The Trolley Problem, By Philippa Foot

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The Trolley Problem, proposed by Philippa Foot, is presented in this way, “You’re the conductor of a trolley. The brakes fail and if you do not flip the switch to make an oncoming turn, you will kill five people trapped on the tracks ahead. However, if you do flip the switch, you’ll kill one person trapped on the other set of tracks. What do you do?” (Rowe). According to utilitarianism theories, the right action would be to divert the trolley away from the five people and to the one person. However, other ethical systems, like Kantianism, may disagree with and reject this solution. The “right” and “wrong” answers are determined by perspective; one “right” answer according to one theory can be the complete wrong answer to another theory. Utilitarianism states “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness…” (Stuart Mill 575), in other words, if there is a situation where there can be more than one solution, the most right or the most good action would be the one that creates happiness for the greatest amount of people. In the case of the Trolley Problem, the right solution should be to save the greatest number of people, even if it is at the cost of an innocent life, as this would create more happiness than if you saved only one person. Five lives are more valuable than one life, according to this theory. Utilitarianism falls under the ethical group of consequentialism, which focuses on the outcome (consequence) of an action as opposed to the moral
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