View Poll Results: What would you do?

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  • Switch the track

    17 56.67%
  • Let the train continue

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Thread: The Murder Dilemma (an ethics question)

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    Re: The Murder Dilemma (an ethics question)

    It's unclear, but a few people have implied that doing nothing isn't making the choice. I disagree with that 100%. When you get to the booth, you're presented with two choices - A or B. It doesn't matter in the slightest that the switch is in the A position. If you leave it there, you've chosen A as much as if when you got there it was in position B and you had to make the switch to A.

    Second, I thought this was a trick question. In my mind there is no difficult choice at all. Sacrifice the one to save the many.

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    Re: The Murder Dilemma (an ethics question)

    Quote Originally Posted by Lursa View Post
    Are you saying that it's justifiable homicide if you dont know the single person on the tracks (and choose to kill them) but murder if it's a loved one and you choose to save them over the train occupants? How does that work? Just because you have a personal stake in the single person?

    In BOTH cases, you have a great deal at stake and in both cases, it has to do with personal emotional investment and choice and *ego* What will make YOU feel better...not necessarily what is 'best.' Hard to say what is best...most people seem to think it is the saving of as many lives as possible.

    Whether or not you know the single person on the tracks, IMO it can never be murder to do nothing and allow the train to continue to derail with the passengers. You did not create the situation and you cannot know the consequences in life and injury before the fact.
    Consider the following scenario:

    You are in a tower at a rail yard where you can control one switch. A train full of passengers is approaching the fork in the tracks with that switch. You cannot leave the tower or call anyone until the train passes.

    On one track, a person is tied to the rails. The other track is damaged. If you do nothing, the train will continue onto the damaged track and derail. Many of the passengers and crew will be killed as a result.

    If you switch the train onto the other track, it will pass safely onto its destination, but it will kill the person tied to the tracks.

    It's your decision . . .

    [Additional details: (1) Once the train passes the fork in the tracks, it can’t be stopped until it hits the person who’s tied up or derails. (2) Switching the tracks isn't actually your job; you just happen to be in the tower because of a set of random circumstances. (3) The person on the tracks was already tied to them when you got there.]
    DD presented a moral dilemma. He called it THE MURDER DILEMMA. If it's not possible to know what the choices are - then what's the point of the scenario?

    However, from reading the OP we know what our choices are. DD is asking us to place ourselves in the tower and make a choice in what action we would take in the scenario he presented.

    I was using an example of making a choice "knowing" that taking one action would result in the death of one person verse the potential death and or injury to many persons - including substantial property loss.

    What I added to the story was the same as Moot.

    A true moral dilemma would be - having to choose switching the train's direction - which would kill a close loved one - or do nothing and the train is destined to derail and thereby potentially killing and injuring a lot of people.

    But as you see from the story DD presented its making a choice between one or the many along with substantial property loss.

    Bottom line: I opine that DD's scenario it's NOT a MURDER DILEMMA unless the person in the tower has a personal stake and/or gain in the choice making process.

    If such a situation lead to a trial, which I doubt it would, but for the sake of argument in my previous post I used the word "homicide" because in the scenario there was intent to take the "one persons life". As you know, homicide doesn't mean always mean "murder". Homicide comes under two classifications: 1) Criminal 2)State Sanctioned. And state sanctioned homicides are usually called "justifiable homicide".

    Given the scenario - choosing to switch tracks, which would indeed take the life of the person tied to the track is not legally murder. It is purposely taking the life of a person, but not with malice or even negligence (manslaughter). It was a choice made with intention. It was a choice to minimize loss. Choosing the one over the many would be "justifiable".

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    Re: The Murder Dilemma (an ethics question)

    Quote Originally Posted by Removable Mind View Post
    DD presented a moral dilemma. He called it THE MURDER DILEMMA. If it's not possible to know what the choices are - then what's the point of the scenario?

    However, from reading the OP we know what our choices are. DD is asking us to place ourselves in the tower and make a choice in what action we would take in the scenario he presented.

    I was using an example of making a choice "knowing" that taking one action would result in the death of one person verse the potential death and or injury to many persons - including substantial property loss.

    What I added to the story was the same as Moot.

