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Moral Dilemmas

Discussion in 'Alley of Dangerous Angles' started by Barmy Army, Jul 5, 2012.

?

Q1) Do you divert the train? Q2) Do you call the police? Q3) Do you keep your promise?

  1. Q1) Yes

    82.6%
  2. Q1) No

    17.4%
  3. Q2) Yes

    69.6%
  4. Q2) No

    26.1%
  5. Q3) Yes

    78.3%
  6. Q3) No

    17.4%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Barmy Army

    Barmy Army Simple mind, simple pleasures... Adored Veteran

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    These are taken (i.e. stole) from another forum I go to. The guy devised it to get pupils to apply theoretical concepts about morality to practical situations. Their responses have been surprising and revealing in equal measure, so I’m curious to see the responses here. Participants can explain their answers in the thread or they can simply give a yes/no answer in the polls.

    I have made it a public poll. I’ll happily request a change if enough people express a preference for a private one.

    Scenario 1

    An empty train is fast approaching a junction. You are standing by the points. If you do nothing, the train will go straight on and will run over a baby who has crawled onto the line. If you alter the points, the train will be diverted and will run over a drunken old man who is lying on the track. Do you divert the train?

    Scenario 2


    You pick up the telephone to make a local call, but the line is crossed and you overhear a conversation between two charity workers. From their conversation you gather that they have decided to break the law in a last-ditch effort to raise funds. They are planning an armed robbery on a large financial institution and will anonymously distribute the cash to a variety of choices. Do you call the police?

    Scenario 3


    On his deathbed your father asks you to promise him that when he dies you will spread his ashes over the "hallowed ground" (his words) of Old Trafford. He has been a life-long supporter of Manchester United and you know how much it means to him, so you promise you will. He dies a happy man and leaves you £10,000 in his will. You make some enquiries at the football club and they agree to let you carry out your father’s wish, but they explain that they will charge £10,000 for this service. Do you keep your promise?

    Can a mod fix the poll? It needs to be multiple choice ><.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
  2. Paracelsi

    Paracelsi ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    1) Assuming I know nothing about these two beyond the fact that one is a baby and the other is a drunken old man, I divert the train. The psychology of blame aside I believe that intentionally failing to react to this dilemma still counts as a choice. Though I admit I'm partial towards saving babies over drunken old geezers for personal reasons.

    Anyway imo bias isn't all bad, when the alternative in this situation is to try and play God minus the omniscience.

    2) The right decision here would be to call the police. The bottomline is that they're going to break quite a few major laws, and there's a very good reason why we should be worried about that. As for what I would actually do -

    3) Yes. Just not immediately.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
  3. Gnarfflinger

    Gnarfflinger Wiseguy in Training

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    1: Divert the train. This would be a spontaneous emotional decision. This assumes that the gory death of a child would be more traumatizing than the gory death of a drunk.

    2: Yes, call the police. The armed robbery creates a level of risk to innocent people that outweighs the good that distributing the money would do.

    3: Yes, assuming I still had the resources to do so. It's possible I'd have spend/squandered the money before learning about the fee...
     
  4. Erod Gems: 14/31
    Latest gem: Chrysoberyl


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    1) No.

    2) No, planning a robbery is not illegal (where I live).

    3) Yes, but I would probably look for a method where I would not have to pay anything.
     
  5. Dice

    Dice ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran

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    There is a problem with your poll Barmy. You can only choose one option so you can essentially only choose to answer one of the three questions on the poll.
     
  6. LKD Gems: 31/31
    Latest gem: Rogue Stone


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    I'll tackle each one:

    1: I divert the train. Every logic or moral system I would ever suscribe to tells me that the baby must be saved over the drunk. I'll go over each one:

    a: My version of Christianity: The drunk is an adult of the age of accountability. Despite whatever lousy life he had, he is able to choose whether or not to get drunk. He made a choice, and he should pay for it. The baby, on the other hand, is not of the age of accountability. The baby has not had the chance to experience life and make choices. The baby should not suffer because its parents are inattentive imbeciles. If someone is going to die, it should be the one who is accountable. Ideally, there would be a third choice where both could be saved, but in this scenario, SOMEONE is gonna no matter what.

    b: Evolutionary development: The drunk is likely not a contributing member of society, and has likely passed on his genes already. The child has not passed on its genes, and in addition has the potential to be a contributing member of society. The mammalian instinct to preserve young is quite strong, though obviously not absolute.

    2: I call the cops -- good intentions do not excuse criminal behaviour. When they are captured, I advocate for the death penalty for both of these sanctimonious pieces of crap.

    3: A promise is a promise, but £10,000 is £10,000! It's not like it'll do his soul any harm (in my theological understanding, anyhow) and that's assuming the existance of a souil , and I think my Dad would understand and want me to have some money as a legacy. With different dads, YMMV!
     
  7. Barmy Army

    Barmy Army Simple mind, simple pleasures... Adored Veteran

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    I know, hence my edit asking a mod to change it. It doesn't seem I can edit the poll options after posting.
     
  8. Mesmero

    Mesmero How'd an old elf get the blues?

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    1) I seriously wonder whether I will be able to take action in such a situation. If I only had a second to change the tracks, that second would probably be wasted on thinking "holy ****, that train is going to run over that baby". The drunken man might however be a meaningful member of society, who got drunk and fell asleep at the wrong place (it doesn't say he is an alcoholic bum or something), while the baby might have no-good parents (who let's a baby wonder off that close to the tracks?) and grow up to be a no-good himself. However, the socially acceptable would be to divert the tracks, since, ignoring for a moment that the man is drunk, the life of a baby is generally more valued than the life of a grown man.

    2) Depends on the charity. They probably can't steal enough money that the bank will actually miss it, but on the other hand, I don't really believe in most charities (much money is wasted either on bureaucracy or on work that is simply useless). So, depends on the charity and which amount of money they wish to acquire :)

    3) Well, it's kinda hard for me to imagine that scenario, since my father doesn't care that much about sports. I could imagine him requesting that he wants his ashes spread out on some pearly white beach on a tropical island, on which I would gladly spend £10,000 to go there. But that situation might not be comparable since I get a vacation out of it :D If he in his old age gets mad about football, then the answer would depend on what my mother wants if she is still around. Otherwise I would take the money, and go to that pearly white beach on a tropical island and zip some champagne or something, 'cause I know he'd appreciate that too :)
     
  9. Montresor

    Montresor Mostly Harmless Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder

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    1) Do I know that the train is empty, and is there a driver on board? Diverting a train moving at high speed entails a risk of derailing it, so in the general case the answer is "No". If I know for a fact that I only risk derailing a train with no driver, no staff and no passengers I think I'd say "Yes". But it's a very tough call. Either way, I'm going to kill someone.

    (This also presupposes that I have the time to think about it, but not the time to run and save the baby.)

    2) Yes. Committing a robbery is wrong in my book, no matter how good your intentions. I don't wish to legalize robbery for the sake of some "good cause".

    3) Yes. A promise is a promise.
     
  10. Taluntain

    Taluntain Resident Alpha and Omega Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    I can't edit the poll to multiple choice Barmy so I removed it... you should be able to re-do it via Thread Tools.
     
  11. Barmy Army

    Barmy Army Simple mind, simple pleasures... Adored Veteran

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    Thanks Tal.

    Ok, the poll is live (and correct this time :p)
     
  12. Aldeth the Foppish Idiot

    Aldeth the Foppish Idiot Armed with My Mallet O' Thinking Veteran

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    Yes, no, yes for me.

    Although for the first question, I would probably miss my opportunity, as it presupposes I KNOW how to make the train switch tracks, and that I could do it in time.

    For the second one, I doubt I'd stay on the phone long enough to find out that information, and I wouldn't care if I did. Now, if they DID actually go through with it - then I would contact the police, but not for simply talking about it.

    I'm not looking to make money off my father's death, and the sum involved is not so substantial that it's life altering or anything - I can get by with 10,000 less over the course of a lifetime. I would do it.
     
  13. Blackthorne TA

    Blackthorne TA Master in his Own Mind Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    I wouldn't switch the train. I'd have no idea of the consequences of doing so (e.g. would the train then smash into another train, or would it derail and kill people on board?), and I presume I have no connection to either the baby or the old man, so why should I change what is about to happen? Nothing about the situation gives me anything I could use to decide to do so; age means nothing to me and neither does drunkenness.

    I would call the cops and let them know what I'd heard; who knows what would happen during a robbery? I don't even see this one as a dilemma; it's not as if these two criminals are the only people doing charitable work.

