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The Allegory of the Backwards Train, adapted from the Trolley Car

Edward_L._Sin

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The train tracks contrasted with the night, because a midnight train the Rager rampaged towards the destination the subsequent train station, shining the lights onto the train tracks and begetting the effects of a blur of sorts to any passerby. The driver of the train Alent biv Am was an average Joe. In contrast with the gangsters and all the other troublemakers that constituted a considerable portion of his society and were constantly ridiculed for their burden on same society, everyone always found, in their deepest sentiment, that his lifestyle was higher than the aforementioned ones -- that he was apart of the people whose lifestyles were the most honorable and the most virtuous of them all, like the athletes of the Ancient Olympics. With a glorious wife, whom he has been married for forty-two years without a single case of domestic violence, and three children, whose health was a benefit to the monthly budget of the Ams, Alent was a man of personal responsibility for which society had only the highest respect to endow upon him. A veteran enlisted into the military for the Vietnam War and a former, police officer, he was experienced in the matters of life. Although some people question his credibility, in that he had no college degree in social sciences, any independent study of the subject, nor any affiliation and empathy towards politics, he scoffed at those people, thinking them all as childish and himself as a righteous father He was confident in his superior maturity and wisdom after his paramount experiences in his life. He had only the need of his god, his family, and his work -- and all other things were merely silly things fabricated by society.

As the train neared, and he neared his escape for a slumber at his house, he surprisingly spotted from afar ten figures loitering on the train tracks the train headed. The ten figures were unequivocally like Odysseus' crew, who was lured in with the temptations of lust and luxury, and now they had put themselves in the way of harm. To the relief of Alent, he noticed that he could take a mere scenic route on a diverging train track that wouldn't alter his schedule by much, just before he would have hit the perceived, reckless teenagers. To his horror, he found that this second route wasn't so desolated as he had presumed. There was a boy sleeping on the tracks, apparently with the trust that his friends would pull him away should anything happen. His friends were as negligent as a CEO, who only cared for his or her own profits. Now there was no time for their heroics nor the simple pursuance of an implicit agreement. The climax had but two scenarios: Alent could allow the prescribed pathway to take its course, or he could turn the wheels and crash down upon the innocently sleeping boy but save ten happily playing boys. He could not decelerate the train in time, before hitting either of the two choices. Now at this apex of his life, he had found that he was foolish to have believed that he was above the trials of the philosopher or the discourses of the people on what is good or bad and right or wrong. His equations fell apart in an instant, and his reality was deflowered.

Evaluating Questions

1. What would you characterize your political position? (Liberal, Libertarian, Conservative, etc.)
2. Should Alent continue on his current train track, or should he turn the wheels to the diverging train track?
3. Justify your answer for the first question.
4. Evaluate fate vs. free will in this short story, and justify your answer.
5. Which train track should the support of the law?
6. Justify your answer for the fifth question.
7. Which train track would be the most desirable for the welfare of society? Which train track would not violate the freedom of Alent? Which train track would be the most virtuous of Alent? Justify your answers.
8. Should Alent base his decision of the train track on welfare, freedom, or virtue? Justify your answer.
9. How differently would society, if at all, change its impressions of Alent, depending on which train track he would have chosen? Justify your answer.
10. Who had the most moral desert for their predicament: the ten boys on the first train track or the one boy on the second train track?
 
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the makeout hobo

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1. Liberal, also a Secular Humanist
2. He should divert the train to hit the one boy.
3. He has an obligation to his community and himself to do as little harm as possible.
4. I see no way that fate or free will are involved.
5. This question makes no sense.
6. See above.
7. First we would need to define "welfare", "society", "virtuous", and how his freedom is in question in any way
8. Again, these words can mean dozens of different things and are undefined. he should base his decision on what does the least amount of harm or the most amount of aid.
9. That question is irrelevant, as the decision belongs to Alent alone.
10. moral desert? Makes no sense what you're asking. Secondly, anyone who is doing anything on a train track is an idiot and is risking their life.

I would also like to point out this highlights one issue I have with libertarians. They seem to dwell too much in the abstract and the philosophical that they lose sight of conditions on the ground. Also, the story is way too flowery and has way too much irrelevant data in it. It distracts from the questions it presents.
 

