Would You Kill the Fat Man?
A runaway train is racing toward five men who are tied to the
track. Unless the train is stopped, it will inevitably kill all
five men. You are standing on a footbridge looking down on the
unfolding disaster. However, a fat man, a stranger, is standing
next to you: if you push him off the bridge, he will topple onto
the line and, although he will die, his chunky body will stop the
train, saving five lives. Would you kill the fat man?
The question may seem bizarre. But it's one variation of a
puzzle that has baffled moral philosophers for almost half a
century and that more recently has come to preoccupy
neuroscientists, psychologists, and other thinkers as well. In this
book, David Edmonds, coauthor of the best-selling
Wittgenstein's Poker, tells the riveting story of why and
how philosophers have struggled with this ethical dilemma,
sometimes called the trolley problem. In the process, he provides
an entertaining and informative tour through the history of moral
philosophy. Most people feel it's wrong to kill the fat man. But
why? After all, in taking one life you could save five. As Edmonds
shows, answering the question is far more complex--and
important--than it first appears. In fact, how we answer it tells
us a great deal about right and wrong.
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