The Trolley vs Transplant Case

The Trolley vs Transplant Case

What would you do?
Anu Rao
Anu Rao
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Philosophy is a subject not intended for individuals who are unwilling to look past their personal opinions and challenge their beliefs. Philosophers look past their personal opinions by using thought experiments meant to challenge what they believe is right or wrong. A thought experiment is defined as, “a description of a possible state of affairs which elicits an intuitive reaction typically for or against a specific view”. Two thought provoking cases that bring forth questions of morality include the trolley case and the transplant case. These two cases individually can be answered without much hesitation, but together, they create a paradox, or contradiction to each other. This can be quite bothersome to individuals who believe that morality has a definitive right or wrong answer.

In the trolley case, imagine you are driving a trolley on its track. When you look ahead, you see that it splits into two ways: right or left. The right track has five construction workers working on it and have not noticed the oncoming trolley. You have no way of signalling them to move out of the way. On the other side, the left track has only one construction worker. The single worker also does not see the trolley and you have no way of warning the individual. You are left with two options. You can decide to let the trolley continue down the right track. This would lead to the death of the five construction workers. Or, you can press the button to move the train to the left track, which would only kill one construction worker. While this is a tough situation to be placed in, many people would say that the obvious answer is to press the button and save the five construction workers with the idea that five lives are more valuable than just one.

But let’s consider a similar situation to this, called the bystander problem. Imagine you are watching the trolley travel down the track that is about to turn right, and hit five construction workers. You notice that the conductor tried to stop the trolley, failed, and consequently passed out from horror and embarrassment for the lack of intelligence to honk the horn. To your right, there is a switch box that allows you to change the path of the trolley to the left, which would kill only one construction worker. You now are given the option of throwing the switch to move the trolley to the left, killing just the one worker, or simply not doing anything and letting the five construction workers die. The question becomes whether you are morally responsible to intervene, and whether your choice is morally permissible. Most people would say you are morally obligated to intervene, and save the lives of the five workers, or the greater number of individuals. It would, in fact, be morally impermissible for you not to act in that situation. I believe that there is a big difference between letting someone die and killing someone. If you had not been the bystander, those five individuals would have died from the trolley. This would not have been your fault. But, by intervening and changing the course of events that would have taken place, the death of that one person would be your fault. This is because letting someone die is wrong, but you didn’t choose to kill them. You chose to let the natural course of things play out. But despite the difference between letting someone die or killing someone in this situation, people still believe you are obligated to disrupt the natural process, until one brings the transplant case into perspective.

Let us consider an analogous case, the transplant case. Imagine you are a surgeon and you have five patients who need a transplant. Two of your patients need a lung each, two patients need a kidney each, and the last patient needs a heart. The patients have come to you because you are the best surgeon and every transplant you perform takes. Now imagine you have a patient come in for a routine checkup. This individual is perfectly healthy and is coincidentally a perfect match for all five of your patients that need a transplant. Keep in mind, your five patients need a transplant today, or they will die. All you need to do is cut the individual open, distribute his organs respectively, and you’d save those five patients. When you ask the individual, he declines. The question then becomes whether it is morally permissible for you, the surgeon, to save the five patients and instead, kill the one. Most people would say that it is morally impermissible for you to kill the individual, distribute his organs, and save the lives of the five patients. But why? Some conceptions of morality lead us to believe that saving the greatest number of people is the right thing to do. In this case, the doctor performing this surgery wouldn’t be broadcasted in the news as a hero; instead, he’d be seen as a murderer. He’d lose his license, his ability to practice medicine, and he’d most likely be put on trial and sentenced to jail.

The paradox that comes from the trolley and transplant case is the belief of what is morally permissible or impermissible. It begins with the notion that the morally right thing to do is to always save the lives of greatest amount of people. This concept is solidified through the trolley case, in which people believe that saving five construction workers is better than saving one. The person who saved the five would be paraded around as a hero for saving their lives. But in the transplant case, the ideology is reversed, and it becomes morally impermissible to operate on the one patient to save the lives of five. The public's reaction to this doctor would be dramatic. People would call him a monster instead of congratulating and celebrating his effort to save the five people. But why is this? Why does morality differ depending on the situation? When you're simply a bystander, you are morally required to intervene, but why, as a doctor, whose main job is to save people, does it becomes an issue?

Moral relativism is the position that moral or ethical principles are not objective moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances. This means that morality differs depending on the situation, context, and personal circumstances. An example of this would be the idea that murder is wrong. We are taught at an early age that this action is wrong. We have rules and laws that force this notion upon us and punish us if we break these rules. But this rule changes when the circumstances changes. Murder becomes acceptable under different conditions. If you are being attacked, and you retaliated by murdering the person, suddenly, it's morally permissible to murder.