Edward_L._Sin

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1. Liberal, also a Secular Humanist
2. He should divert the train to hit the one boy.
3. He has an obligation to his community and himself to do as little harm as possible.
4. I see no way that fate or free will are involved.
5. This question makes no sense.
6. See above.
7. First we would need to define "welfare", "society", "virtuous", and how his freedom is in question in any way
8. Again, these words can mean dozens of different things and are undefined. he should base his decision on what does the least amount of harm or the most amount of aid.
9. That question is irrelevant, as the decision belongs to Alent alone.
10. moral desert? Makes no sense what you're asking. Secondly, anyone who is doing anything on a train track is an idiot and is risking their life.

I would also like to point out this highlights one issue I have with libertarians. They seem to dwell too much in the abstract and the philosophical that they lose sight of conditions on the ground. Also, the story is way too flowery and has way too much irrelevant data in it. It distracts from the questions it presents.

3. You contradicted your answer in question nine. Does the society play a role in the decisions of Alent or not?
4. As a hint: What would Alent have not been able to control, and what could he have controlled?
5. Sorry. I meant: "Which train track should have the support of the law?"
7. I don't understand what problem you have with the term society, but I do understand that welfare, society, and virtue might not click for those who aren't familiar with political philosophy. The three attributes are basically the primary factors upon which all issues are decided, intentionally or subconsciously. The argument for welfare basically decides the issue on the basis of utilitarianism -- the greatest happiness for the greatest number. The argument for freedom is conflicted within itself, but it essentially represents the point of view from one of the following -- libertarianism, a meritocracy, or egalitarianism. Finally, the argument from virtue decides the issue on a punishment based sort of system, and this side depends on moral desert, good and bad, right and wrong, etc. I can't necessarily help you furthermore than to suggest that you read John Stuart Mill, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, and Aristotle, if you want to pursue the question of welfare, freedom, and virtue as a beginning.
8. Well, yes -- you essentially chose the welfare choice or utilitarianism -- "the greatest happiness for the greatest number."
10. Well, you understood the question somewhat. You just basically said that both the ten boys and the one boy morally deserve whatever was coming to them because of their idiocy. My question asked you to evaluate who would have morally deserve the death more, though -- the ten boys or the one boy.

The evaluation of libertarianism was irrelevant to the topic but duly taken into account nevertheless. In terms of your criticism of the short story, this short story is an allegory. I wouldn't add any details, if they did not have an element of symbolism, characterization, imagery, mood, etc. to the story.
 
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MKULTRABOY

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1. What would you characterize your political position? (Liberal, Libertarian, Conservative, etc.)
2. Should Alent continue on his current train track, or should he turn the wheels to the diverging train track?
3. Justify your answer for the first question.
4. Evaluate fate vs. free will in this short story, and justify your answer.
5. Which train track should the support of the law?
6. Justify your answer for the fifth question.
7. Which train track would be the most desirable for the welfare of society? Which train track would not violate the freedom of Alent? Which train track would be the most virtuous of Alent? Justify your answers.
8. Should Alent base his decision of the train track on welfare, freedom, or virtue? Justify your answer.
9. How differently would society, if at all, change its impressions of Alent, depending on which train track he would have chosen? Justify your answer.
10. Who had the most moral desert for their predicament: the ten boys on the first train track or the one boy on the second train track?

1) I classify myself as a liberal - more culturally than politically because I am not always very liberal in a classical sense.
2) He should honk his train horn, which path he chooses he cannot be blamed.
3) Question 1 or two? I'm a liberal culturally because I agree with liberals and get along with them. The stereotypical republican doesn't get along with my 'world views'.
4) Fate vs free will: Fate befalls one of two parties in this case, free will is reduced to the decision of which party to end. The internal moralistic though process of a man cannot likely be hocked up to fate as reasonably it would entail our internal thought processes are objects beyond our control.
5) The support of the law? Man the law, is like this thing see... the law is a set of paramaters for human activity enforcable by authority or somethin....

I dont know I've had enough of this...
 

