The Instigator
Existent
Pro (for)
Winning
11 Points
The Contender
Kreakin
Con (against)
Losing
6 Points

The Trolley Problem

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
Existent
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/17/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,343 times Debate No: 44171
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (10)
Votes (5)

 

Existent

Pro

RESOLUTION
If the Trolley Problem occurs, the driver of the trolley should turn the trolley onto the other track.

DEFINITIONS
Trolley Problem: "Suppose you are the driver of a trolley. The trolley
rounds a bend, and there come into view ahead five track workmen, who
have been repairing the track. The track goes through a bit of a valley at
that point, and the sides are steep, so you must stop the trolley if you are
to avoid running the five men down. You step on the brakes, but alas they
don't work. Now you suddenly see a spur of track leading off to the right.
You can turn the trolley onto it, and thus save the five men on the straight
track ahead. Unfortunately, Mrs. Foot has arranged that there is one
track workman on that spur of track. He can no more get off the track in
time than the five can, so you will kill him if you turn the trolley onto
him. Is it morally permissible for you to turn the trolley?" (1)

RULES
1. First round is for acceptance only. Last three are for debate.
2. Burden of proof lies on pro.
3. No new arguments in the last round.

SOURCE
1. http://philosophyfaculty.ucsd.edu...
Kreakin

Con

I accept. Thank you for an interesting topic.
Debate Round No. 1
Existent

Pro

Thanks to Kreakin for accepting this debate.

I'll keep my argument short and simple: You should turn the trolley onto the other track because it results in the least number of deaths. Ultimately, you're making a decision between 5 deaths and 1 death. The con argues that 5 deaths is somehow better!

I don't have much more to say for now; I'll see what my opponent argues and will have a more elaborate response after that. But basically, if deaths are bad, then changing tracks is the best option.
Kreakin

Con

Thank you to my opponent. I will briefly state my position.

I am shocked at my opponents point of view in that Pro appears to be openly advocating the murder of an innocent bystander.

Murder, as I hope we all accept, is morally wrong.
My opponent contends that saving five lives from an act of god justifies murdering one innocent person intentionally.
That is not to say the five are guilty, but they are in harms way by means of an unintended accident, the one is not.

I contend that:

To pull the level is to intentionally murder an innocent and morally wrong.

To avoid murdering someone you should not pull the lever.

Saving others from an accident is no excuse for killing innocent bystanders.

Debate Round No. 2
Existent

Pro

I agree with my opponent's view that murder is wrong. It wrong because of the death on an innocent person. But where Con is mistaken is that in this scenario, the results of what they deem "murder" are the same as the results of what they deem not murder; the deaths of innocent people occur whether or not you redirect the train.

If murder is bad because of the death of innocent people, it follows that the deaths of innocent people are bad, even if not caused by murder.

Here's another way of looking at it: if you choose not to pull the lever, you are making a conscious decision for 5 people to die. Is that not worse than conscious decision that only 1 person is to die, and only because there is no better option? Both options force you to make a choice, because in this case,inaction is action which results in 5 deaths! The only difference is some physical movement in redirecting the train. My opponent is actually arguing that the act of redirect a train outweighs killing 4 more people than necessary!

It is now clear that voting to redirect the train is a better option not only because it saves more lives but also because someone who chooses not to redirect the train is choosing more deaths over less deaths - that sounds closer to murder than saving lives.
Kreakin

Con

"But where Con is mistaken is that in this scenario, the results of what they deem "murder" are the same as the results of what they deem not murder; the deaths of innocent people occur whether or not you redirect the train."
I would suggest that this is incorrect. Murder must by definition be premeditated. The accident in this scenario is not premeditated and a failure to act would not therefore be murder.

"inaction is action which results in 5 deaths
"
These deaths occur because of an accident though, not murder. The trolley driver did not cause the accident so is morally blameless. He could only have avoided it only by choosing to murder a bystander which would have been morally wrong.

