Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
animist wrote:I don't see that this is relevant. This is an ethical dilemma, not a realistic question about one's own impartiality - ie, the question is not whether you actually would do what seems to be the morally correct thing but whether the morally right thing is to push or not to push.
Well, at one point you did ask the question, "What would you do?" And since I'm a moral sceptic who doesn't think there are any objective moral values, that is perhaps a more meaningful and interesting question for me.
do not quite agree on that. You need not be a moral objectivist (it seems that most people on the forum are not) to have moral opinions, and you obviously do. The question is: what do you feel is "right" (or rather, the morally best available option)? - and you need not have a belief about the nature of moral judgments to make that sort of a decision.
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:Anyway, although I'm inclined to think that there isn't a morally right response to either problem, my feelings about the two are different. I think that if I knew of someone who had been in the first situation and had thrown the switch, resulting in the single person on the siding being killed and the five on the main track surviving, I would not feel disapproving of or uncomfortable about that person. But neither would I feel disapproving of or uncomfortable about a person who did not throw the switch.
again, I don't think it is about condemning anyone for the "wrong" decision in awful circumstances
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:But if I knew of someone who had pushed a fat man off a bridge, resulting in his death and the five people on the track being saved, then I'd ... I'd probably look at him or her a little differently. I would wonder what sort of person could make that sort of decision.
well, given that he would legally be a murderer, I imagine, if his calculations proved wrong, it certainly would be a special type of person!
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
animist wrote:ok, my alternative "do nothing or do something?" dilemma.....
Yes. It is more realistic. But it's different, because we're talking about removing an artificial means of keeping someone alive, rather than allowing someone to be killed. And that's much easier to do. Doctors do it all the time!
do they? I am not querying what you say, and this is the sort of factual feedback (triage etc?) that I wanted. I think perhaps this is an important distinction, and that my "alternative" maybe is not a real one, as you say, but a different situation. The idea of "moral claim" seems to be popping in here (and of course is decidedly non-utilitarian). What you seem to mean is that these patients do not have much of a "claim" on the doctor since they owe their continued existences to him, whereas, in contrast, the fat man has a very strong claim to be left alone by you, and the one person (in the siding) who would survive if you don't throw the switch has a somewhat weaker claim on you to let things be. I don't know whether this idea has been tested empirically, ie whether other people would feel like you - Philbo did not mention this, for instance, and it did not occur to me till you mentioned it. (But what if the one patient had paid extra money for the supposed security of a separate power supply - would this give him an additional claim beyond the others?)
Emma Woolgatherer wrote:What I'm trying to say is that I do think the idea that it's better to save more lives than fewer lives is a powerful one. I'm just not convinced that it's a moral imperative.
I think by using words like "imperative" you make it harder to keep the discussion in moral terms (or, maybe, you make it easier to escape moral terms); surely the question is about what is morally the better/best decision in difficult circumstances.