Goshin

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Short Story

The train tracks contrasted with the night, because a midnight train the Rager rampaged towards the destination the subsequent train station, shining the lights onto the train tracks and begetting the effects of a blur of sorts to any passerby. The driver of the train Alent biv Am was an average Joe. In contrast with the gangsters and all the other troublemakers that constituted a considerable portion of his society and were constantly ridiculed for their burden on same society, everyone always found, in their deepest sentiment, that his lifestyle was higher than the aforementioned ones -- that he was apart of the people whose lifestyles were the most honorable and the most virtuous of them all, like the athletes of the Ancient Olympics. With a glorious wife, whom he has been married for forty-two years without a single case of domestic violence, and three children, whose health was a benefit to the monthly budget of the Ams, Alent was a man of personal responsibility for which society had only the highest respect to endow upon him. A veteran enlisted into the military for the Vietnam War and a former, police officer, he was experienced in the matters of life. Although some people question his credibility, in that he had no college degree in social sciences, any independent study of the subject, nor any affiliation and empathy towards politics, he scoffed at those people, thinking them all as childish and himself as a righteous father He was confident in his superior maturity and wisdom after his paramount experiences in his life. He had only the need of his god, his family, and his work -- and all other things were merely silly things fabricated by society.

As the train neared, and he neared his escape for a slumber at his house, he surprisingly spotted from afar ten figures loitering on the train tracks the train headed. The ten figures were unequivocally like Odysseus' crew, who was lured in with the temptations of lust and luxury, and now they had put themselves in the way of harm. To the relief of Alent, he noticed that he could take a mere scenic route on a diverging train track that wouldn't alter his schedule by much, just before he would have hit the perceived, reckless teenagers. To his horror, he found that this second route wasn't so desolated as he had presumed. There was a boy sleeping on the tracks, apparently with the trust that his friends would pull him away should anything happen. His friends were as negligent as a CEO, who only cared for his or her own profits. Now there was no time for their heroics nor the simple pursuance of an implicit agreement. The climax had but two scenarios: Alent could allow the prescribed pathway to take its course, or he could turn the wheels and crash down upon the innocently sleeping boy but save ten happily playing boys. He could not decelerate the train in time, before hitting either of the two choices. Now at this apex of his life, he had found that he was foolish to have believed that he was above the trials of the philosopher or the discourses of the people on what is good or bad and right or wrong. His equations fell apart in an instant, and his reality was deflowered.

Evaluating Questions

1. What would you characterize your political position? (Liberal, Libertarian, Conservative, etc.)
2. Should Alent continue on his current train track, or should he turn the wheels to the diverging train track?
3. Justify your answer for the first question.
4. Evaluate fate vs. free will in this short story, and justify your answer.
5. Which train track should the support of the law?
6. Justify your answer for the fifth question.
7. Which train track would be the most desirable for the welfare of society? Which train track would not violate the freedom of Alent? Which train track would be the most virtuous of Alent? Justify your answers.
8. Should Alent base his decision of the train track on welfare, freedom, or virtue? Justify your answer.
9. How differently would society, if at all, change its impressions of Alent, depending on which train track he would have chosen? Justify your answer.
10. Who had the most moral desert for their predicament: the ten boys on the first train track or the one boy on the second train track?


Several aspects of your story indicate bias on the part of the author. There is a strong hint of disparagement for those whose decision-making processes are based on extensive life experience rather than university education and academic philosophy. I consider this bias to be intellectual snobbery. To pretend that someone who has been a war veteran and a police officer has never before had to make life or death decisions based on their values is flat out silly; ignorant, even.

The answer is obvious: if your only choices are to kill one or kill ten, in the absence of any known moral or legal superiority of either group, you choose to kill the one, minimizing the amount of harm that you do.

Playing on train tracks, or sleeping on them, is inherently dangerous and obviously unwise; both the 10 and the 1 are subject to the consequences of their actions, but since they were merely being stupid rather than evil, the need to minimize harm is still the driving principle behind the choice of the driver.

I'm not going through the whole list of questions, there's no reason to as any other answers follow from the above.
 
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Edward_L._Sin

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1) I classify myself as a liberal - more culturally than politically because I am not always very liberal in a classical sense.
2) He should honk his train horn, which path he chooses he cannot be blamed.
3) Question 1 or two? I'm a liberal culturally because I agree with liberals and get along with them. The stereotypical republican doesn't get along with my 'world views'.
4) Fate vs free will: Fate befalls one of two parties in this case, free will is reduced to the decision of which party to end. The internal moralistic though process of a man cannot likely be hocked up to fate as reasonably it would entail our internal thought processes are objects beyond our control.
5) The support of the law? Man the law, is like this thing see... the law is a set of paramaters for human activity enforcable by authority or somethin....

