Is killing One to Save Ten Wrong?

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Bowser, Jun 15, 2016.

  1. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,151
    With recent events if Florida, a question came up in my mind whether a person, have foreknowledge of what was to come, would be justified in killing the shooter. This also opens a broader idea that involves other areas of ethics, such as the runaway trolley that, if left alone, will crash, killing all the passengers aboard, whereas diverting it will kill only one pedestrian. Is it ethical to place value on life based on the number of lives in question? Does saving multiple lives justify ending one life?
     
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  3. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,755
    In emergent situations where one person is causing the deaths of the other person - definitely. Outside of that narrow definition it gets a lot murkier. The trolley problem is one such example of "murkier."
     
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  5. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,964
    As billvon points out, you cannot know what is about to happen, excepting very specific circumstances (such as the very real and imminent danger of actually pointing a loaded gun at someone).

    We don't have "Thought Police" like in Minority Report.

    If, by some miracle, we could have known what the guy was about to do, then almost by definition, we have time to stop him without killing him. Killing is really only justified when it is imminent and certain and there are no other options in the time remaining.
     
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  7. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,151
    The choice seems straight forward: you have many on one side of the balance and 1 on the other side. Personally, I don't believe I could make the choice in time (hesitation).
     
  8. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,964
    Only if that is the way it is presented. A lot of things have to be just right.

    If you're talking about moments - merely hestitating - then I assume the threat is real, certain and imminent. And that you have the means at your disposal.

    If I were in a crowd, and the guy next to me had his coat undone revealing explosives strapped to him, I'd think, if I had to kill him to stop him setting it off, that would be warranted.

    But jeez, I'd better hope it wasn't just a prank in very bad taste, or I might fry anyway.
     
  9. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,151
    So, if you spotted him walking towards the club with a AR15, your conclusion would probably be that his intent was to kill? Your choice would be to stop him, no matter what might come of it?
     
  10. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,151
    We must assume the worst. A crash is about to happen. Your choice is either the people on the trolley or the lone pedestrian crossing the tracks.
     
  11. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,964
    Well, that's not certain or imminent. Heck, you don't even know if he has ammo. You cannot know you are about to stop him from killing.

    Which means killing him would be deemed as use of excessive (lethal) force.
     
  12. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,964
    It's a highly contrived scenario, and is often criticized on that basis.

    It's also very different from the gunman case. In the trolley scenario, you are actively murdering an innocent person who has done (and will do) no wrong.

    I would not call that justified.

    Heck, if it's important to save 10 people, throw yourself on the tracks before murdering an innocent.
     
  13. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,151
    Well, let's keep it simple, so not to invoke too many variables. Knowing that killing one person can save many, what would be the most ethical course of action. The options are ending one life or allowing others to die.
     
  14. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,964
    Well, that's the problem with such scenarios - the more they drift away from plausibility, the less any ethics really apply.

    I remember as a kid, being asked the question: if two kids were tied to a train track, one a girl and one a boy, and you could only save one in time, which would you save?
    Answer: who cares? Any answer is meaningless.
     
  15. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,755
    Or he just bought one. A few days after the shooting, a reporter walked into a nearby gun store and walked out 30 minutes later with a brand new AR-15.
    In the shooter issue the choice is straightforward. There is no doubt that killing him will end the deaths. There is no doubt that he is responsible for the deaths. That makes the decision easier.

    In the trolley issue the choice is less straightforward. There is no doubt that killing him will save five other people - but he is NOT responsible for the deaths, nor is he volunteering his life to protect them. That makes it harder.

    If you think the trolley problem is straightforward, then consider this. You go to the doctor because you have a headache. In the hospital next door there are five people about to die who all need major transplants - heart, complete liver, kidneys. During the course of his examination, the doctor notes that your tissue type makes you a perfect donor for all five. Would it be a straightforward choice for the doctor to use your organs to save them?
     
  16. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,964
    Robert Sawyer, one of my fave authors, has a character who is a Philosophical Utilitarian - the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Because of that, he is compelled to donate a very large fraction of his salary to charities devoted to ending poverty in third world countries.

    Now, that's a real world scenario - it definitely saves lives, we are definitely in a position to act on it , the action itself is a trivial effort (despite the mild personal discomfort that would follow), yet how many of us do give till it hurts?

    That's a real test of ethics.
     
  17. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,151
    That was a great example. There have been coma patients who were deemed brain dead so that their organs can be harvested. Would we also assume all those people in need of organs had less time to live than those on the trolley? Or would they have time to search for alternatives? Nonetheless, that was a very good argument. Of course the doctor wouldn't kill you for your organs, but if he were standing next to the track switch for the oncoming trolley, would he pull it?
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2016
  18. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,151
    Or we are afraid to answer the question. I can make it easier by suggest such notable characters as Hitler, Stalin, Mao...
     
  19. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,964
    No. Despite doing the right thing in the big picture, he'd still be sued into a stone cave by the family of the dead man.
     
  20. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,964
    The thing is, it's a logical fallacy - the fallacy of false dichotomy. The requirements force us to make a bad choice. Therefore, it is no longer an ethical decision.
    Regradless of the answer, it does not inform us about the ethics of the person answering. So why answer?
     
  21. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,151
    It would seem that your answer would be no, you wouldn't kill to save. That's what I'm getting from your avoidance of the question. And there is nothing wrong with that.

    It's not a false dichotomy. The problem is that you are given two choices--one life or many lives.
     
  22. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,151
    And the consequence if he allowed the others to crash?
     
  23. cluelusshusbund + Public Dilemma + Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    6,654
    Wit no other known varabiles... wit my morals i woud choose to kill one insted of many.!!!
     

Share This Page