The Trolley Problem

F. M. Kamm

in Morality, Mortality Volume II: Rights, Duties, and Status

Published in print January 2001 | ISBN: 9780195144024
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199870998 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ethics Series

 The Trolley Problem

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Part I considered how to determine whether there is a moral difference between killing and letting die per se, but in the two chapters of Part II, the consideration is when it is and when it is not permissible to kill some to save others. Ch. 6 first examines in some detail the arguments John Harris has made for a survival lottery (where we may select from among healthy people the one who will die to save another or who will share a fair risk of death with another), and considers a very limited context in which a curtailed survival lottery might be installed. The rest of the chapter is devoted to consideration of the many attempts to solve the problem of why we may not ordinarily kill one to save more (as in the Transplant Case, where a non‐consequentialist would believe that we may not chop up one innocent non‐threatening person, who would not otherwise die, to transplant his organs into a greater number of people in order to save their lives) but may kill via redirection of threats (as in the Trolley Case, where there is a choice between killing one or killing a greater number by turning/redirecting, or failing to turn/redirect, a runaway trolley). These attempts include the views of Philippa Foot, proponents of the Doctrine of Double Effect (e.g. Michael Costa), Warren Quinn, James Montmarquet, Judith Thomson, and Bruce Russell. A detailed examination is also made of whether the notion of ‘being already involved’ is a moral notion or can be given a non‐moral description.

Keywords: Michael Costa; Doctrine of Double Effect; Philippa Foot; harming some to save others; John Harris; involvement; killing one or killing a greater number; killing some to save others; James Montmarquett; moral difference; morality; non‐consequentialism; permissibility; Warren Quinn; Bruce Russellsurvival lottery; Judith Thomson; Transplant Case; Trolley Case

Chapter.  16775 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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