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The assignment requires the reading of the two scenarios provided and then analyze each of the scenarios carefully. Moving forward, I would use the two scenarios to explore my thinking of thought experiments and apply the exploration conducted to thinking critically.
For each of the two scenarios, the task would be to state my position by either affirming or declining and then commence to support the decision made for either of the choice made.
The first step of the assignment involves writing a summary of the two trolley problems and make responses that entirely depends on my own understanding. The next step would be to describe and apply the Kantian ethics to the trolley problems. The same process would be used to analyze the problem only that this time round the focus would be upon Utilitarian ethics.
The last part of the assignment would involve the evaluation of the relative strengths and weakness of both Utilitarian and Kantian ethics based on the answers that I had already provided. I will chose the most reliable theory according to my own judgments and go further to explain the reasons behind the decision.
Analyzing and Evaluating the Trolley Problems
The trolley problem was invented by, a British philosopher named Philippa Foot whose memorable career at the Oxford University was surpassed by her witty enigma that although simple required someone to think deeply. She managed to instill the principle of double effect (Stangroom, 2010).
The first problem involves a runaway trolley that is moving down a track so fast and it is headed towards five people who by the force of circumstances cannot move out of the way. I immediately realize that I have a chance to save the five people. I will save them by flipping a switch and thus diverting the moving trolley onto another side, I further realize, before switching sides, that there is another man standing alone on the alternative side track and that if I decide to choose switching the sides then it would definitely kill the lone man but save the five people. In this scenario the question is “will I pull the switch and save the five people or will I decide to rather let the fast moving trolley kill the five people? The definite answer to this kind of question is somehow difficult but either way choosing to flip the switch or not, there would be killings involved and therefore my decision is that, Yes, I will vehemently choose to pull the switch since by pulling the switch, the train would only the kill the lone man and I will end up saving five people. By pulling the switch I would not be directly responsible for the killing of the lone man, in any case it would be morally right to use the lone man as a collateral damage to save the other five people. I would rather not stand there and pretend that there was nothing I could do and yet I had a chance of saving five other people.
As par my own understanding, the choice to take or not to take someone’s life does not rest upon a fellow human being but a choice to save a fellow human beings lies upon themselves. The second scenario, I am standing on a bridge over the tracks and immediately realize that there is a runaway trolley that if not stopped would end up killing five people. I further realize that I am standing next to a total stranger whom I can use to stop the trolley: if I decide to push him down onto the tracks, his body would block the trolley from hitting the five people and therefore save them but instantly kill the stranger. The question remains the same as to whether I would go ahead and push the man, to save other men. My response is, No, I would not push the man. This is because by choosing to push the man down onto the tracks it would basically mean I made the decision on who to kill and who to save and therefore be more involved in it by taking responsibility of putting a man that was not in danger into complete danger.
I do understand that the decision to save five and kill one is far much perceived the most realistic one but one thing people should understand is that a life lost is a life lost and it does not matter how many have to die to make an impact. All I am saying is that one life is as good as five and therefore none should come over the other.
Utilitarian’s always advocates for maximizing happiness and is mostly result oriented. Its ethics entirely relies in assessing the results of the actions involved. Utilitarian ethics permits one to act towards catapulting the end results to the most favorable outcome. Utilitarianism constitutes a no –edge insight of the results, basically it points out that if an outcome arising out of more individuals is good and the same outcome is perceived as humiliation upon a single individual then, the action, is completely justified, allowable and even mandatory to perform.
For this reason, the utilitarian’s would in the first scenario flip the switch thereby killing the lone man and saving the other five men. For the second scenario, utilitarian ethics would not permit one to sacrifice the stranger and save the five people. This is because utilitarianism acknowledges that actions should not be made out of evil intentions and therefore pushing the stranger would depict cruel and evil intentions.
According to Tomkow.Com (2011), before the decision is taken to undertake the task, the utilitarian’s have developed a criterion over which decision is made. This way of doing things or rather deciding on how to maximize happiness is well expounded as the “doctrine of double effect. The doctrine points out that for an act to be considered allowable it must be a good one in the sense that, in the first scenario it would be five people that would survive the accident. Secondly, the end result should be as significant as the intended action that is to be taken. The third criterion stipulates that the action cannot be taken for evil intentions even if it does end up being of assistance. This is to say that the decision to flip the switch should not be intended to kill the man on the other side of the trolley. The last criterion argues that good cause has to be generated by the action taken. This is to simply mean that an evil act does not justify a greater good.
According to Kantian ethics people are supposed to be treated as ends and not as means. In Kantian ethics, the approach taken is right/rule-focused and there are no efforts made to maximize the happiness of a particular outcome. For the first case scenario, using Kantian ethics its expected that one would chose not to flip the switch as doing so would basically imply that the single man would be perceived as a means of keeping the five alive.
In the second scenario, a Kantian would rather watch the five individuals die than push the total stranger onto the tracks to stop the fast moving trolley. The reason, behind this is that all men are equal and therefore no one should take responsibility of deciding individuals that should die and those that should live. The decision to choose between life and death solely relies with a rather supernatural being.
The Kantian ethics requires that people should not act to please others but rather leave things the way they are and let nature takes its full course since man is never considered having any kind of control to situations (Ruse, 2010). The Kantian ethics argues that it’s not morally upright to act towards bringing dangerous situation to calm with using other circumstance as scapegoats.
The argument that boils down under Kantian ethics is that individuals under such kind of dilemma are not allowed to perform the necessary and the mandatory but are covered with a cloud of expertise judgments with which they use to conduct that which is valuable. In this scenario, the ethics looks far much beyond the happenings of the two cases. By choosing to push the man and saving the five people may be a celebratory moment for someone by the five members who will recognize him as a hero but the whole society, on the other hand, would perceive you as a cold and inhumane being.
The major strength that utilitarian ethics possess is the fact that they strive to minimize losses as much as possible. Their main objective is to maximize the joy of the action taken rather than live with a greater loss that could have been prevented. In this case the five people are more worth to save than just a mere single person.
The death of five people is far much greater than death of a single man, in this principle the larger the quantity the better is its position in terms of priorities (Greene& Baron, 2001). Although this might seem like a good way of looking into these scenarios, utilitarian major weakness arise out of the fact that it recognizes quantity rather than quality. It prioritizes pleasing a larger part of a group at the expense of a single entity.
Utilitarianism advocates for a hero of the moment but a threat to the future. By pushing the total stranger onto the tracks will lead to someone being held responsible for second degree murder in the court of law.
The Kantian ethics’ major strength is the fact that it allows nature to take its due course and never interfere with it in anyway. The ethics does not provide for immediate room for quick judgment and therefore creating a pathway for speedy decisions (Greene& Baron, 2001).
Human beings are treated as valuable living things and at no point are they to be used by fellow humans as a means to an end. The Kantian ethics prefers to weigh consequences that would befall later before deciding on the outcome; it does not prioritize quantities. The major weakness is that the Kantian ethics leaves room for greater losses to be experienced and it does not do anything to control the disaster from happening (Ruse, 2010).
Personally, if I were to choose between the two, I’d go for Utilitarian ethics because in either way, killings would take place and my major purpose would be to save the larger lot rather than the single man. I would however decide not to push the total stranger since by doing that I will be involving myself directly to the killings.
By pushing the man, it means I would be ready to face second degree murder in the court of law if I was to be held accountable afterwards and also by doing the same it would implicate that I am not acting for the purpose of doing well but rather having evil intentions.
In conclusion then, it means that the decision to be made varies with different kinds of people and therefore the outcome of the whole experiment would vary according to those decisions.