A train races towards a group of five people who are stuck in the train’s path. You can decide to pull a lever and change the train’s path, but then you would direct the train towards a single other person on a different portion of the track instead.
You have no time to communicate with anyone. The only question is: Do you pull the lever?
In trying to solve this problem, there are mainly two arguments (that I am aware of), leading to two different solutions.
Number one is: You do not pull the lever, because you should not interfere with the unfolding event and make yourself the judge over who should live and who should die.
And number two: You pull the lever, because one person dying is better than 5 people dying.
What do you think? Feel free to put your answer down below, before reading what I think about it.
I think both solutions have fundamental problems that make them unacceptable – next to the inevitability of someone dying, that is.
First, the option of not pulling the lever to not interfer is a red herring. Just by being in the situation, whatever you do will be your decision. Either you decide to pull the lever and determine that one person dies, or you decide not to pull the lever and determine that five people die. Whether you want it or not, you are deciding the outcome of the situation.
Does that mean you should pull the lever? Maybe, but this option, too, has some problems. Because for all we know, any of the six people could be anything from a violent criminal to a saint. But even if we knew that we could not know which deaths would cause the least amount of harm in the future.
In other words, any answer to the lorry problem that is based on any projection of who these six people are or may be is useless, because it can only be based on arbitrary assumptions that can neither be validated not invalidated.
This is why I think the real question the lorry problem poses is: What are your internal assumptions on other human beings and your disposition towards the outside world?
My internal assumption is that more human life equals more potential for constructive evolution – whatever that may look like in practice. That is why I would pull the lever (hopefully). What would you do?