Three Situations To Make You Question Your Morals

19:42Ciaran McCormick

Various extremely intelligent thinkers have devised situations and problems over the years that make you question what you would do if you were in that situation. I have cherrypicked a few to pose to Politics Beyond Politicians readers. Some will make you consider killing people and other unimaginable actions. Bear in mind that they all involve hypothetical situations where you have perfect information of what will happen and you can't just change a few details to avoid making the tough decisions. Feel free to share your thoughts and answers in the comments. Remember there are no right answers.


People's lives are at risk, what will you do?
1) The Train
Imagine you are walking near some unguarded train tracks. Some evil fiend has found an innocent bunch of bystanders and overpowered them. Four of them are tied to the railway line and aren't able to move. You walk past and discover them screaming and want to get over there to rescue and untie them. But then you realise a train is coming. If they are hit, they will die. Their only hope is a lever by the side of the track that if pulled will divert it onto a different set of tracks. The four tied down people will escape unharmed. However, the evil fiend has tied someone else to the other railway track. If you pull the lever, he will die instead.

Do you pull the lever or not? Is allowing four people to die worse than taking an action that kills one person?

2) The Fat Man
Whatever you did last time, unfortunately the evil fiend escaped. He struck again and you were in the wrong place and wrong time once again (it has been a difficult week). This time, four other strangers have been tied onto a different railway line and the train is coming. But there is no lever in sight! You clamber over the nearest bridge, unable to get to the tied up people in time. A fat man is also walking across the bridge. You realise in that moment that if you push him off the bridge, he will stop the train and die and the others will be unharmed.

Do you push him off? What if the fat man was actually the evil fiend that tied the people to the track?

3) The Doctor
Beyond your hobby of walking in the countryside near train tracks, you actually work as a doctor. It is always busy and involves many difficult decisions. However, today has presented a particularly challenging situation. Five very sick people have come in and require organ transplants. Unfortunately, nobody on the donor list is suitable and time is running out. Luckily, a healthy stranger without any family or friends is in the hospital that day to visit. You could save all five of the ill patients by harvesting his organs and giving them to the ill people. Nobody would suspect the doctor in any way if you went through with the operation. But would you kill the healthy person to save them?

What do you do?

Have these situations made you think differently about your morals. They all focus on a theory called utilitarianism, that tries to maximise the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people. Would you kill one person to save many?

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