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How To Get Off Our Trolleys

Phil Badger tackles the famous ‘Trolley Problem’ of ethics.

So-called ‘Trolley Problems’, in which we are confronted by tortuously difficult ethical dilemmas, have become part of the stock-in-trade of moral philosophy over the last few years. The basic scenario, which can be endlessly tweaked to provoke ever more rigorous examination of our moral reasoning, concerns a run-away trolley on an imaginary railway line. The trolley is on a lethal collision course with an oblivious group of (say, five) workmen, but can potentially be diverted onto another track by your pulling on a conveniently-placed lever. The problem is that this will place the trolley on a different, equally lethal collision course with an innocent individual.

Readers who haven’t come across this thought-experiment before might pause for a moment to consider what they might do.

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