While watching orange is the new black re-runs, a question was raised. So I wanted to raise it here, to get some different views on it.
Imagine that a runaway train is on track to kill five railroad workers. You’re standing next to a switch that can re-route the train to a different track, saving the lives of five people, but there’s a problem.
If you DO re-route the train, a single worker on the new route will be hit by the train.
So the question becomes: IS ONE DEATH BETTER THAN FIVE DEATHS? OR ARE THEY BOTH EQUALLY BAD?
And more importantly, are decisions (like whether or not to pull the switch) only morally right because of the positive outcome (saving five people) or should we take into account how we get to the outcome (murdering one person)?
If you believe in utilitarianism, then you’d answer no, it doesn’t matter how we get to the outcome. The greater good (living) was done for the greatest number (five people).
But a believer in deontologist principles would say that since killing is always wrong, it’s better to allow the train to run it’s course, rather than intentionally murder a person.
The bottom line: you can focus on the outcome of the circumstance (five people saved vs. only one dead) or the action it took to get there (murdering a person). Which do you believe is more important?