A test
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24-02-2013, 01:58 PM
A test
A few days ago, myself and a few others from this forum were talking over skype and this hypothetical came up in conversation.

A train is approaching fast and you have but a few moments left to live.
You are bound to the track and there is a switch that you can move which will divert the train to another set of tracks in which 5 other people are bound to those tracks.

In those few moments that you have, do you move the switch saving yourself or do you do nothing, letting the train hit you and in the process, you believe that your actions will save the lives of the 5 people.

The responses varied and I'll let those that replied give their answers.

My answer was to save myself and at the time, my reasoning was purely selfish. My desire to live outweighed any other considerations, but as I thought about it today, I realized that there was another reason why I might have so quickly picked self preservation.

There was a comic book I had read many years ago and it was set up in much the same kind of scenario.
Superheroes suddenly found themselves in a life or death situation. They had to make a choice to end their own lives or others would die. Basically the bad guy in the situation was trying to get each of them to commit suicide.
The situation was all in their minds, but the weapon placed before them was all too real.
The superheroes realized it was an illusion but many of them were prepared and ready to pull the trigger.

So for me, this is built around the idea, what situation can someone create in order to get you to kill yourself.

By letting the train hit you, you have no idea if your actions saved anyone, because you are dead.
You were told that your actions would save them, but how do you know that is the truth ? You don't.

Bound as you are, you don't know if another 100 people are behind you on the tracks and your actions actually kill 101 people versus killing 5.

I think by killing yourself, you are taking it on faith that you have saved others.
You have no evidence that your actions have saved anyone because you are dead and unable to view if others were saved or if another train coming in the opposite direction toward them would have killed them anyway, no matter what you did.

By saving yourself, you are acting on information and knowledge and you can see the results of what choice you made.
And from a superhero stand point, killing yourself means that you won't be around to save the planet when that big asteroid is barreling it's way toward Earth.

What are your thoughts ?

Insanity - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
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24-02-2013, 02:06 PM (This post was last modified: 24-02-2013 02:16 PM by Vera.)
RE: A test
My thoughts? That "tests" like this have been done to death and are ultimately meaningless. We can hypothesise all we want (hell, we even have a thread here about what we're prepared to die for - not quite the same, but still along similar lines), but we may discuss it until we're foaming at the mouth and still won't have anything other than pure speculation and wishful thinking, self-glorification and even humility and acceptance of one's selfishness.

I, myself, find things like the Milgram and the Stanford prison experiments slightly more interesting, as they were actually practical experiments. Not that the outcome was particularly encouraging, esp. in light of the fact that recently they made the Milgram one into a TV show and sadly, we don't seem to have learnt much, neither from WWII, nor from experiments like this.

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24-02-2013, 02:10 PM
RE: A test
If you're not gonna trust the joker that the 5 people will be saved if you die, what makes you think the switch he gave you will work ? Evil_monster

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24-02-2013, 02:13 PM
RE: A test
(24-02-2013 02:06 PM)Vera Wrote:  My thoughts? That "tests" like this have been done to death and are ultimately meaningless. We can hypothesise all we want (hell, we even have a thread here about what we're prepared to die for, which I might look up in a minute), but we may discuss it until we're foaming at the mouth and still won't have anything other than pure speculation and wishful thinking.
A thousand times this. Thumbsup
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24-02-2013, 02:16 PM
RE: A test
Needs more information...

The 5 other people, Consider were they:

Christians?
Veridicans?
Muslims?
Americans?
Papal candidates?
Ex-wives?

Just curious.

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24-02-2013, 02:18 PM
RE: A test
(24-02-2013 02:16 PM)DLJ Wrote:  Needs more information...

The 5 other people, Consider were they:

Christians?
Veridicans?
Muslims?
Americans?
Papal candidates?
Ex-wives?

Just curious.
Needs even more information.

Do any of the above actually count as people? Consider

"E se non passa la tristezza con altri occhi la guarderĂ²."
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24-02-2013, 02:20 PM
RE: A test
(24-02-2013 02:18 PM)Vera Wrote:  
(24-02-2013 02:16 PM)DLJ Wrote:  Needs more information...

The 5 other people, Consider were they:

Christians?
Veridicans?
Muslims?
Americans?
Papal candidates?
Ex-wives?

Just curious.
Needs even more information.

Do any of the above actually count as people? Consider

Good point, well made.

Dodgy

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24-02-2013, 03:18 PM
RE: A test
(24-02-2013 01:58 PM)Rahn127 Wrote:  A train is approaching fast and you have but a few moments left to live.
You are bound to the track and there is a switch that you can move which will divert the train to another set of tracks in which 5 other people are bound to those tracks.

In those few moments that you have, do you move the switch saving yourself or do you do nothing, letting the train hit you and in the process, you believe that your actions will save the lives of the 5 people.
A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walks into a bar...
I hand them each $5 to pray for those 5 unfortunate souls who were lost in the crash, and the 100 hypothetical people that the train might have hit. Just to make sure everyone's happy. I didn't figure there were any Muslims on the train, since it didn't explode.

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25-02-2013, 03:19 AM
RE: A test
Deontological ethics vs. teleological ethics (specifically utilitarianism) has always been a topic of debate.

Is it right for the government to nuke a city to stop the spread of a virus/threat? (Premise of many movies)

The movies usually portray it as a bad thing because the heroes at ground zero end up fixing the problem. In a realistic setting though, would you save millions more lives by sending the nuke? What if the chance of outbreak was 51%? Statistically, you're more likely to save more lives by nuking the city, but there's still a 49% chance that everything would have been fine.

There's no correct answer to these questions because we will forever be bound by the social and emotional restrictions that are inherent to our psyche. If it makes the choice any easier, you're perfectly justified in choosing self-preservation because that's the evolutionarily correct thing to do. It may be noble for you to ignore that instinct, but you can't be faulted for it.

What you described (about not knowing whether your death actually saved anybody) reminds me of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Regardless, I doubt your choice was influenced by something like that because that's not the normal conclusion somebody makes when faced with an ethical conundrum like that. If you had heaps of time and information to think about it, maybe. A superhero would face the same problem - they could die for one person or they could live and save millions more in the future. Again, there is no right answer and hypothetical scenarios don't really help.

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To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.
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25-02-2013, 08:14 AM
RE: A test
(25-02-2013 03:19 AM)Sceptical Prophet Wrote:  Again, there is no right answer and hypothetical scenarios don't really help.
But I want to be well prepared the next time I'm kidnapped by an evil genius and forced to make this kind of choice.

I hate having to think these things out under pressure. Drinking Beverage

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Science is not a subject, but a method.
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