The morally wrong choice therefore is to pull the lever and save the five. It just does not hold up, especially if we look at it like this:
A car is out of control and heading towards a bus que, you can save the people in the que however.
To do so you will need to grab the woman next to you and push her under the oncoming car which will definitely make it swerve away from the que.
Will you kill the woman stood next to you? Should she kill you to save the que?


The answer is clearly that we don't do this in real life because it is wrong to murder random people and that we would be wrongly associating them with events that do not involve them.
We can not randomly sacrifice people for events going on nearby, no matter if they change the outcome to something we prefer.

Pro's coldly utilitarian approach is purely based on numbers and provides no proof that Pro's moral argument is correct.
Historically genocides have also been based on this type of logic.

I am amazed Pro is still defending the sacrfice of a random person to save his poor unfortunates stuck on the track!



Debate Round No. 3
Existent

Pro

My opponent has argued that letting 5 people die does not constitute murder, while letting 1 person dies does. Actually, I did not argue that letting 5 people die was murder, simply that the results between switching tracks and not switching tracks are the same, except for the fact that one results in more deaths.

Furthermore, switching tracks is not murder, even by my opponent's claim that murder is premeditated. "Premeditated" means "Characterized by deliberate purpose, previous consideration, and some degree of planning." [1] None of these characteristics of premeditated murder are true in switching the train to the other track - it is not a "deliberate purpose" because the trolley driver is forced into that decision by a less appealing alternative. There is no "previous consideration" assuming that the driver did not know the situation would arise ahead of time. The same goes for "some degree of planning."

Next, Con argues that the trolley driver is morally blameless in letting 5 die but guilty if he switches tracks, in response to my "inaction is action" claim. In this case, if pulling the lever is possible (which it is), then inaction is choosing not do so, despite a lesser consequence if the lever is pulled. So given these circumstances, either decision is action because it explicitly decides who lives and who dies. The difference is that Con thinks more people should die.

Lastly, Con describes a thought experiment which supposedly is the same as the Trolley Problem. While I won't state an opinion on the better option in that case, I will say the scenario does not apply because the 1 person's death actually prevents the death of others, while in Trolley Problem it is only an outcome.

Ultimately, this debate comes down to choosing how many people are to die: 5 or 1. Advocating Con is advocating the deaths of 5 people just to avoid the "murder" (which it is not) of just one person.

Source:
1. http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
Kreakin

Con

Many thanks to my opponent for a quick fire & enjoyable debate!

To summarize,
I agree with my opponent that he did not argue that letting 5 people die was murder, I did not either! There deaths would be accidental.
I agree that the different to the outcome of switching tracks is the amount of fatalities.
These points however are my only two concessions.

Pro contends that the decision to not pull the lever amounts to inaction as there is choice not to do so, but also contends this doesn't amount to premeditation. This is somewhat contradictory.

Pro has argued that choosing to end someone's life by pulling a lever is not premeditated murder. I disagree in that a decision had to be made before the cart crashed in to the people.

For my example scenario, Pro contends it is not the same in that one is an "outcome" and the other prevents death of others. The outcomes for both scenarios are, the sacrifice of an innocent person to change the course of events to favor the people in harms way. I don't get Pro's point or it just doesn't make any sense.

The fact that more people survive does not meet Pro's burden of proof that it is morally acceptable to kill someone to achieve that goal.
Pro argues it is acceptable to kill a random person to save four more people from accidental harm, if this was correct then we would do this, we don't.

Pro has conceded that murder is morally wrong.
Pulling the lever will murder an uninvolved bystander.
It would be morally wrong, you should not pull the lever!


