The Trolley Problem By Chris Knight

     There is a “problem” in academic ethics called the  “trolley problem,” which involves your choice of saving an innocent child tied to the railway track by the villain, by diverting the train and killing a fat man, tied to another track. The problem can be changed to cause difficulties for whatever course of action one takes.

     Recently this problem received debate in Alt Right circles, over the abortion issue: would you save say, 10,000 frozen embryos over the life of one child?

     Presumably, the child would be chosen, somehow refuting the pro-life position. Many disagree:

     These sort of ultimate moral problems involving artificial conditions, do not make good social policy. It no more follows that if a person saved the child over the frozen embryos, that the embryos are of no value. Maybe the total moral value of the embryos is greater than that of the child, but saving the child, if a choice had to be made, is hardly morally wrong. This assumes that only the maximally morally right decisions are moral. Maybe, if in a science fiction example, the frozen embryos were all that was left of the human race, the choice would be reversed. Context and circumstances are everything.

     The point to be made is that modern ethics, grounded on analytic philosophy, is utterly hopeless as an aid in dealing with real world ethical problems, since it aims for perfectionism, and counter-example free principles, true in all possible worlds. But, their principles, be it utilitarianism or deontology, are not even timelessly true in this world. Reality is just too damned complex.



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Saturday, 12 June 2021
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