The Trolley Problem

What is the Trolley Problem?


          The Trolley Problem is the most well-known thought experiment, from memes to pop culture references you can find mentions of the Trolley Problem everywhere in our society.

          It’s a basic thought experiment that states that there is a trolley that is out of control and speeding down the track toward five people who are tied up on the track. If nothing is done the trolley will hit those five people and kill all of them. However, we are in luck because there is a second rail that the trolley can be diverted to and the person in charge of diverting it is you. This seems great however there is a problem. On the diverted track there is one person tied up that if the train is diverted will be killed. It is up to you to decide what to do.

What is a thought experiment?

          Now before we continue I should address what a thought experiment actually is as too avoid confusion about my answer and for when you answer it yourself.

          A thought experiment is essentially an ethical exercise where you present a situation with a set number of solutions, and it is your job to determine what the best solution is ethically or if there is one at all. It’s important to remember that in thought experiments there is no room for speculation, you can only work with the information you are given.

          For example, in the Trolley Problem, you can not choose to derail the trolley or stop the trolley you can only choose to divert the trolley and kill one person or do nothing and kill the five. You can not speculate on who the people are because you are not given that information. You can only work with the information you are given.

What is my Solution?

          My solution to the trolley problem is an odd one and is going to take a lot of explanation as to my thought process. My solution is to do either as it does not matter what you do neither is more ethical than the other.

          To further explain why I believe I need to answer a question and that is. When does morality come into play? My answer to that question is that morality can only come into play when you have more than one option or more than one course of action. This makes sense because if you can only do one thing and you get no choice then morality can’t exist because there is nothing to weigh that choice against.

          Though one would be right to ask what this has to do with the trolley problem? There are obviously two choices, kill one or kill five. However, if you notice in either case you are actually performing the same action you are killing you get no choice to not kill.

          However, I know some will say that it’s not about the action but the amount. Maybe I am forced to kill no matter what, but I can choose to only kill one. To that, I am going to make the argument that the quantity of an action does not matter only the action itself

Quantity does not matter.

          When does someone become a murderer? Is it after 10 murders or only 1? I think we would all agree that someone becomes a murderer after their first murder, not their tenth.

Is a murderer who murders ten people worse than a murderer who murders one? If one answers yes to this they encounter a problem and that is how do we scale up a moral wrong? If someone is worse than another for murdering more people how much are they worse by? If someone commits one million murders does that make the one who committed only one significantly better? I would answer no. I say this because when someone commits one murder already condemn themselves to be a murderer as they have already tainted their image in that way and have declared that they don’t care it’s morally wrong for them to commit those actions. You can’t say you don’t care it’s a moral wrong for you to do that more than once thus committing more murders doesn’t taint you further than only committing one. After committing the one you’ve already fully accomplished that.

The Trolley and Choice

          Now that I’ve established why quantity does not matter. I would like to add the final piece to my solution that being choice. You only can commit a moral wrong if you determine that you do not care about it being wrong and will do it anyway however, in the trolly problem you don’t determine that because you are forced to kill. Thus, you get no choice to care about not killing thus neither answer one or five is correct.


          I apologize for the long winded nature of this ethics journal I wanted to try something totally new for fun and just to see if I could. This has been something I’ve been thinking about for a long time now and I wanted to see if I could defend it. I hope you enjoyed it and feel free to give as much criticism as you want. 

0 Kudos


Displaying 0 of 0 comments ( View all | Add Comment )