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Humanities Libertexts

5.9: Philippa Foot

  • Page ID
    15311
  • Trolley Dilemma     

     

     

    About Phillipa Foot    Her Life

     

    “Suppose you are the driver of a trolley. The trolley rounds a bend, and there come into view ahead five track workmen, who have been repairing the track. The track goes through a bit of a valley at that point, and the sides are steep, so you must stop the trolley if you are to avoid running the five men down. You step on the brakes, but alas they don’t work. Now you suddenly see a spur of track leading off to the right. You can turn the trolley onto it, and thus save the five men on the straight track ahead. Unfortunately,…there is one track workman on that spur of track. He can no more get off the track in time than the five can, so you will kill him if you turn the trolley onto him”

    “There is a runaway trolley headed toward five people again. Only, this time, you are not in the train yard next to a lever. You are on a bridge, watching the events from above the tracks. There is a very large man next to you. You realize that, if you push him off the bridge and down onto the tracks below, the trolley will hit and kill him, but his body is so large that it will stop the trolley before it reaches the five endangered people. You have two options: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people. (2) Push the large man off the bridge, so that he dies, but the five others are saved.”

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