Two new books address a fascinating dilemma involving a trolley and the lives of others. Could it explain opposition to Obamacare?
This area of study germane to the field of philosophy explores the complexity and innate nature of our moral judgements within the framework of ethical decision-making and is an important area to consider for anyone interested in decision-making and leadership at the individual level:
In fact, the two versions of the trolley problem, a famous thought-experiment in philosophy, elicit instinctive versions of two conflicting ethical impulses, ones elaborated by Jeremy Bentham and Immanuel Kant respectively: utilitarianism, which seeks the greatest good for the greatest number and judges actions by their consequences; and deontology, which insists, among much else, that certain rights can\’t be violated under any circumstances.
This conflict is at the heart of two new books that use the trolley problem and its many permutations to explore how people make ethical judgments. For all the hairsplitting that the problem has inspired—a quantity of commentary that “makes the Talmud look like Cliffs Notes,” in the words of the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah—the moral dilemmas are profound. They are manifest in our political system, for example, when we face choices that will penalize some for the good of all, or at least of others, as is the case when we debate the legitimacy of taxation and redistribution, the justification for war, the uses of torture, or the justice of affirmative action.