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Is Killing Someone to Protect a Person Morally Acceptable?

Posted Jul 3, '14 at 7:48am

R1a2z3e4

R1a2z3e4

90 posts

Yes, one person kill can save many lives.

 

Posted Jul 3, '14 at 4:49pm

pangtongshu

pangtongshu

8,704 posts

@Emp
That was my thoughts when i firat heard the two..still my thoughts to this day. However i thought it would be nice to have the other version thrown in

Also surprised no one brought up a Kantian argument :)

 

Posted Jul 3, '14 at 11:42pm

NWOTSM

NWOTSM

12 posts

anything is acceptable and possible. morality is for retards.

 

Posted Jul 3, '14 at 11:50pm

Jacen96

Jacen96

2,278 posts

@pangtongshu

Are you talking about this?

~~~Darth Caedus

 

Posted Jul 4, '14 at 2:34am

pangtongshu

pangtongshu

8,704 posts

Are you talking about this?

The argument I'm discussing is where he argues that to find if something is moral we should view the act as if everyone on Earth were to do it..and what the consequences would be

 

Posted Jul 21, '14 at 8:29pm

apldeap123

apldeap123

600 posts

Ok, guys, I believe we are getting off-topic. Let's stick to the original three questions, the title question, the Pebble Problem, and the Trolley problem.

 

Posted Jul 22, '14 at 12:03am

EmperorPalpatine

EmperorPalpatine

5,011 posts

Ok, guys, I believe we are getting off-topic.

Talking about ramen noodle flavors would be off-topic. Talking about ethical systems, such as Kant's, is very relevant to the question.

Another variation of the "fat man" is the "fat villain", meaning the guy that put the people on the track is standing by it. You could push him on the track to simultaneously kill him and save his victims. Is pushing him morally good?

 

Posted Jul 22, '14 at 4:59am

09philj

09philj

1,237 posts

Is pushing him morally good?

We need more context to determine this. What is his motivation?

 

Posted Jul 22, '14 at 8:40am

Moegreche

Moegreche

2,855 posts

Moderator

I figured I'd pop my head in to provide the Kantian response to these scenarios. If you're not interested in this line (or Kant) then feel free to ignore this post.

Anyone who has studied Kant will have heard something about his categorical imperative. Sometimes it's explained along the lines of "what if everyone in the world did X?". But this isn't quite right for 2 reasons.
First, Kant was concerned with maxims, rather than actions. A maxim is basically a motivation for doing something plus the rational action needed to do that thing.
Second, once we have established a particular maxim we have to ask whether that maxim, when universalised, would lead to a contradiction. Scholars of Kant still argue about what sort of contradiction is going on (it might not be a straightforward logical contradiction) so things get a bit complicated. The upshot is that it looks like on most of these scenarios, a Kantian ethical system is silent about what we ought (or ought not) to do.

So let's take the standard trolley problem. Should I turn the trolley on the 1 in order to save 5? Well, suppose this maxim is universalised: Everyone who finds themselves in control of a trolley in this situation should turn the trolley on the 1. Does this result in a world that is logically inconsistent? The answer seems to be a clear 'no' so it's morally permissible to turn the trolley. But it turns out that even if we don't turn the trolley the resulting world would still be consistent. So Kantianism can't really tell what we should do here.

We can run the same line for the health pebble - it seems that no matter what you do, your maxim can be universalised without resulting in a contradiction.

But there may be an answer to be found in a different formulation of the categorical imperative. This is the Humanity Formulation. It goes something like: "Never treat another person as a mere means".

This does give us a clear answer to the fat man scenario. Since we would be using the fat man as a mere means (even if it is to save lives) it would be morally impermissible. Now, perhaps we could use this formulation to suggest that we shouldn't turn the trolley either. But it's not clear (to me, at least) that we are using the 1 as a mere means to save the 5 in this scenario. If you wanted to argue that we are using the 1 as a mere means, there is a worry that, by not turning the train, you are using the 5 as a mere means. The result would be that you couldn't turn the trolley or keep it on the same track. Both actions would be morally impermissible.

So, the Kantian response - while difficult to nail down - is going to be pretty uninformative about what we ought to do. This is reflected by other problem cases for Kant. One-off events, such as revenge killing, don't seem to be impermissible according to Kant. And, of course, there's the well-known case of not being able to lie to a murderer who is looking for a friend that you're hiding (this would be wrong on both the Universilisability and Humanity Formulations).

 

Posted Jul 23, '14 at 6:14pm

apldeap123

apldeap123

600 posts

What is his motivation?

We're referring to the Trolley Problem, right? If I were him, I wouldn't want to push the fat dude down. But seeing the other people tied to the train, I would rather save the other five people myself and have myself killed, so at least,  I wouldn't be accused of killing the fat man.

 
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