Many of you are undoubtedly already familiar with the Trolley Problem, a philosophical game for the exploration of ethical issues and attitudes.
In its simple form the problem goes like this. An out of control empty railway trolley is approaching a group of five people working on the track who are unaware of its approach. Between the trolley and the group is a set of points that could divert the trolley down another line.
On that line, a single individual is working.
You are standing beside the lever that controls the points. The question is, do you do nothing and let the five die, or throw the switch and kill the one? And why do you take that course of action.
Does your answer change if you know the people involved? Maybe the individual is the mother/father of your children, or your deadly enemy?
You may wonder what this has to do with political philosophy. Well, isnít this kind of choice at the root of much policy and decision making? Do we fund a hospital or a school? Should we prioritise looking after the young or the elderly? These are fundamentally ethical questions, and society would, in my view, be better served if voters and politicians alike were more explicit in their reasoning around them. For those who are interested, this article in Prospect teases out the political dimensions of the trolley problem at greater length.
My reason for posting this OP is to give us an opportunity to debate our ethical reasoning in a calm and rational manner. The question is what would you do if yours was the hand on the lever, and, more importantly, why would you chose that particular alternative?