Instigator / Pro

Should you switch the trolley track on the problem described in the description section below?


Waiting for the instigator's second argument.

The round will be automatically forfeited in:

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One week
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Two weeks
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Four points
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~ 1,253 / 5,000

This is the description I am referring to. Kritiks aren't allowed.

Trolley Problem: This is my version of the story we will be using and using any other stories that contradicts my tale will be against the rules and any points based on said other stories will be nullified.

Suppose on your job you are driving a trolley that can't be stopped for some reason, and there are 5 people tied to the track on your usual route that is the cleanest, and there is a single person tied onto an unused branch that leads to a whole different place(that can, however, lead back to your usual route, but you do not know where this branch leads to exactly). The 6 people never ride your trolley and you do not know them. In the trolley there are approx. 20-30 passengers. You have the choice of going straight and crush those 5 people vs switch the track to turn to the right, and going on a branch killing 1 person. Which one do you choose?

I, Intelligence_06, will choose the Pro stance, that is, said driver should keep going straight and in the way crushing 5 people to their death.

You, the challenger, will choose the Con stance, that is, said driver should turn to the right, go on a branch and crushing 1 person.

The Burden of Proof is shared. Good luck!

Round 1
Due to that I am unable to hold grasp of my computer(or my phone in most scenarios) within my new school, I apologize for the late response. Unless my friend CalebEr completes his first argument before Sunday, it is not to be expected for me to type a new argument before next Friday.

However, within the weekdays, I have been contemplating my argument. Here are the results.

Argument 1: Suppose on your job you are driving a trolley...

For the very first argument, I will quickly utilize the conditions within the descriptions. Your job is to drive a trolley, per the definitions stating. Nope, you are not volunteered to drive a broken trolley and your job is not to save random people you see on the path.

Oh yeah, and the syllogism.

  1. Doing your job is more important than doing things that explicit prevent you for carrying our your mission within your job
  2. Your job is to drive the trolley and deliver the people to the stations, not to save random people on the tracks
  3. Thus, driving the trolley is more important than saving people on the tracks
  4. Thus, you should prefer going on the original path.
It is a truism that you should do your job compared to do things that go against it, especially if there is nothing at all inherently immoral about said jobs. If you go on the original path, you are doing your job, especially helping the lives of 20-30 people for the cost of 5. Not to mention, going on the branch in which one person is laid on that you don't know the exact location could land you in complete trouble as the 20-30 people on your trolley put money in your box for the stations on the MAIN path, not the branch.

Not to mention, your job is to protect the 20-30 people on the trolley, not the 6 people on the tracks. Switching the track would mean protecting individuals not in our service range in spite for people that we are meant to serve. That is of course, irrational.

A little physics... nah, forget it

Common sense tells you that if you drive over bumps, the car slows down. What about the trolley? Even if the brakes don't work, driving over people, which serve as bumps, slows the trolley down to a more acceptable speed for more people to arrive on the stations on the main path. If the trolley is at a low enough speed, the 5 bumps may even stop the trolley and more people are saved(if the trolley did not go over all 5 people). Even if the stations are on the branch with 1 person, the trolley would not slow down as much for the people to even land on the ground without losing balance and injuring themselves.

Trolleys normally appear in a lot of cities, and common sense tells them that if they lose balance and injure themselves, more people may unconsciously step on them, worsening the situation. The best-case scenario with going on the path with 1 person is walking for a much longer distance, and the worst-case scenario is that all 20-30 people go to the ICU. Saving up to 30 people for the cost of 5 and it is with your job? I am all for it I guess.

Argument 2. Psychological whatevers...

The 5 people lying on the original track must have had accepted their fate to be crushed by trolley, while the one person, who accepted that he should be able to live longer because the main path is where the trolley should go. This problem is quickly turned into a scenario where you save 5 crime convicts from the death row, and unwillingly replace one of them with some law-obeying citizen minding their own business and had no idea that it is even possible for him to be convicted of a crime.

The 5 people are ready for death anyways, crushing them with the trolley is not inherently evil as indirectly they asked for it. The 1 person is not ready for anything coming, and letting him live for some more according to his will is also good.

Sources and rebuttals are not needed. I end my case here.

  • Going on the main path is your job and doing it instead of things directly against it is better.
    • We should protect people we are meant to protect in favor of people we are not meant to protect.
  • Driving over 5 people will more likely to slow your trolley to a more acceptable speed, preventing further injuries for the passengers.
  • The 5 people are ready for death, driving over them is more or less OK.
    • The 1 person is not ready for death. You know the drill.
  • You should go straight on the main path, crushing 5 people, but may more or less save the 20-30 people you are supposed to save.

All right, I’m going to skip the formalities and cut straight to the point. 

Argument - 
The debate question at hand is one that seems, for all intents and purposes, useless from a pragmatist’s perspective. There is no applicability here. The situation posed above is so niche and so trivial that I seriously doubt that any of us will ever run across anything even remotely similar to it. So practically speaking, this quandary is irrelevant. 

Of course, the point isn’t whether the listed conditions are feasible or not, but rather what kind of stance we would feel inclined to take if under said conditions and what implications that has for our existing moral framework. Strip away the absurdity of the thought experiment and you’re left with a pressing ethical dilemma that could very well have ramifications on the way we behave and conduct society. 

