctly enough to consciously understand what I so clearly unconsciously understood so well. The difference is the type of society you live in. We're fine living in a world where people are hit by trains. Trains are pretty cool and they move stuff from one place to another. We're not fine living in a world where somebody can be abducted off the street and murdered for the greater good. The situations really are different, so different answers are required.


Vahram G. Diehl said...

Implementing coercive action to murder the hobo is fundamentally different than allowing harm to come to him through outside means. Coercion is wrong, defense is not.

Assuming that you were not the one to put the hobo and children in a situation where either one of the other would have to do, you are not to be blamed for anyone's death. Harvesting a hobo's organs however puts you at blame for his death. If you did not harvest his organs and let the children, you are not the cause of their death, you just allowed it to happen.

Tatarize said...

If that were the difference. Then I should perhaps for the greater good allow somebody else to do such a thing. If blame is my only concern. However, I wouldn't I would be duty-bound to prevent such actions if I could.

Vahram G. Diehl said...

Certainly you and many other noble individuals would feel duty bound to prevent whatever harm they realistically could, but such a duty is self-imposed. It is not an attack to stand by while someone else attacks.

Essentially this entire conversation boils down to having an adequate and working definition of "morality". It seems to me most pragmatic to say that so long as an individual is not inciting harm against another he is acting morally. One then who goes out of his way to prevent harm caused by others would be considered some kind of super-moral, and should be treated as the hero that he is.