During the Second World War as V1 rockets rained down on London, Churchill made a fateful decision. He would protect the city center and its vital

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1 The Trolley Problem

2 During the Second World War as V1 rockets rained down on London, Churchill made a fateful decision. He would protect the city center and its vital government and historical buildings by providing false information to German spies. By letting it be known that the missiles were landing in the north of the city the Germans would use less fuel thus causing the bombardment to drift south. The plan was successful, by as a consequence regions like Croydon took the brunt of the attack and many civilians were killed. Was it right to knowingly sacrifice these lives for the greater good?

3 President Eisenhower approved the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulting in more than a hundred thousand lives. His reasoning was that this deliberate killing would save lives and shorten the war. Is it right to kill in this way for to save those of others? What about drone strikes? These are made not with the intent to kill innocent bystanders but terrorists and enemies of the country who plan to harm Americans. Yes unintended deaths are foreseen, but such collateral damage is considered a morally acceptable price by the US government. Is this right

4 Psychologists have approached these questions through a series of philosophical experiments designed to capture our moral intuitions. What judgments do we make when faced with such dilemmas? How do our intuitions respond, when conditions are changed in subtle ways?

5 Historically, at least, philosophers have drawn upon one rule that seems to capture our reluctance to exploit one person for the good of another the principle of Double Effect formulated by St Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas argued that intentional killing is never justified. However, if a person was threatened they could justifiably protect themselves provided it was not their intent to take a life. Killing the assailant, that is, must be an unwanted by-product of the act. However, if the intent is to take a life, whatever the beneficial consequences, this deliberate act is a case of murder, and so becomes morally impermissible.

6 In the Second World War novel and film the Cruel Sea and the captain of a destroyer is forced to set of depth charges against a German U Boat knowing that it will kill seamen who are in the water. For Acquanas this is morally permissible because it is not the intent to hurt these men. Indeed, far from it, he has not alternative. But according to the Church, the case of abortion is very different. Here a fetus (human life) is deliberately terminated for the supposed good of the mother. The intent is to kill, and that is murder. Conversely, if a pregnant woman had ovarian cancer and needed a hysterectomy to survive, an abortion would be justified as there is now no intent to kill the child; it is simply an unnecessary consequence of the procedure.

7 This doctrine has been embraced not only by the Catholic Church; it is now part of common law, medical practice, and even the rules of war. Consider views on assisted suicide and the termination of life support for comatose and brain dead patients. The case of Terry Schivo turned on this question as did the situation in Texas when a viable fetus was kept alive in a dead mother s body.

8 In the 1960s when the question of a woman s right to an abortion was vigorously contested the philosopher Philippa Foot challenged this argument in an influential article, The Problem of Abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect. Other philosophers, such as Thomas Scanlon, demand to know why the DDE should be accepted. Intuitions aside, why is the difference between consequences that are intended and those that are merely foreseen should make a moral difference?

9 Of course, events in a time of war have to be read in context, but we face similar choices in everyday life especially in healthcare. When is it appropriate to let a patient pass away? Is assisted suicide, the deliberate taking of a life, warranted when a person is suffering intolerable pain with no chance of recovery? If an individual simply wants to die, do they have a right to end their own life? Is late term abortion an act of murder, even when necessary to save the mother? Can we justify torture in the interrogation of suspected terrorists if we believe that might save thousands of lives? Could we justify torture of an innocent person now I am going in to the realm of science fiction if that could make the rest of the population happier? What about the economic exploitation of third world labor to provide the luxury goods of the West? Why are we happy to buy designer clothing made by the enforced labor of children in Asian sweat shops? How do we make such decisions? Why?

10 In her argument Foot introduced a now famous scenario, the Trolley Problem to tease out our intuitions. Her point was to demonstrate that in cases such as abortion the DDE should not be applied other, better arguments in terms of rights and duties should be considered. In particular, she argued that we have a negative duty not to interfere with the lives of others, along with positive duties not to hurt them. She illustrates her reasoning through a the familiar problems of (i) a doctor who can save one life or five in a triage situation and (ii) a person who could be killed to harvest their organs in order to save five other patients. She believed that the positive duty to help the 5 in case (i) justified the loss of the one, but the negative duty not to harm one in case (ii) outweighed the loss of the five.

11 While this argument did not capture the public attention, her Trolley Problem did, and has become the standard introduction to moral problem solving in philosophy courses across the country including this one!

12 Foot posed the problem this way: Suppose that a judge or magistrate is faced with rioters demanding that a culprit be found for a certain crime and threatening otherwise to take their own bloody revenge on a particular section of the community. The real culprit being unknown, the judge sees himself as able to prevent the bloodshed only by framing some innocent person and having him executed. Beside this example is placed another in which the driver of a runaway tram can only steer from one track on to another. Five men are working on one track and one man on the other. In the case of the riots the mob have five hostages, so that in both the exchange is supposed to be one man's life for the lives of five.

