Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Funding for this program is provided by...

  • Additional funding provided by...

  • This is a course about "Justice"

  • and we begin with a story.

  • Suppose you're the driver of a trolley car,

  • and your trolley car is hurtling down the track

  • at 60 miles an hour. And at the end of the track

  • you notice five workers working on the track.

  • You try to stop but you can't,

  • your brakes don't work.

  • You feel desperate because you know

  • that if you crash into these five workers,

  • they will all die.

  • Let's assume you know that for sure.

  • And so you feel helpless until you notice

  • that there is, off to the right,

  • a side track and at the end of that track,

  • there is one worker working on the track.

  • Your steering wheel works, so you can turn the trolley car,

  • if you want to, onto the side track

  • killing the one but sparing the five.

  • Here's our first question: what's the right thing to do?

  • What would you do? Let's take a poll.

  • How many would turn the trolley car

  • onto the side track? Raise your hands.

  • How many wouldn't? How many would go straight ahead?

  • Keep your hands up those of you who would go straight ahead.

  • A handful of people would,

  • the vast majority would turn.

  • Let's hear first, now we need to begin

  • to investigate the reasons why you think

  • it's the right thing to do.

  • Let's begin with those in the majority who would turn to go

  • onto the side track. Why would you do it?

  • What would be your reason? Who's willing to volunteer a reason?

  • Go ahead. Stand up.

  • Because it can't be right to kill five people

  • when you can only kill one person instead.

  • It wouldn't be right to kill five if you could kill

  • one person instead. That's a good reason.

  • That's a good reason. Who else?

  • Does everybody agree with that reason? Go ahead.

  • Well I was thinking it's the same reason on 9/11 with regard

  • to the people who flew the plane into the Pennsylvania field

  • as heroes because they chose to kill the people on the plane

  • and not kill more people in big buildings.

  • So the principle there was the same on 9/11.

  • It's a tragic circumstance but better to kill one

  • so that five can live.

  • Is that the reason most of you had,

  • those of you who would turn? Yes?

  • Let's hear now from those in the minority,

  • those who wouldn't turn. Yes.

  • Well, I think that's the same type of mentality

  • that justifies genocide and totalitarianism.

  • In order to save one type of race,

  • you wipe out the other.

  • So what would you do in this case?

  • You would, to avoid the horrors of genocide,

  • you would crash into the five and kill them?

  • Presumably, yes.

  • - You would? - Yeah.

  • Okay. Who else? That's a brave answer.

  • Thank you.

  • Let's consider another trolley car case

  • and see whether those of you in the majority

  • want to adhere to the principle

  • "better that one should die so that five should live."

  • This time you're not the driver of the trolley car,

  • you're an onlooker. You're standing on a bridge

  • overlooking a trolley car track.

  • And down the track comes a trolley car,

  • at the end of the track are five workers,

  • the brakes don't work, the trolley car

  • is about to careen into the five and kill them.

  • And now, you're not the driver, you really feel helpless

  • until you notice standing next to you,

  • leaning over the bridge is a very fat man.

  • And you could give him a shove.

  • He would fall over the bridge onto the track right in the way

  • of the trolley car. He would die

  • but he would spare the five.

  • Now, how many would push the fat man over the bridge?

  • Raise your hand.

  • How many wouldn't?

  • Most people wouldn't. Here's the obvious question.

  • What became of the principle "better to save five lives

  • even if it means sacrificing one?"

  • What became of the principle that almost everyone endorsed

  • in the first case? I need to hear from someone

  • who was in the majority in both cases.

  • How do you explain the difference between the two? Yes.

  • The second one, I guess, involves an active choice

  • of pushing a person down which I guess that person himself

  • would otherwise not have been involved in the situation at all.

  • And so to choose on his behalf, I guess, to involve him

  • in something that he otherwise would have escaped is,

  • I guess, more than what you have in the first case

  • where the three parties, the driver and the two sets of workers,

  • are already, I guess, in the situation.

  • But the guy working, the one on the track

  • off to the side, he didn't choose

  • to sacrifice his life any more than the fat man did, did he?

  • That's true, but he was on the tracks and...

  • This guy was on the bridge.

  • Go ahead, you can come back if you want. All right.

  • It's a hard question. You did well. You did very well.

  • It's a hard question.

  • Who else can find a way of reconciling the reaction

  • of the majority in these two cases? Yes.

  • Well, I guess in the first case where you have the one worker

  • and the five, it's a choice between those two

  • and you have to make a certain choice and people

  • are going to die because of the trolley car,

  • not necessarily because of your direct actions.

  • The trolley car is a runaway thing and you're making a split second choice.

  • Whereas pushing the fat man over is an actual act

  • of murder on your part.

  • You have control over that whereas you may not have control

  • over the trolley car.

  • So I think it's a slightly different situation.

  • All right, who has a reply? That's good. Who has a way?

  • Who wants to reply? Is that a way out of this?

  • I don't think that's a very good reason

  • because you choose to... either way you have to choose

  • who dies because you either choose to turn and kill the person,

  • which is an act of conscious thought to turn,

  • or you choose to push the fat man over

  • which is also an active, conscious action.