    A true moral dilemma would be - having to choose switching the train's direction - which would kill a close loved one - or do nothing and the train is destined to derail and thereby potentially killing and injuring a lot of people.

    But as you see from the story DD presented its making a choice between one or the many along with substantial property loss.

    Bottom line: I opine that DD's scenario it's NOT a MURDER DILEMMA unless the person in the tower has a personal stake and/or gain in the choice making process.

    If such a situation lead to a trial, which I doubt it would, but for the sake of argument in my previous post I used the word "homicide" because in the scenario there was intent to take the "one persons life". As you know, homicide doesn't mean always mean "murder". Homicide comes under two classifications: 1) Criminal 2)State Sanctioned. And state sanctioned homicides are usually called "justifiable homicide".

    Given the scenario - choosing to switch tracks, which would indeed take the life of the person tied to the track is not legally murder. It is purposely taking the life of a person, but not with malice or even negligence (manslaughter). It was a choice made with intention. It was a choice to minimize loss. Choosing the one over the many would be "justifiable".
    I didnt say we didnt know the choices...we do.

    I dont see how knowing the single person...or people on the train...makes a difference in 'right or wrong.' I can see how much more difficult it makes the choice for people...maybe that's why it was left out of the OP example. We're not talking about personal angst, we are, I thought, talking about a 'moral dilemma,' meaning right or wrong.

    And so I stuck with the facts and indicated how one choice is in fact effecting a homicide (changing the tracks to kill the single person) or choosing not to and allowing nature and physics and perhaps God to take their course. I also added that you KNOW the outcome (human cost) if you switch the tracks...but you really dont if you let the train derail. Each person takes their chances....the key word is chance, not certainty.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bucky View Post
    I have felt pain when I was in the womb. So when you say they are incapable of feeling pain, that is based on junk science.
    Quote Originally Posted by applejuicefool View Post
    A murderer putting a bullet through someone's brain is a medical procedure too.

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    Re: The Murder Dilemma (an ethics question)

    Quote Originally Posted by Lursa View Post
    I didnt say we didnt know the choices...we do.

    I dont see how knowing the single person...or people on the train...makes a difference in 'right or wrong.' I can see how much more difficult it makes the choice for people...maybe that's why it was left out of the OP example. We're not talking about personal angst, we are, I thought, talking about a 'moral dilemma,' meaning right or wrong.

    And so I stuck with the facts and indicated how one choice is in fact effecting a homicide (changing the tracks to kill the single person) or choosing not to and allowing nature and physics and perhaps God to take their course. I also added that you KNOW the outcome (human cost) if you switch the tracks...but you really dont if you let the train derail. Each person takes their chances....the key word is chance, not certainty.

    Yeah, I hear ya. I simply don't see this scenario as presented as a "murder dilemma". It's obviously forcing a person in the tower to make a decision, which would be a really unpleasant one to have to make. But in the end, this is a situation where logic and reason has to be employed. The choice employed would be made based on what action was necessary to minimize the losses and maximize the gain.

    That said..."in my opinion"...

    If the person in the tower and had a choice, was capable of acting on such a choice - but did nothing - and let the train derail. Then maybe a criminal charge of "Culpable Homicide" might be in order if lives were lost caused by the derailment. And there's always the possibility of "Wrongful Death" civil suits filed against the train company.

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    Re: The Murder Dilemma (an ethics question)

    Quote Originally Posted by Lursa View Post
    I am not responsible for the event you described in the OP. If I switch the track...I am responsible for the death of the single person on the tracks.

    If I do nothing, I am not responsible for deaths or injuries of the people on the train...I didnt cause the event. And I believe in letting those people take their chances...some will live, some may die or be injuried....but that is all up to chance. It's not set in stone and it's not my fault.

    Is it more fair that I 'decide' the chance for the single person? Hardly. Just ask him/her.
    I would never try to claim that either decision is "fair."
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    Re: The Murder Dilemma (an ethics question)

    Quote Originally Posted by Removable Mind View Post
    Yeah, I hear ya. I simply don't see this scenario as presented as a "murder dilemma". It's obviously forcing a person in the tower to make a decision, which would be a really unpleasant one to have to make. But in the end, this is a situation where logic and reason has to be employed. The choice employed would be made based on what action was necessary to minimize the losses and maximize the gain.