I dont know I've had enough of this...

3, Truly sorry about the this question. I meant for you to justify your second question.

Several aspects of your story indicate bias on the part of the author. There is a strong hint of disparagement for those whose decision-making processes are based on extensive life experience rather than university education and academic philosophy. I consider this bias to be intellectual snobbery. To pretend that someone who has been a war veteran and a police officer has never before had to make life or death decisions based on their values is flat out silly; ignorant, even.

The answer is obvious: if your only choices are to kill one or kill ten, in the absence of any known moral or legal superiority of either group, you choose to kill the one, minimizing the amount of harm that you do.

Playing on train tracks, or sleeping on them, is inherently dangerous and obviously unwise; both the 10 and the 1 are subject to the consequences of their actions, but since they were merely being stupid rather than evil, the need to minimize harm is still the driving principle behind the choice of the driver.

I'm not going through the whole list of questions, there's no reason to as any other answers follow from the above.

Key points. Although I am impressed that you were able to capture the allegory of Alent, it is quite paradoxical to criticize me for my subjectivity, as it would be paradoxical for me to criticize Friedrich Nietzsche for his biased nature towards his own beliefs. If you want to have an exchange about the superiority complex of the experienced man, I am quite fine to do so, but I don't believe you, nor anyone else in this thread, has truly grasped the concepts in this philosophical allegory on politics in and of itself. While you already answered about three questions in your paragraph towards me, I don't see why you refuse to answer my other questions, because those questions weren't made to punish you but to reward you by allowing you to think in a more in-depth manner into the allegory. I am at least grateful that all of the people in this thread have clearly shown their support for utilitarianism, but I doubt any of you have actually thought in-depth about this school of philosophy yet. Utilitarianism was what what the Romans used to justify their acts, when they sent the Christians out into the coliseums to fight against the lions. When anybody questioned these acts, they just enunciated, "But look at the happiness of the crowd -- the majority of the people!"

Utilitarianism is essentially the most discredited political philosophy in most universities, when you study this subject. I'm surprised that no one has invoked the topic of natural rights yet, especially because, from what I perceive, this forum is primarily constituted by liberals, who seem to know nothing about philosophers such as John Locke, who is the founder of the liberalism for which they believe today. Truthfully, all this just seems to me to be, as shown eloquently by the makeout hobo, to be case of political shallowness over political thought and exploration. Someone would rather cheer for his or her own political affiliation, whether it be liberalism or conservatism, without actually knowing the foundations of liberalism or conservatism, a Democrat or a Republican. Now, I have never expected even a minuscule segment of the members on this forum instantly to know about topics such as existentialism or postmodernism. What I did expect, however, are that some of you would have known, at least, about the majority of the Enlightenment philosophies, which are the cornerstone of all modern political thought anyways, and anybody who is serious about politics should at least have some amount of knowledge of them.
 

Goshin

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Key points. Although I am impressed that you were able to capture the allegory of Alent, it is quite paradoxical to criticize me for my subjectivity, as it would be paradoxical for me to criticize Friedrich Nietzsche for his biased nature towards his own beliefs. If you want to have an exchange about the superiority complex of the experienced man, I am quite fine to do so, but I don't believe you, nor anyone else in this thread, has truly grasped the concepts in this philosophical allegory on politics in and of itself. While you already answered about three questions in your paragraph towards me, I don't see why you refuse to answer my other questions, because those questions weren't made to punish you but to reward you by allowing you to think in a more in-depth manner into the allegory. I am at least grateful that all of the people in this thread have clearly shown their support for utilitarianism, but I doubt any of you have actually thought in-depth about this school of philosophy yet. Utilitarianism was what what the Romans used to justify their acts, when they sent the Christians out into the coliseums to fight against the lions. When anybody questioned these acts, they just enunciated, "But look at the happiness of the crowd -- the majority of the people!"

