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Philosophy makes the headlines

Started by Brad Nunnally, 2006-05-02T22:48:31-05:00 (Tuesday)

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Brad Nunnally

I love it when a good ethical question makes it into the news. Lets hear your thoughts on the matter.

Kill 5 to save 1? Ummmm. . . .

Brad Ty Nunnally
Business & Usabilty Consultant at Perficent
Former CAOS Hooligan

Ross Mead

Damn!  You beat me to this post! :-P

I thought this brought up some really interesting points, and the questions asked actually made me think about myself a little (namely, the one about the violinist and how it relates to abortion, as well as the dilemma noted in the title).

It's also interesting to point out the comment made by one of the readers (Jagdip Singh Ajimal):

QuoteIt's your birthday.  Four of your friends together buy you one lottery ticket as a present.  You win $5 million.  Do you share the money with these friends, who only spent $0.25 each on your birthday present?

Though I feel like I've answered this question before, it seems a bit different when it's worded that way.  Hmm...


to me it's just another way of asking "do the ends justify the means"

nothing new here.
Bryan Grubaugh
Quickly aging alumni with too much time on his hands
Business Systems Analyst, Scripps Networks.


Hmm... It’s on BBC; I'm guessing they imply that the "runaway trolley car" dilemma represents current political controversy over the war in Iraq.

I think "killing 1 innocent person to save 5" does not represent the issue, because the real goal is not to decide which innocent people should die, but to stop the runaway train.

Here is a better allegory:
You walk on a street, and see an evil person beating up an innocent person. Should you interfere and attempt to stop the evil person? What if your interference puts the lives of innocent bystanders at risk? Should you just walk away?

What if you are the only one who can stop the evil person? What if you know that if he is not stopped, he will continue torturing and killing the innocent. What if you know that one day he may end up at your doorstep, and kill your family? Would you still just stay there and allow your parents or kids being killed?


I agreed with the argument against the similarities between the violinist and abortion.  The fact is you are not actively harming the violinist, whereas you are doing exactly that to the fetus.


Yes, letting the voilinist die of whatever it is that is killing him is quite different than killing a fetus that would almost certainly be born with no further intervention from you.
"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." -James Madison


I personally don’t see the difference between active and passive harm. Say I’m given a chance to save lives, and I choose not to use this chance. Does it make me much better than someone who actively takes lives? Why? Because my conscience is clear; I â€Ã...“didn’t get my hands dirty?â€Ã,  I don’t think so; but these are only my personal believes, and they apply only to me. I wouldn’t try to impose my views on other people, or make a law out of it. Everyone has their own moral/religious/philosophical views; and I respect them.

Of course every society should have laws against active harm. I don't believe that life begins at conception; so if I decide to have an abortion, I consider it neither passive nor active harm to humanity. The violinist metaphor doesn't work again, but for other reasons.
There are those who believe that life begins at conception. Should we change the laws to accommodate their believes? Perhaps, if they are the majority. However, not everyone can get pregnant; so it would make sense if only women of the childbearing age could vote on the issue. If I'd really get pregnant, I personally would have a baby  :-)  .  Nevertheless I would definitely vote pro-abortion. Sorry.