Common Moral Dilemma Questions

The Trolley Problem/Switch Problem

A runaway carriage is heading down the tracks straight for a group of five people. You notice a switch that will divert the carriage onto another track with a hitchhiker walking with his back to the commotion. If you divert the carriage you will kill the hitchhiker. Is it right to pull the switch?

The Footbridge Problem

A carriage (again) is out of control, and you notice it careening towards you where it will pass under the footbridge and kill five unsuspecting people. The only way to prevent this from happening, is to push a fat man onto the tracks to stop/de-rail the carriage. Assuming this would be an effective action, is it right to push the fat man onto the track?

The Crying Baby Problem

You are hiding in a basement along with your fellow villagers as enemy soldiers approach; if they find you they will kill you. Your baby starts to cry, so you cover the mouth of the child. If you pull your hand away the baby will cry louder and alert the soldiers, but if you don’t take your hand away you will smother the baby to death. What is the ethical choice?

Jack Pemment, 2011

Author, Seeing Red

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