Utilitarianism is essentially the most discredited political philosophy in most universities, when you study this subject. I'm surprised that no one has invoked the topic of natural rights yet, especially because, from what I perceive, this forum is primarily constituted by liberals, who seem to know nothing about philosophers such as John Locke, who is the founder of the liberalism for which they believe today. Truthfully, all this just seems to me to be, as shown eloquently by the makeout hobo, to be case of political shallowness over political thought and exploration. Someone would rather cheer for his or her own political affiliation, whether it be liberalism or conservatism, without actually knowing the foundations of liberalism or conservatism, a Democrat or a Republican. Now, I have never expected even a minuscule segment of the members on this forum instantly to know about topics such as existentialism or postmodernism. What I did expect, however, are that some of you would have known, at least, about the majority of the Enlightenment philosophies, which are the cornerstone of all modern political thought anyways, and anybody who is serious about politics should at least have some amount of knowledge of them.


Do you condescend often?

Are you impressed with your own education and your capacity for verbosity?

You'll get wrinkles when you're older if you keep sneering down your nose like that, you know.

Have you actually finished college yet?

Going to school all the ignorant wretches here at DP?



FYI, you aren't the only person around here who has read Locke. I can name-drop too: Swift, Hobbes, Malthus, Marx, Friedman, Smith.

Bah. I'm a kindly and polite person; lots of luck when the real sharks notice you and decide to bite. Most of them have read Locke and Nietzche too.
 

Aunt Spiker

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In such moral-reasoning issues you're suppose to be completely unbiased (which is hard to do).

The Trolley car situation it's not presented with personal views and opinions peppered in. By leaving out all personal things in the story itself we're (each individual person engaged in it) are a completely neutral party and each person is to be encouraged to use their *own* personal views to decide what they would or wouldn't do.

The bias that's peppered into your version already *gives* us a view - which ruins the point - and will stem debate about those views (like the friends being like a CEO).
 

Edward_L._Sin

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Do you condescend often?

Are you impressed with your own education and your capacity for verbosity?

You'll get wrinkles when you're older if you keep sneering down your nose like that, you know.

Have you actually finished college yet?

Going to school all the ignorant wretches here at DP?



FYI, you aren't the only person around here who has read Locke. I can name-drop too: Swift, Hobbes, Malthus, Marx, Friedman, Smith.

Bah. I'm a kindly and polite person; lots of luck when the real sharks notice you and decide to bite. Most of them have read Locke and Nietzche too.

Well, if you want to play this game, I can play as well. Am I impressed with my own education, and have I finished college yet? Never once did I invoke my education nor anything about my personal life. Frankly, it just seems that you are just subconsciously jealous that I may know some things that you don't, and you therefore desperately want to save your own reputation on this forum by showing your pseudo-intellectualism and power over me. Am I impressed with my capacity for verbosity? Well, it depends. Just because I have that capacity doesn't mean that I do use it, but, even if it does seem like I'm being verbose to you, it's really just that you have reached your own capacity for comprehension and understanding, so that you now want to blame your hardships with understanding this subject on the manner through which I say it. Namedropping is your task now? You still won't gain my respect.

The thing is, I can do this all day. I can make Ad Hominems, but I'll say it myself -- it doesn't advance the discussion, nor does it prove anything, and that is why this forum discourages these acts. Quite merrily, it just seems that you misconstrued constructive criticism for my intentionally insulting you. If you believe that what I said was an insult to you, then it was just as insulting for you to mock this short story I wrote by calling it biased. I never thought that that was a mockery at all -- I thought that it was constructive criticism. I respectfully refuted that point as such, and, if you want to contend with my refutation, then just reply to it or any other point you believe I have made a grievance, but don't sit there and type that I just want to hurt your feelings, because I frankly wouldn't type up a whole story nor come to a politics forum, if I just wanted to make some people mad over the internet. If you look at my reply in the pro-life thread, I was completely respectful to both sides of the argument, as I am supposed to be. However, if you start making accusations against me, then I shall defend myself in the manner in which I believe would be the most effective like you would, and I really don't feel that that needs to happen in a thread like this. The time for childish things is over. The time for discussing this topic in a mature and considerate manner is now.

In such moral-reasoning issues you're suppose to be completely unbiased (which is hard to do).