13 In order to simplify and sharpen the question, Judith Jarvis Thompson (who was also interested in dismissing the DDE from the question of abortion) reformulated the problem into its now standard form. There are two parts.

14 First, a runaway trolley is coming down the track toward five people at work on the line. You are standing next to a lever. If you operate it, the trolley will switch to a side track. Unfortunately, there is one person on that line. Consequently, you have two options. Either, do nothing and let the trolley kill the five workers or pull the lever to divert the trolley and sacrifice the one.

15 Second, as before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five workers on the line. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and can derail the (empty) train by dropping a heavy weight. The only way to do this in the time available is to push the fat man next to you. You are not heavy enough! Yes you kill him, but you save the five workers. What should you do? Inevitably we all want to change the scenario so we don t have to face the problem of making such choices, but that misses the point of the problem. You have to choose the options before you.

16 So, what do you do in case 1?

17 How about case 2?

18 The most common responses taken from the Harvard and BBC websites that stage this problem online are, Between 80-90% are willing to divert the train in case 1; but only 10-20% will sacrifice the fat man in case 2. It turns out that men are more likely than women to flip the switch or push the fat man than females are. As too are hospital workers! But on the whole, intuitions are pretty constant by age, economic status, and ethnicity. Importantly, respondents are found to be adamant in their views but struggle for reasons. Judgment appears to come before thought. It is also accompanied with emotional conviction.

19 If this is indeed how we make such decisions, we now turn to the why question. Here the literature is flooded by the speculations of evolutionary psychologists seeking to explain the nature of our intuitive judgments.

20 The basic assumption is that human intuitions while valuable for survival and the good of the group are essentially are flawed as rational principles. That is, we are built to solve immediate problems with quick instinctive responses. While these may be effective, they may not be the most logical judgments. Of course, we also have deliberative powers that can show us the errors of our thoughts thus overcoming such impulsive responses. But that does not make such intuitions any less necessary.

21 Consider the following necessary (cognitive) illusions: The Muller-Lyer illusion. We know these two lines are the same length, but they do not appear so.

22 The same with the gateway arch in St Louis. We see it as taller than it is wide even after we are told the dimensions are equal. Because these illusions are impervious to cultural assumptions they provide evidence for the existence of domain specific, automatic, necessary, unconscious, hard-wired structures in the brain. No amount of reasoning can overcome them.

23 Take the case of Charlie Chaplin mask which relates to facial recognition. We cannot see the shape otherwise. Here the mask is front and center

24 Turn clockwise

25 A little more....

26 And, finally, 180 degrees around. Note that we are looking through the mask, yet we still see the face coming toward us!

27 If there are hard wired perceptual judgments, why not hard wired moral judgments? Remember, in the case of the Trolley Problem, respondents were adamant in their views but struggled for reasons to explain why they thought what the way they did. Judgment seemed to come before thought, and accompanied by a degree of certainty and emotional investment.

28 While moral philosophy has typically been grounded in the abstract principles of Kant (autonomous reason) and Bentham (the greatest happiness) many evolutionary psychologists look instead to Hume and Adam Smith who based their account of morals on emotional sentiments. Hume and Smith looked to the innate responses of men and women claiming that our judgments were instinctive and primary, rather like our sense of taste. As Hume put it, Morality is nothing in the abstract Nature of Things, but is entirely relative to the Sentiment or mental Taste of each particular Being; in the same Manner as the Distinctions of sweet and bitter, hot and cold, arise from the particular feeling of each Sense or Organ.

29 What Hume and Smith called sentiments psychologists now call intuitions rapid, automatic, mandatory, and effortless judgments.

30 Consider how this emotional thesis differs from the abstract moral calculus of Kantian or Bentham. We prioritize the wellbeing of family and friends over the good of distant individuals. But this makes no sense in their disembodied analysis. Surely we need an account of moral judgments situated in the actual behavior of human beings? Perhaps it could be argued that Kant and Bentham authored a moral theory to guide autonomous citizens in a society governed by reason and dedicated to the pursuit of selfinterest.

31 But then they are dealing with the ought and not the is of moral judgment. Such theories may be very useful in helping us make wise choices and even overcome our instinctive biases (Michael Sandel s project). But they do not capture the psychology of moral judgment. We must also question whether they apply to other Non-Western cultures (Eliot Turiel s project). What about the so called tribal society where there is supposedly no such thing as an individual?

32 Moral psychology then starts with a naturalistic study of human responses as revealed in cultural anthropology and Trolley-like philosophical experiments. It is to that project and the arguments of evolutionary psychology for the origin of intuitive judgments that I now turn to in Lecture 2.2.

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