September 14, 2011
Ethics… Justice Video
Justice with Michael Sanders -basically this is a series of a harvard university professors lecture on morality and ethics based on certain situations he introduces to his students, in which they will be forced to make difficult decisions.
I watched the first episode: “What’s the right thing to do?”
In this episode, Professor Sanders introduces the following question:
If you had to choose between 1) killing one person and saving five others and 2) do nothing, even though you knew that five people would die right before your eyes if you did nothing -what would you do?
This is the situation that forces us to make that situation:
You have control over a trolley and notice that there are 5 workers working on end of the track. You try to stop but you can’t because your brakes are broken. Then you notice that there is a side track where one worker is working. You can either do nothing and kill the 5 workers or you can steer to the side and kill one. What would you do.
Obviously this is a very difficult decision to make, because either decision leads to death of others. First of all, this is the thing that came to my mind while i was watching the video… what would i do?
It took me a while to think about this because i truly believe no one in this world has the right to decide the fate of others. however, in this situation obviously you are forced to choose who will be dying and who will be saved. Personally, i think i would have to turn to side tracks… the fewer the victims the better, so i agree with the professor that ‘better to kill one so that 5 can live’. He called this moral reasoning. where you think of the consequences and choose the least worse option.
However, i thought… what if the one person on the side track was someone i knew. for example, my father or my mother, my friends or my boyfriend? then how can i sacrifice their lives to save five strangers. so although, the professor’s decision seems to be derived more through reasoning, when people related to you are involved, i feel that biases arise and your moral decisions can be heavily affected by emotion.
Furthermore, I would also like to comment on the way Professor Sanders phrases the question. He is saying that whatever decision we make, we would be killing the workers or the one person.
killing to me implies that the decision you make about the train is made in order to end someone’s life. However, in this situation, the decision you make, although will end up with you ending certain lives, is ultimately decided upon the fact that you are trying to save someone.
A complimentary question he proposed after this situation was:
‘You’re on the bridge over looking a trolley that is about to hit 5 workers. (again the brakes don’t work.) Then you notice a fat man standing next to you who could potentionally stop the trolley car and save the lives of the five workers. Would you push the man and kill him to save the other 5?’
Although the situation seems somewhat similar, this is completely different. First of all, pushing someone over a bridge is illegal. It is murder and although you may be saving 5 people and the fat man may be a stranger, you don’t have the right to use the fat man as an object to save others. although in the situation before, you are deliberately turning or not turning the train to save however many people it is that you think should be saved, here you would be using a complete stranger who is no involved in the situation to save the five workers. here, if you choose to push that fat person, the word ‘kill’ will fit perfectly.
So by not pushing the person, the five people die in front of your eyes and the guilt will be caused by the fact that you could not do anything. However, in such a situation, no one can do anything. the train is unstoppable and five workers are on the route unfortunately. I think that the guilt caused by the fact that you killed someone to save five people will be more severe, just because the decision made is comes from the fact that you decided to put that person’s life to end for your own sake to stop feeling guilty about the deaths of five people. this is, in a way selfish and very wrong, in my opinion. therefore, this situation is also highly affected by emotion.
These hard questions and decisions that Professor Sanders directs at us hugely impacts the student and the spectators. It tests your morals, which define you as a person. Therefore, studying about ethics and moral decisions, i think we will be able to come up with our own standards corresponding to those of others and will choose the least worse option that will be the closest to the safe-zone of your own standards.