Tag Archives: 2. Pull

Two-year-old finds solution to ethics “trolley problem:” Kill everybody

E.J. Masicampo posed the question to his two-year-old:

I’m teaching a moral psychology class this semester, and we spent part of the first day discussing the trolley problem, which is a frequently used ethical dilemma in discussions of morality. When I returned home that night and was playing trains with my son, I thought it would be interesting to see his response to the trolley problem. I recorded his response so that I could share and discuss it with my class, given especially that we also will be discussing moral development from birth onward. My wife and I are constantly talking with our son about how properly to treat others — so this has been teachable moment both for my class and for our son!

The Trolley Problem:

The trolley problem is a thought experiment in ethics. The general form of the problem is this: There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. Which is the most ethical choice?

Via Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing. Thanks!