What should the bystander do and why?

Answer the Questions then response to both post in next pages

PHL 318

Class Discussion Day 1: Work and the Good Life/Ethical Theories

Part 1. Trolley problems

  1. “The Classic Trolley Problem“: A runaway trolley car is hurtling along a track. If it continues on the track it is on, it will hit five people who are working on the track. A bystander is nearby a switch, and has just enough time to throw the switch before the trolley comes through, which will divert it to a second track. On the second track, there is only one person working. There is not enough time to take any other action (for instance, to warn those on the track), so the choice is between leaving the trolley on its current course, to kill five, or moving it onto the second track, to kill one.

2a. What should the bystander do and why?

2b. What do you think a utilitarian would say about this? What about a Kantian? (The answer to the first should be pretty straightforward. The answer to the second has more room for interpretation.)

  1. “The Footbridge”: As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. A bystander is on a footbridge under which it will pass, and she can stop it by dropping a heavy weight in front of it. As it happens, there is a very large man next to her (the only heavy enough weight in the vicinity) – her only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five.

3a. What should the bystander do and why? Is your answer consistent with your answer in #1? If not, how should we resolve the inconsistency?

3b. What do you think a utilitarian would say about this? What about a Kantian?

Part 2. Discussion Questions on Ciulla article

  1. Ciulla suggests that there are four approaches to work and play represented by different fables: the grasshopper, the ant, the bee, and the cicada. Which do you see yourself as, or hope to be? Why?
  2. Ciulla differentiates between regarding work as a meaningful activity and as an instrumental activity. An instrumental activity is one that is undertaken not for its own sake, but for the sake of some other goal. Do you expect work to serve as primarily a meaningful or an instrumental activity in your life? Do you think it is realistic for work to be a meaningful activity for most people?

Response to both

4 hours ago

Ian Kokoszka

RE: Questions for Discussion (read this first)


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1-2a. In theory, the person should divert the trolley to cause only one death rather than five to mitigate consequences.

1-2b. A utilitarian would agree with my previous statement, on the basis five people happy to be alive is better than one. The Kantian is a little more complicated, but I see it as they wouldn’t pull the switch, because to do so would be murder, and that should never be acceptable.

2-3a. Once again in theory, the person should kill one to save five. Now obviously this one makes an indirect murder much more direct, but I still hold to the first answer.

2-3b. A utilitarian might have a little more negativity to deal with, like the anguish of being explicitly murdered and one person having the knowledge they caused the death of another, but I still believe most would say saving five lives outweighs the cost. A Kantian would have an even easier time with this scenario, because pushing the man is an absolute direct murder, so they could not condone it.

  1. I would honestly categorize myself as the ant. I highly value security attained from work and would gladly sacrifice other qualities like meaningfulness or leisure to reduce risk.
  2. I would expect work to be more of an instrumental activity in my life, not that have any particular disdain for it, but I do enjoy the fruits of my labor more than the labor itself. I would imagine, statistically, meaningful work isn’t realistic for the majority of the population. I could be wrong, as I’m not sure how frequently aspirations tie into some of the lower paying jobs with constitute the largest quantity of labor, but I find it difficult to imagine many can purely work for meaning globally.

Suave Fleming

RE: Questions for Discussion (read this first)


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1.2a Although either choice really helps the subconscious, I believe the term, “the lesser evil” will apply here, thus killing one and saving five is the lesser evil.

1.2b A Utilitarian will likely agree that we should save the five and kill the one. Since they seek a balance of sorts and are consequentialist, the consequence of one person dying is lesser than that of five people dying. On the other hand, a Kantian would find both choices to be inherently wrong. They are nonconsequentialist, so they value more than the consequence itself, the intrinsic rightness or wrongness of an action.

2.3a The answer to this question will likely be the same to #1.2a, only issue here is they would deliberately killing someone with their own hands. Yet a part of me, believes they would let things be.

2.3b A utilitarian would likely kill the heavy set man, the Kantian would not.

  1. Although I do want to be a bee, I will only care for the money and leisure time, maybe the meaningfulness plays a factor too.
  2. That would be the primary goal, but I believe, at least initially, work is going to be solely instrumental.

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