Trolley Problems ?

TitleTrolley Problems ?
Publication TypeCase Study
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsFunke, MB, Funke, RD, Greer, S, Myers, GA, Potthast, A
PublisherAssociation for Practical and Professional Ethics
AbstractThe trolley problem was introduced in 1967 by philosopher Phillipa Foot at Oxford University to defend the doctrine of double-effect by testing which kinds of intentions pre-theoretically seem to matter to us. Its two best-known versions were formulated by philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  It has since been re-imagined by so many philosophers and instructors that there are now almost countless variations. The classic formulation presents you with a moral dilemma: a runaway street-car is about to run over five oblivious railroad workers, but by pulling a lever you can change its course so that it only runs over one worker. It is, in other words, a type of Kobayashi Maru; there are no good choices, and the point of the experiment is not to test your ability to choose correctly, but to provide insight into our strongest intuitions about what is ultimately morally required. Critics of using trolley problems to teach ethics or morality argue that the situations are horrific, unrealistic, and teach students little about morality or moral decision-making in the real world.
Notes©2018 Association for Practical and Professional Ethics   Case from the 2018 Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Regional Competition