The Trolley Problem: A Thought Experiment

Perspective Writers' Votes
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The right thing to do is to pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

Pros
Cons
  • By not pulling the lever, you intentionally ignore the 5 people who were (are) going to die without your help.

  • You should pull the lever because five lives are worth more than one.

  • Even if extremely unlikely, one person is more likely to survive than all the 5 together.

  • You should pull the lever because a world where people are willing to sacrifice one person to save five is a safer world to live in overall.

  • 68% of professional philosophers would sacrifice the one person. In an ethical question their opinion is a good guide (Bourget & Chalmers, p.16).

  • Pulling the lever can lead to direct benefits.

  • Because each person has a greater chance of ending up on the main track than on the side track, each person would presumably agree to throw the switch in the event they were to find themself in this position.

  • A human being is an end unto itself — individuals should never be treated as a means to an end. You shouldn't pull the lever because that makes one life a mere tool to save others.

  • Pulling the lever leads to six people who will feel responsible in the taking of another human life, for the rest of their lives. This is likely to generate more harms overall than the other scenario.

  • By pulling the lever, you actively interfere with fate/nature/Higher being's plan, which is wrong.

  • If the bystander does not feel it would be a moral obligation to throw himself in front of the trolley to save the six, were he given the chance, he cannot consider it a moral obligation or the right thing to do to kill the one to save the five.

  • By pulling the lever you actively cause someone to die. That is wrong.

  • It is better not to act because of a lack of sufficient information.

  • You do not know any of the people involved. Thus you should not care at all and abstain from making the choice.

  • If the bystander is unsure of what to do, they should not pull the lever.

  • Possible good consequences (such as saving five people) are irrelevant to whether or not pulling the lever is right, as the action must be right in and of itself regardless of consequence to be morally correct (under deontology).

  • Only those who work for the trolley should make changes to the system. It doesn't matter what is right, you are sending the trolley on a path that it wasn't intended to travel, causing a fatality. There is no way to know what will happen on the intended course unless you let it run.