    That said..."in my opinion"...

    If the person in the tower and had a choice, was capable of acting on such a choice - but did nothing - and let the train derail. Then maybe a criminal charge of "Culpable Homicide" might be in order if lives were lost caused by the derailment. And there's always the possibility of "Wrongful Death" civil suits filed against the train company.
    Of course. I was just being conversational. And I believe that there is a choice either way. Not acting is still deciding not act.

    Interesting but I dont see how they could charge culpable homicide (never heard of that but I get the gist) because to act would 'intentionally' kill someone else. It would be interesting indeed.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bucky View Post
    I have felt pain when I was in the womb. So when you say they are incapable of feeling pain, that is based on junk science.
    Quote Originally Posted by applejuicefool View Post
    A murderer putting a bullet through someone's brain is a medical procedure too.

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    Re: The Murder Dilemma (an ethics question)

    Quote Originally Posted by DifferentDrummr View Post
    I would never try to claim that either decision is "fair."
    Correct. IMO
    Quote Originally Posted by Bucky View Post
    I have felt pain when I was in the womb. So when you say they are incapable of feeling pain, that is based on junk science.
    Quote Originally Posted by applejuicefool View Post
    A murderer putting a bullet through someone's brain is a medical procedure too.

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    Re: The Murder Dilemma (an ethics question)

    Quote Originally Posted by Removable Mind View Post
    Yeah, I hear ya. I simply don't see this scenario as presented as a "murder dilemma". It's obviously forcing a person in the tower to make a decision, which would be a really unpleasant one to have to make. But in the end, this is a situation where logic and reason has to be employed. The choice employed would be made based on what action was necessary to minimize the losses and maximize the gain.

    That said..."in my opinion"...

    If the person in the tower and had a choice, was capable of acting on such a choice - but did nothing - and let the train derail. Then maybe a criminal charge of "Culpable Homicide" might be in order if lives were lost caused by the derailment. And there's always the possibility of "Wrongful Death" civil suits filed against the train company.
    Any legal guilt would likely be placed on the people responsible for railroad safety, and rightly so. As someone else pointed out, no jury would convict you regardless of your decision.

    This scenario attempts to get rid of as many legal considerations as possible.
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    Re: The Murder Dilemma (an ethics question)

    Quote Originally Posted by DifferentDrummr View Post
    Any legal guilt would likely be placed on the people responsible for railroad safety, and rightly so. As someone else pointed out, no jury would convict you regardless of your decision.

    This scenario attempts to get rid of as many legal considerations as possible.
    I understand your point, but...

    Anytime any of us is confronted with a choice to manifest a thought into a behavior OR NOT - is still making a choice in the end. Choosing to do nothing still has consequences.

    The tower person's choice to not take action, which he or she knew would lead to the derailing - could be legally be conceived as a choice. So there is a choice either way.

    I disagree with the title of your OP - "The Murder Dilemma".

    However, I think that "Culpable Homicide" is a potential legal outcome under a specific circumstance.

    Culpable Homicide is probably most comparable to a drunk person passing out while driving a vehicle, hitting a car full of people and killing them all. It wasn't an intentional act to kill people, but an intoxicated person who intentionally gets in a car and drives is an illegal act. The person knew prior to getting intoxicated - driving drunk is an illegal act.

    In the case of the person in the tower. The person knew that there was consequences either way they chose. But to not act in a manner to minimize loss - to me is the potential act that might be legally seen as culpable homicide (the act of killing without intent or planning to kill). The person who was tied to the track was collateral damage at most. But even then the loved ones (spouse, parents, etc) of that person could petition a civil case that might fall under the category, "Wrongful Death" and seek damages.

    Now if the person tied to the track was a close loved one to the person in the tower. Then you have a real moral dilemma.

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    Re: The Murder Dilemma (an ethics question)

    BTW RM...if finally sank in what you meant (I think) when the use of the title 'murder' dilemma kind of colored it, towards a certain bias. That either choice led to murder, which IMO isnt the case for either.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bucky View Post
    I have felt pain when I was in the womb. So when you say they are incapable of feeling pain, that is based on junk science.
    Quote Originally Posted by applejuicefool View Post
    A murderer putting a bullet through someone's brain is a medical procedure too.

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