The Trolley Problem, by Judith Jarvis Thomson

768 WordsJul 13, 20184 Pages
The Bystander at the Switch case is a fundamental part of Thomson’s argument in “Trolley Problem.” The basis of her paper is to explain the moral difference between this case, which she deems morally permissible (1398), and the Transplant case, which she deems morally impermissible (1396). In the Bystander at the Switch case, a bystander sees a trolley hurtling towards five workers on the track and has the option of throwing a switch to divert the trolley’s path towards only one worker. Thomson finds the Bystander at the Switch case permissible under two conditions: 1) first, that the same threat is diverted from a larger to a smaller group of people, and 2) second, that the means by which this threat is diverted does not in itself…show more content…
However, Thomson does concede that even in the Bystander in the Switch case, the bystander does infringe a right of the one’s (1406), but she justifies this by distinguishing the outcome of the action from the means by which the outcome was achieved. In other words: Turning the trolley onto the right-hand track is not itself an infringement of a right of anybody’s. The agent would do the one no wrong at all if he turned the trolley onto the right-hand track, and by some miracle the trolley did not hit him. (Thomson 1409) Technically, this is true for the Mother-Son case too. The mother simply has to turn the trolley onto the right-hand track like the bystander, and if that does not infringe on any rights in the Bystander case, the same action cannot infringe on someone’s rights in the Mother-Son case. On the other hand, in the Fat Man case, the agent would actually have to topple the fat man off of the footbridge, by pushing him or purposefully acting to make him fall, which in itself is an infringement of his rights (1410). Though it satisfies both of Thomson’s conditions, the Mother-Son case is still morally impermissible- for reasons apart from the conditions Thomson listed. The Mother- Son case is impermissible because of the nature of the relationship between the bystander and the one. A mother has a very important role for her child: she is morally obligated to keep him as safe and healthy as she can.

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