However, to answer the question on how to resolve each of these instances. In the trolley case, I would have let the laws of natural selection make the choice and kill the construction workers who were not paying attention. There are five individuals on the track. This means there are ten eyes and ten ears that could have seen the trolley coming down the track. The one person in the left track is probably a hard worker because he was working alone, so I wouldn’t choose to kill him simply because he’s a loner. Thus, I would rather the five individuals be killed because they were too busy being dependent on each other. After those five die, I would use their organs to make the transplant to the individuals. That way, the perfectly healthy individual can live a normal life, and the five patients can live. If, for whatever reason, the organs could not be transplanted, or the organs of the five construction workers could not be salvaged, I would use the same concept of natural selection in the transplant case. The five patients were already sick and their own organs failed them. We do not know if these individuals smoked their way to bad lungs or drank their way to bad livers. Hence, there is no reason for the healthy individual to lose their life without being ill himself.

The trolley case brings attention to the idea that almost everyone agrees that saving the greatest number of people is morally permissible and you must always save the greatest number. The transplant case uses the same situation, saving the same amount of people for the life of just one, but morality in that case changes. It then becomes morally impermissible to save the lives of those five. To resolve this conflict, I have introduced the notion of natural selection to make the decision on who lives and who dies. Regardless, in both situations, letting the course of events take place without intervening leaves you with one less murder on your hands.

Cover Image Credit: Youtube

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An Open Letter To Democrats From A Millennial Republican

Why being a Republican doesn't mean I'm inhuman.
57825
views

Dear Democrats,

I have a few things to say to you — all of you.

You probably don't know me. But you think you do. Because I am a Republican.

Gasp. Shock. Horror. The usual. I know it all. I hear it every time I come out of the conservative closet here at my liberal arts university.

SEE ALSO: What I Mean When I Say I'm A Young Republican

“You're a Republican?" people ask, saying the word in the same tone that Draco Malfoy says “Mudblood."

I know that not all Democrats feel about Republicans this way. Honestly, I can't even say for certain that most of them do. But in my experience, saying you're a Republican on a liberal college campus has the same effect as telling someone you're a child molester.

You see, in this day and age, with leaders of the Republican Party standing up and spouting unfortunately ridiculous phrases like “build a wall," and standing next to Kim Davis in Kentucky after her release, we Republicans are given an extreme stereotype. If you're a Republican, you're a bigot. You don't believe in marriage equality. You don't believe in racial equality. You don't believe in a woman's right to choose. You're extremely religious and want to impose it on everyone else.

Unfortunately, stereotypes are rooted in truth. There are some people out there who really do think these things and feel this way. And it makes me mad. The far right is so far right that they make the rest of us look bad. They make sure we aren't heard. Plenty of us are fed up with their theatrics and extremism.

For those of us brave enough to wear the title “Republican" in this day and age, as millennials, it's different. Many of us don't agree with these brash ideas. I'd even go as far as to say that most of us don't feel this way.

For me personally, being a Republican doesn't even mean that I automatically vote red.

When people ask me to describe my political views, I usually put it pretty simply. “Conservative, but with liberal social views."

“Oh," they say, “so you're a libertarian."

“Sure," I say. But that's the thing. I'm not really a libertarian.

Here's what I believe:

I believe in marriage equality. I believe in feminism. I believe in racial equality. I don't want to defund Planned Parenthood. I believe in birth control. I believe in a woman's right to choose. I believe in welfare. I believe more funds should be allocated to the public school system.

Then what's the problem? Obviously, I'm a Democrat then, right?

Wrong. Because I have other beliefs too.

Yes, I believe in the right to choose — but I'd always hope that unless a pregnancy would result in the bodily harm of the woman, that she would choose life. I believe in welfare, but I also believe that our current system is broken — there are people who don't need it receiving it, and others who need it that cannot access it.

I believe in capitalism. I believe in the right to keep and bear arms, because I believe we have a people crisis on our hands, not a gun crisis. Contrary to popular opinion, I do believe in science. I don't believe in charter schools. I believe in privatizing as many things as possible. I don't believe in Obamacare.

Obviously, there are other topics on the table. But, generally speaking, these are the types of things we millennial Republicans get flack for. And while it is OK to disagree on political beliefs, and even healthy, it is NOT OK to make snap judgments about me as a person. Identifying as a Republican does not mean I am the same as Donald Trump.

Just because I am a Republican, does not mean you know everything about me. That does not give you the right to make assumptions about who I am as a person. It is not OK for you to group me with my stereotype or condemn me for what I feel and believe. And for a party that prides itself on being so open-minded, it shocks me that many of you would be so judgmental.

So I ask you to please, please, please reexamine how you view Republicans. Chances are, you're missing some extremely important details. If you only hang out with people who belong to your own party, chances are you're missing out on great people. Because, despite what everyone believes, we are not our stereotype.

Sincerely,

A millennial Republican

Cover Image Credit: NEWSWORK.ORG

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?

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views

Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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