  • So either way, you're making a choice.

  • Do you want to reply?

  • I'm not really sure that that's the case.

  • It just still seems kind of different.

  • The act of actually pushing someone over onto the tracks

  • and killing him, you are actually killing him yourself.

  • You're pushing him with your own hands.

  • You're pushing him and that's different

  • than steering something that is going to cause

  • death into another...

  • You know, it doesn't really sound right saying it now.

  • No, no. It's good. It's good. What's your name?

  • Andrew.

  • Andrew. Let me ask you this question, Andrew.

  • Yes.

  • Suppose standing on the bridge next to the fat man,

  • I didn't have to push him, suppose he was standing over

  • a trap door that I could open by turning a steering wheel like that.

  • Would you turn?

  • For some reason, that still just seems more wrong.

  • Right?

  • I mean, maybe if you accidentally like leaned into the steering wheel

  • or something like that.

  • But... Or say that the car is hurtling

  • towards a switch that will drop the trap.

  • Then I could agree with that.

  • That's all right. Fair enough.

  • It still seems wrong in a way that it doesn't seem wrong

  • in the first case to turn, you say.

  • And in another way, I mean, in the first situation

  • you're involved directly with the situation.

  • In the second one, you're an onlooker as well.

  • - All right. - So you have the choice of becoming involved or not

  • by pushing the fat man.

  • All right. Let's forget for the moment about this case.

  • That's good. Let's imagine a different case.

  • This time you're a doctor in an emergency room

  • and six patients come to you.

  • They've been in a terrible trolley car wreck.

  • Five of them sustain moderate injuries,

  • one is severely injured, you could spend all day

  • caring for the one severely injured victim.

  • But in that time, the five would die.

  • Or you could look after the five, restore them to health

  • but during that time, the one severely injured person

  • would die.

  • How many would save the five? Now as the doctor,

  • how many would save the one?

  • Very few people, just a handful of people.

  • Same reason, I assume. One life versus five?

  • Now consider another doctor case.

  • This time, you're a transplant surgeon and you have five patients,

  • each in desperate need of an organ transplant

  • in order to survive.

  • One needs a heart, one a lung, one a kidney,

  • one a liver, and the fifth a pancreas.

  • And you have no organ donors. You are about to see them die.

  • And then it occurs to you that in the next room

  • there's a healthy guy who came in for a check-up.

  • And he's – you like thatand he's taking a nap,

  • you could go in very quietly, yank out the five organs,

  • that person would die, but you could save the five.

  • How many would do it? Anyone? How many?

  • Put your hands up if you would do it.

  • Anyone in the balcony?

  • I would.

  • You would? Be careful, don't lean over too much.

  • How many wouldn't? All right. What do you say?

  • Speak up in the balcony,

  • you who would yank out the organs. Why?

  • I'd actually like to explore a slightly alternate possibility

  • of just taking the one of the five who needs an organ

  • who dies first and using their four healthy organs

  • to save the other four.

  • That's a pretty good idea. That's a great idea

  • except for the fact that you just wrecked

  • the philosophical point.

  • Let's step back from these stories and these arguments

  • to notice a couple of things about the way the arguments

  • have begun to unfold.

  • Certain moral principles have already begun to emerge

  • from the discussions we've had.

  • And let's consider what those moral principles look like.

  • The first moral principle that emerged in the discussion

  • said the right thing to do, the moral thing to do

  • depends on the consequences that will result from your action.

  • At the end of the day, better that five should live

  • even if one must die.

  • That's an example of consequentialist moral reasoning.

  • Consequentialist moral reasoning locates morality

  • in the consequences of an act, in the state of the world

  • that will result from the thing you do.

  • But then we went a little further, we considered those other cases

  • and people weren't so sure about consequentialist moral reasoning.

  • When people hesitated

  • to push the fat man over the bridge

  • or to yank out the organs of the innocent patient,

  • people gestured toward reasons having to do with

  • the intrinsic quality of the act itself,

  • consequences be what they may. People were reluctant.

  • People thought it was just wrong, categorically wrong,

  • to kill a person, an innocent person,

  • even for the sake of saving five lives.

  • At least people thought that in the second version

  • of each story we considered.

  • So this points to a second categorical way of thinking about moral reasoning.

  • Categorical moral reasoning locates morality

  • in certain absolute moral requirements,

  • certain categorical duties and rights, regardless of the consequences.

  • We're going to explore in the days and weeks to come

  • the contrast between consequentialist and categorical

  • moral principles.

  • The most influential example of consequential moral reasoning

  • is utilitarianism, a doctrine invented

  • by Jeremy Bentham, the 18th century

  • English political philosopher.

  • The most important philosopher of categorical moral reasoning

  • is the 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

  • So we will look at those two different modes

  • of moral reasoning, assess them,

  • and also consider others.

  • If you look at the syllabus, you'll notice that we read

  • a number of great and famous books,

  • books by Aristotle, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, John Stewart Mill,

  • and others.

  • You'll notice too from the syllabus

  • that we don't only read these books

  • we also take up contemporary political, and legal controversies