Protect the innocent - Vote Con!
Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Kreakin 3 years ago
Kreakin
Not true, because the accident is already set in motion. If you don't act, so as not to kill someone not involved, you would not be guilty or morally wrong to let events play out.
Posted by theta_pinch 3 years ago
theta_pinch
Well the while the accident isn't pre-meditated you have two choices turn the train and kill one or don't turn the train and kill five; either way you pre-meditated your actions.
Posted by Kreakin 3 years ago
Kreakin
Ooops, Please check PM.
Posted by Existent 3 years ago
Existent
I had one source in my last argument, but it was only for a definition.
Posted by Kreakin 3 years ago
Kreakin
Just to clarify, the point is that the accident was not premeditated so the choice of inaction does not effect the cause of events. Please do read it through again and you'll see what I mean.
Posted by Kreakin 3 years ago
Kreakin
theta_pinch - Would you mind relooking at your vote only to the point that inaction cant be an action and neither side used sources. The one provided was part of the resolution. Many thanks.
Posted by Existent 3 years ago
Existent
Thanks for debating, good rounds! This was my second debate here.
Posted by Kreakin 3 years ago
Kreakin
I apologise for an error made in round three with regards to the opening rebuttal. I concede this point made by Pro.
Posted by Existent 3 years ago
Existent
Thanks, we'll see if anyone accepts.
Posted by iamanatheistandthisiswhy 3 years ago
iamanatheistandthisiswhy
This will be a tough debate to accept as most voters will be decided for the problem before the debate. and hence vote in that way. Though the idea is great for a debate. I will consider it more and if its around later maybe I will take up the challenge.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by LaughingHyena 3 years ago
LaughingHyena
ExistentKreakinTied
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro correctly explained that the reason murder is wrong is because it costs lives, and saving more lives is therefore better. Con didn't define murder other than premeditation, and Pro explained that premeditation requires previous choice or desire to commit the action, and this situation was forced onto the trolley driver. Even if the action is considered "premeditated," Pro also pointed out that both action and inaction would be equally conscious, "premeditated" decisions. Con's scenario of throwing someone out of a car doesn't apply because their chances of dying are much higher, while the people on the track have the equal chances of dying. Con also compared Pro's reasoning to save lives to the Holocaust, so I'm taking off points for conduct.
Vote Placed by theta_pinch 3 years ago
theta_pinch
ExistentKreakinTied
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Reasons for voting decision: The crux of Cons argument is that turning the trolley is murder because it was premeditated. Pro's point of inaction being action shows that either way it is premeditated so the central point of Con's argument was negated. Sources go to pro because pro was the only one who had sources.
Vote Placed by whiteflame 3 years ago
whiteflame
ExistentKreakinTied
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Reasons for voting decision: I actually thought this would be a much more difficult decision than it was, but Con did a good job swaying me - not that I end up thoroughly agreeing with him. I didn't see enough in terms of moralistic argumentation on Pro's side to counter Con's arguments. The point about premeditation goes to Con, frankly because a choice was involved. That choice may be under some duress, but it's certainly premeditated, even if it's only shortly before it happens, since they would know that the worker was there to be killed. I think that's part of the assumption. I need arguments why utilitarianism is good, why more lives should outweigh increased harm to one life, and why inaction can be just as bad, if not worse, than action. Eli Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, said he blamed the people of Germany who stood by and watched as they were loaded onto trains more than he did the Nazis. There's a point to be made there about the moral burden on someone who decides to do nothing.
Vote Placed by Wylted 3 years ago
Wylted
ExistentKreakinTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro conceded that murder is wrong. Big mistake. It was that one concession that pushed con's argument to the morally correct side and tipped the debate in con's favor. If pro were to argue that murder wasn't neccesarily wrong then he would have won based strictly on the fact that the math is on his side switching tracks saves 4 lives.
Vote Placed by iamanatheistandthisiswhy 3 years ago
iamanatheistandthisiswhy
ExistentKreakinTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Very difficult decision to make in the end I gave Con argument points as I feel by getting Pro to debate along the lines of murder was a smart move. For this reason then the choice of pulling the lever can be considered murder, even if it could lead to a better outcome. Just a side-note Pro, the example Con gave is an extension of the trolley problem and there are multiple other versions to test how far a person is prepared to get personally involved. I was wondering if I could get swayed in this debate, but I was. Great vote to both of you.