3 Famous Moral Dilemmas That Will Really Make You Think


1. The Trolley Problem

Situation 1: There is a trolley coming down the tracks and ahead, there are five people tied to the tracks and are unable to move. The trolley will continue coming and will kill the five people. There is nothing you can do to rescue the five people EXCEPT that there is a lever. If you pull the lever, the train will be directed to another track, which has ONE person tied to it. You have two choices:
(a) Do nothing and the five people will die
(b) Or pull the lever and save the five people, but that one person will die.

Did you make your choice? Well then consider this similar situation:

Situation 2: There is a trolley coming down the tracks and ahead, there are five people tied to the tracks and are unable to move. The trolley will continue coming and will kill the five people. However, in this situation, you are standing on a bridge above the train tracks and you can see the train coming. There is a man standing next to you, who is so enormous and heavy that if he places himself in front of the oncoming train, it will hit and kill him but the train will stop. So you have two choices
(a) Do nothing and the five people will die.
(b) Push the big guy down the bridge. He will be killed but will stop the trolley and save the five people.

The ironic part about this problem is that while most people would choose the option (b) for the first situation, they will choose option (a) for the second situation, when technically, in both situations, you are sacrificing one man to save the lives of five people.

2. The Baby Problem

You, your baby, and your entire townspeople are being chased by this band of bad people who will kill you all if they find you. All of you decide to hide in this secret place and are silently waiting for the bad guys to move away. However you know that your baby WILL cough and the band will hear him. Then they will find you, your baby, and the townspeople and kill all of you. So you have two choices:

(a) Kill your baby and save yourself and the entire town
(b) Or let your baby cough and get yourself, your baby, and the entire town get killed.

3. The Prisoner’s Dilemma

You are a member of a gang and you have been arrested with another member of your gang. Both of you are confined away from each other and you have no way of communicating with the other member. The police does not have enough evidence to convict both of you with major charges and instead offer you and the other member a bargain. You have two choices:
(a) You can remain silent
(b) Or betray the other member and testify that he has committed the crime.

Then there are three outcomes:
(a) If you betray the other member and he remains silent, you will be set free and he will serve 3 years in prison. (But this also works vice versa. If you remain silent and he betrays you, you will serve 3 years in prison)
(b) If you betray the other member, and he betrays you too, you both serve 2 years in prison
(c) If you and the other member both remain silent, you both only serve one year in prison.

What would you do? TC Mark

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