Consider the following scenarios:
A stranger saves a small child from drowning.
A soldier risks their life to carry an injured civilian to a hospital.
A medical doctor ensures that the cure they developed for a serious virus remains affordable to the general public.
I do not think it is controversial to suggest that these are examples of actions that are morally right, or morally praiseworthy. However, my question to you is, when you think about the morality (the rightness or wrongness) of an action, what do you think matters more—the intentions (the motives) of the person who is doing the action or the consequences (the results) of the action? Which of these two—the motives or the consequences—matters most when determining whether someone does the right thing? Why do you believe that? Give me 3 – 5 sentences here. Tell me what you think and why you think it. Don’t worry about being wrong. Just be honest.
Got your answer? Alright. Good. Let’s have some fun. Consider the following thought experiment:
Suppose that construction at the Kendall Campus of Miami Dade College has allowed for an advanced railway that encircles the entirety of the school grounds. As construction progresses, you are invited to take a personal tour of the railway, via a prototype of one of the small railcars. You enter the car and begin the tour. Unfortunately, as you are touring the campus, you notice that there are five workers on the tracks, making some last-minute adjustments. You try to hit the brakes, but they have malfunctioned. The railcar is heading towards the five workers. Their backs are turned to you, and since they are working loudly, they do not hear the car’s approach. If they are struck, they will surely die. However, you also notice that there is a fork along the tracks. If you pull a lever, the railcar will change its course. Unfortunately, there is one worker along this alternate path. Do you pull the lever to save the five workers, while sacrificing the one? Why or why not? Give me about 5 sentences for your answer to this one, too. You can write more than 5 sentences, though. I won’t mind, and I won’t tell on you. Think about the relationship between this second question and your answer to the first question. Is your response to the first question informing how you respond to this one?
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Ready for the last question, suckers? Here it is. Wait. First, do me a quick favor. DON’T read this question BEFORE giving your full and honest answer to question 2. Got that? I have to trust you on this one, kiddos. If we had the luxury of being in a face-to-face class, I would be able to make sure that you got these questions one-at-a-time. But the world is burning, so what else can we do?
Alright. You ready? Here it is:Now suppose that, instead of riding in the car, you are walking along the tracks next to a large, muscular man. You happen to notice that several yards ahead of you are five workers, loudly toiling at their labor. Tragically, you also notice an unmanned railcar several yards behind you. It is careening down the tracks, heading right towards these unlucky workers. If they are struck, they will surely be killed. However, you also correctly estimate the following: If this large, muscular man is pushed onto the tracks, his mass will manage to stop the railcar, saving the five hapless workers, but resulting in his untimely demise. The element of surprise is on your side; you can push the muscular man onto the tracks. But is this the right thing to do? Why or why not?Don’t you just love how ruthless this last one is? It’s very Slytherin, is it not? Here’s a follow up question for you: Is your answer to this question different from your answer to the second question? Why do you think that is? Does it make it re-evaluate your response to the first question? I’m not asking this by accident. I’d genuinely like to see what you have to say to this final series of questions. Incorporate them into your response.