You are walking near a trolley car track when you notice five people tied to it in a row. The next instant, you see a trolley hurtling toward them, out of control. A signal lever is within your reach; if you pull it, you can divert the runaway trolley down a side track, saving the five, but killing another person, who is tied to the track that you are diverting it to. What do you do? Most people say they would pull the lever because it’s better that one person should die instead of five.
This is known in Philosophy as the Trolley Problem. What is the morally best option, or at least the morally better option? The majority of people, when showed with this thought experiment, insist that pulling the switch is morally better or even required. Why? The overwhelmingly popular answer is that in any scenario, the more lives that can be saved is the better option, regardless of the actions is taken to achieve such results. Five lives are greater than one life, so the logically right option is to pull the switch.
But now consider this modification to the original experiment:
All of the initial conditions from the original experiment are in place, however, this time, there is no switch, no side track, no different route. Instead, there is an overpass above and before the five tied up individuals are hit, there’s an option to save them. A fat man is on board the train, where, if you throw him out of the train, his body would act as brakes for the train, ultimately stopping the train and saving the 5-people tied, however, killing the fat man. The 2 options that are present are: