The Trolley Problem Essay

Topics: Morality, Ethics, Immanuel Kant Pages: 5 (2004 words) Published: February 4, 2013
The Trolley Problem is set up in two parts. The first part of this problem puts the reader in a passive position to choose between shoving a large person onto the track causing one person to die to save the five other people and refraining and doing nothing would allow the five to die and the one person to live. The second part of this scenario would put Frank in a very personal position to choose to do something about the situation at hand, or to let five people die; or deliberately push a large person to save the five. This would seem like a very hard choice for most people. The moral issue in question is to look at a large person as the answer to stop the trolley. If the large person is pushed in front of the trolley to save the five people, one would be making a conscience decision to end someone’s life. I will use Kant’s views of how this decision would seem to me to be morally impermissible, by deontologist ethics, and psychologist points of view.

I believe Kant would see the scenario as impermissible because of his views on the categorical imperative. Kant’s categorical imperative is to never act in such a way that a maxim should become a universal law. One’s duty is always a connection between moral laws. Kant believes that you can choose to do things or not to do things. What is right for a universal law? Then Kant argues that morality is based neither on principle of utility, nor on a law of nature but simply on human reason. According to Kant, reason tells us what we ought to do, and then we follow our own reason. So, to push a large person in front of a trolley would be using someone as a means to get an end. Kant feels we should not use people as a means, no matter what the feeling. Kant’s formula for humanity is that one would act in such a way as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end. So Kant’s key idea here is not to use someone as a tool, even though your goal would have good reasoning.

First I will consider how deontologist ethics would view pushing someone in front of a trolley impermissible. According to Sanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the view of deontologist ethics is that some choices cannot be justified in their affects. No matter how good outcome is supposed to be, some choices are just morally forbidden. Deontologists are committed to the following Catholic theology, “We are categorically forbidden to intend such evils as killing the innocent or torturing others. We are obligated not to kill the innocent for example.”(Sanford 6, 7).This quote suggests that people should not kill a person no matter how good the intentions are of the person. Deontologists feel that a person has to be willing to sacrifice their life. Another person cannot make that decision for them. I feel deontologists would be ones to follow the Ten Commandments. They would argue that it is morally wrong for Frank to push a large person in from of an out of control trolley. One may see it as killing someone versus the alternative of letting other persons live. Therefore, killing an individual on purpose is not only worse than letting the five individuals die, it is still, ultimately, morally wrong. The sixth Commandment in the bible, in Exodus 20:13, states, “Thou shall not kill”. In the case of Frank pushing a large person to stop the trolley, he would be interfering with the natural course of the universe by killing one person, and violating the rules established by his God. Frank would really be intentionally causing the death of the large man. However, if Frank refrains and does nothing, he would not be letting five die. He did not intend for those five people to be placed in the path of death and destruction. The trolley would then just move along to its intended path, and Frank would not have violated the Sixth Commandment. Dr. Joshua Green of Harvard University suggests that there is a psychological reason why Frank should not push...
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