Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

An ethical comparison of a few situations

  1. Jan 1, 2004 #1
    What is the ethical difference between the following situations? Also, what would be the ethical possible courses of action (or non-action) in each situation.

    A) Someone is going to shoot and kill some "innocent" person. You can stop him, but you have to kill him to do it.

    B) A boulder is rolling towards a group of people. It will kill them. You can divert the boulder so that it doesn't hit them, but you will have to divert the boulder onto a path where some other person is standing, and it will kill him if you do.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 1, 2004 #2
    I know for a fact that the target is innocent? By implication, I know for a fact that the shooter is about to commit an immoral and criminal act? In that case, even if I have no legal obligation to interfere, I would consider such interference to be a moral act.

    I don't think it matters how many people are clustered at either of the two paths. I would consider it morally wrong to take any discretionary action that would cause such harm to an innocent person.

    But, and this brings up a more difficult question, should I take that action anyway? If one innocent person has to be hurt to save several other people, also innocent, should it be done? That happens all the time in warfare, though in that case the term "innocent" becomes a compliicated and probably not even applicable term. Should one individual accept the burden of doing the morally wrong thing if it's necessary to serve the greater good?

    I don't think I could come up with an absolute, universal answer to that question. It's very situationally dependent, and the above examples are far too simplistic to allow a conclusion to be drawn. All I could say is that in the above B) case, even if the scenario was realistic, I woldn't do anything.
  4. Jan 1, 2004 #3
    I would probably interfere. Of course, in the real world it's much more complicated. But if I know the person is innocent, I would feel obligated to defend them.

    I would probably probably divert the boulder. Given the information I have, I would have to conclude that killing multiple people is worse than killing one person.
  5. Jan 1, 2004 #4
    Does the innocence or lack thereof of the person whom you may kill matter?
  6. Jan 2, 2004 #5
    from the world of zen

    i operate on the premise that i know (my greater or unconcious self) the experiences i want to have during this lifetime.

    therefore, when confronted with such situations, i have the confidence that i will respond according to my inner knowledge of my goals. this also includes the unconcious communication with the other participants, assisting them to accomplish there goals.

    ethically, in the greater reality, there is no right or wrong, good or bad, only experience. from these experinces we expand our awareness of self and the universe.

    these moments, imho, are best viewed as psychodramas being performed for reasons that are blocked or shielded from our concious awareness. if we listen and/or acknowlege our inner senses, we can confidently accept and cope with any stressful moment without fear of harm or guilt.

    each moment in time is as perfect as it can be!
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: An ethical comparison of a few situations
  1. Common Ethics (Replies: 17)

  2. Animal Ethics (Replies: 13)

  3. Ethics in science (Replies: 19)