The Trolley car situation it's not presented with personal views and opinions peppered in. By leaving out all personal things in the story itself we're (each individual person engaged in it) are a completely neutral party and each person is to be encouraged to use their *own* personal views to decide what they would or wouldn't do.

The bias that's peppered into your version already *gives* us a view - which ruins the point - and will stem debate about those views (like the friends being like a CEO).

Thank you for your input, and I do actually know where you are coming from, but here is my answer to that. The thing is, I did enter my own twists and turns into the story, primarily in the exposition, but that was nevertheless a separate entity from the actual, philosophical question of the story. On the philosophical question, I nevertheless kept it as clear as it would have been in the original allegory of the Trolley Car -- I only adapted the story typically told orally into written form for the purposes of this forum. Like William Golding, I have my own points of view as well. In Lord of the Flies, there was tremendous bias towards a religious point of view with the allegories for Jesus and the devil, but the comment on society nevertheless stayed constant and an open question for which the reader can investigate. In actuality, it just seems that people use how I wrote this story as an excuse not to answer my evaluating questions, when I clearly directed the evaluating questions towards the main theme of the story, which was whether intentionally killing one life is greater than allowing nature to kill the ten lives and take its course.
 
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Edward_L._Sin

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In retrospect and with due consideration, it does seem that I was rather condescending to some of the members in this thread, and I apologize for that transgression. Please discuss the short story or allegory in whatever manner you please.
 

CaptainCourtesy

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In retrospect and with due consideration, it does seem that I was rather condescending to some of the members in this thread, and I apologize for that transgression. Please discuss the short story or allegory in whatever manner you please.

Always nice to see someone show integrity like this. Thank you.
 

Aunt Spiker

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It's hard to write these types of things down because traditionally they're given in a lecture situation where the person can interact with the audience, discuss while presenting the situation and engage in conversation and so on. It's hard to convert that into a written-style.
 

Goshin

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Well, if you want to play this game, I can play as well. Am I impressed with my own education, and have I finished college yet? Never once did I invoke my education nor anything about my personal life. Frankly, it just seems that you are just subconsciously jealous that I may know some things that you don't and you therefore desperately want to save your own reputation on this forum by showing your pseudo-intellectualism and power over me.

Condescension, baseless assumptions and insults...

The time for childish things is over. The time for discussing this topic in a mature and considerate manner is now.

Look bud, when you talk down to people don't be shocked if they don't like it and respond accordingly. Especially since you're new here and haven't exactly established your quality as a poster yet.

In retrospect and with due consideration, it does seem that I was rather condescending to some of the members in this thread, and I apologize for that transgression. Please discuss the short story or allegory in whatever manner you please.

Well, that's good. If you want to start over and talk as one equal among other equals, that does tend to facilitate discussion and civil debate.




In actuality, it just seems that people use how I wrote this story as an excuse not to answer my evaluating questions, when I clearly directed the evaluating questions towards the main theme of the story, which was whether intentionally killing one life is greater than allowing nature to kill the ten lives and take its course.

:shrug: Since the operator of the train has the option to make the decision, it isn't simply a matter of letting nature take its course, but rather a choice to be made, IMO.

No information is available to allow us to make moral judgements about the quality of the lives that are at risk. We don't know if the 10 are thugs and drug dealers; we don't know if the 1 asleep is a medical student who will find the cure for cancer. The only things we know are 10 playing on the track, 1 sleeping on the track. Both of these actions tend to argue a significant level of irresponsibility and lack of forethought, but such things are common among the young.

Lacking any information to judge the quality of the lives at risk, sparing the 10 at the expense of the 1 is simply the practical response. In reality a lot of people would probably just freeze up, find themselves too panicky to act at all, and let the train take its course.

Now, all of that is looking at the problem from a pragmatic point of view, as opposed to a philosophical view. I tend to do that, since I am practical by nature and training... being an ex-cop probably has something to do with it.

You could view it as a commentary on utilitarianism if you like, but I think it is not the best example for dividing the utilitarians from others, since given the available info the most practical solution is "do the least harm possible", which means divert from the 10 to the 1.

Just because someone gives you a practical answer doesn't make them philosophically utilitarian. If the 1 sleeping on the tracks was my son, I'd stay on course and kill the 10. That's an emotional response, not a philosophical one.
 
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