To get the ball rolling, I’m going to make a relatively uncontroversial claim: life is intrinsically precious and therefore deserves our protection. It’s safe to say that this is self-evidently true, so unless my opponent has any counter-remarks or objections I’m going to take it as a given. From my perspective, any view running counter to this would require a lot of brainpower and philosophizing to defend, and even then that probably wouldn’t suffice. To object to my assertion is to desecrate your own worth, not to mention the rest of humanity’s. In fact, if you don’t believe life is worth guarding then it doesn’t matter which horn you choose. Kill the 5 or the 1 - ultimately it’s irrelevant which way you go if life doesn’t have an inherent value. As far as I’m concerned, any offshoot of this stance has abandoned the arena of ethics and entered into one of extreme pragmatism - The question becomes not “What is right?” but “What is most convenient in the immediate future?”. The deciding factor shifts to expedience rather than moral character. And the issue is, you can’t commit to such a view only halfway. Either expedience is the key, and therefore ends justify the means; or else it isn’t, in which case ethical problems have to be considered in isolation, disregarding any potential outcome they might bring about. 

That’s what this debate boils down to. Either ends justify the means, or they don't. As anyone who has studied this issue even cursorily can inform you, choosing the former forces you to accept a lot of side-baggage. If ends justify the means, that necessitates that horrid statements such as “It is ok to murder children if it netts in a positive result.” are vindicated and even viable. Not only is it outright shameful to lend this view any credence, it’s also completely unworkable. You can’t maintain a civil society without rejecting the consequentialist ethic because, under it, tyranny, oppression, violent revolt, treason, murder, treachery, and virtually every other manifestation of evil can be endlessly legitimized and carried out. Within the rubric of consequentialism, the boundaries only stretch out as far as your imagination. If you can convince yourself that the murder you’d like to commit will actualize a good result, then according to this ethic you should go ahead and execute your plan. The only limit to this stance is how many mental contortions you can do before you wear yourself out. As long as you can justify it to yourself, your opponents have no valid argument against you. And judging from human history, it can take quite a while for humans to tire themselves drumming up excuses for their crimes. Morbid creativity becomes the standard in what actions you should or shouldn't pursue. 

Opting for the latter, on the other hand, entails that you focus on the action itself rather than its effect. You can consider what impact your actions might have, but generally, that shouldn’t be factored into the decision itself - and it certainly shouldn’t be what sways your choice. If this is truly the case - if moral actions are to be considered separately from the results they effectuate - then in essence the situation we’re currently examining distills down to “Which action will ensure the survival of the most victims?” As I said before, life is sacred, meaning that if we’re employing normal standards here and only using the facts that have been made available, then the protection of the most life will invariably be the best option. 

A brief examination of my opponent’s arguments
“Going on the main path is your job and doing it instead of things directly against it is better.”
“Driving over 5 people will more likely to slow your trolley to a more acceptable speed, preventing further injuries for the passengers.”
What I’ve outlined thus far constitutes a significant challenge for my opponent and, unfortunately, leaves him in a bind, though technically of his own making. There are only two routes here, one of which (ends justify means) requires him to grant people the right to commit abominable deeds on the basis of how creative and twisted they are with their reasoning; and the other of which shuts off all avenues of argument. Once he concedes that ends don’t justify the means, he is obligated to ignore the triviality that his little trolly will be late and instead center his attention on the morality itself. You don’t sacrifice your moral integrity for the sake of keeping your work schedule, and you certainly don’t do it because it will slow your vehicle down. Such nonsense would be tantamount to if I decided to ram into passers-by in my car because I thought I was going too fast or something. You wouldn’t condone that, I’m sure, so why do you support it here? 

If you’re going to argue why we should permit the needless deaths of 5 people rather than 1, you’re going to need something a bit more substantial and solid than “They’ll keep me from making my quota.”, or “It will reduce the trolley’s trajectory.” Even from a consequentialist standpoint, this logic is extremely tenuous and, frankly, rather unimpressive. 

“The 5 people lying on the original track must have had accepted their fate to be crushed by trolley, while the one person, who accepted that he should be able to live longer because the main path is where the trolley should go.”

All it takes for me to refute this subproof is to point out that it assumes conditions that weren’t designated in the initial setup, and therefore isn’t within the parameters of this debate. Maybe the 1 man is ignorant and merely supposed that the track was bound to have a train rumble down it sooner or later. Perhaps the 5 people tripped simultaneously and are all unconscious. Maybe they’ve been coerced, or tied there by some sort of psychotic maniac. We don’t know what kind of influence lies behind the situation they’ve found themselves in. Maybe they’re murderers, or maybe they are the most saintly people to ever grace the earth. We don’t know. We only have access to a few facts, which are that one track will cause one death while another will cause the death of five. Looking at the dilemma through that lens makes it a lot less strenuous, doesn’t it?
In short, either my opponent must make the boldfaced admission that ends justify the means, or else he must ignore the end results of the dichotomy, which would deal irreparable damage to his argument since that’s mostly what they hinge on. 

Thank you for your time and patience. I had to think a bit about how I wanted to formulate my argument this time around, as there are so many angles and it can be hard to organize them neatly.

Round 2
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Round 3
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