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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Vantage Points and The Trolley Problem

By Thomas Nadelhoffer
Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog
Originally posted November 10, 2013

Here is an excerpt:

The standard debates about scenarios like BAS (Bystander at the Switch) typically focus on what it is permissible for the bystander to do given the rights of the few who have to be sacrificed involuntarily in order to save the many. In a paper I have been working on in fits and starts for too damn long now, I try to shift the vantage point from which we view cases like BAS and I suggest doing so yields some interesting results.  Rather than looking at BAS from the perspective of the bystanders—and what it is permissible (or impermissible) for them to do—I examine BAS instead from the point of view of the individuals whose lives hang in the balance. This change of vantage points highlights some possible tensions that may exist in our ever shifting intuitions.

For instance, let’s reexamine BAS from the point of view of the five people who will be killed if the bystander perhaps understandably cannot bring herself to hit the switch. Imagine that one of the five workmen has a gun and it becomes clear that the bystander is not going to be able to bring herself to divert the trolley.  Would it be permissible for the workman with the gun to shoot and kill the bystander if doing so was the only way of getting her to fall onto the switch?

The entire blog post is here.
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