    I wouldn't keep the promise. The only reason I'd make such a promise would be to make him happy while he was alive; after he's gone it makes no difference.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2012
  14. Gaear

    Gaear ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful

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    What if you had to decide before the train ran over the baby? :p
     
  15. Mesmero

    Mesmero How'd an old elf get the blues?

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    I'm trying very hard to imagine a world where a baby being run over by a train and a charity robbing a bank are somehow connected :p

    Actually, it would make sense... the baby is probably wandering on the tracks, because its parent, who happens to work at a charity, is too busy planning a bank robbery. So if the baby gets run over, the parent will be in such distress that they can't go through with the bank robbery. So, letting the the baby get run over is in the best interest of the bank. Or maybe the drunk man is actually very rich, and in his will he decided to leave a large sum of money to the charity. In that case, the charity workers wouldn't need to proceed with the bank robbery. Hmm, also, maybe if the baby gets run over and the drunk lives, the drunk might run into my old man some day and get him into football, after which my father becomes a major Man United fan and wants me to spread his ashes in the most expensive manner possible (with the exception of shooting them into space probably).

    So, on second thought, I think it is in everybody's best interest if the drunk dies... except the drunk's... but he'll just have to learn to live with it :p
     
  16. Dice

    Dice ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran

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    First Yes - A baby is a world of potential.

    Second Yes - Crime always seem to hurt someone down the road and people planning that kind of heist would not have completely good intentions given the violent nature of their cause.

    Third No - My dad would have understood, but now that I think about it I actually like Erod's solution as well.
     
  17. Blades of Vanatar

    Blades of Vanatar Vanatar will rise again Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    1 - Definitely Yes. Screw the drunkard, save the kid. The kid still has a greater chance to do some good compared to the drunkard.

    2 - Yes. IF they go ahead with it, they could be putting people in harm's way. I think letting the cops arrest them is a much more moral act then letting them rob a bank and potentially having someone getting killed.

    3 - Yes. If I give my Dad my word, I am keeping it, no questions asked. I would jump off a bridge for my old man, so giving up 10k that I don't really need is fine with me, though I think that the need for the money would still be a non-factor if I was broke.
     
  18. Vorona

    Vorona Shadow-Whisperer

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    Whoa. Good questions!

    1. No. Or Maybe. It depends on where I was and what I could see. If I could see both the baby and the old man and be more able to switch tracks than save the baby, I would probably not divert the train. I don't think babies' lives are automatically more valuable than a drunk old man's life. In other words, if I had no way to avoid murder-by-omission, I wouldn't make things worse by committing murder-by-commission. That said, more likely, I'd divert the train away from whichever person I saw first without thinking about it. So, if I saw the train and the baby (more likely than seeing the train and the man, since the man is on a different track), I would probably instinctively switch the tracks and then feel horrible at having deliberately caused the death of the old man. In either case, if I had just inherited 10,000, I'd give some of it to the family of the old man or the baby, making #3 much harder.

    2. I probably wouldn't call the police unless a crime was actually committed, and even then, I'd hesitate. Not because I think the charities are more important than the bank, but because I have a slight fear of the police due to several nightmares about being arrested for something I didn't do. Totally irrational. Here is a case of my fear getting in the way of right action. I think the right action would be to call the police, and if anyone were hurt in the bank robbery, I would definitely call them. But if no one was hurt physically, it would be a lot harder for me to overcome my fear.

    3. Yes. I keep my word unless I'm absolutely incapable of doing so (for example if I promised some kind of physical feat and then had an injury and couldn't do it, or if I ran out of time, etc.). If I say I will do something, I will do it. What matters isn't whether the promise still means anything to my dead dad or not. What matters is that I made a promise. Finally - an easy one!
     
  19. Paracelsi

    Paracelsi ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    The train is empty for #1, and I'm pretty sure that by making the call you're only tipping off the police for #2. Unless you happen to be a famous political figure or veteran officer yourself, I don't think they'll respond by automatically arresting suspects. This is what makes #2 unique among the three dilemmas imo, the question allows for a more open-ended answer and there is no real sense of urgency.
     
  20. Gaear

    Gaear ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful

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    It's the same world that put you in control of the baby and old man's fate in the first place. In other words, it doesn't exist. ;)
     
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