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Posts Tagged ‘trolley problem

Lawmakers blame philosophy for recent spate of trolley deaths

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“This country doesn’t have a ‘trolley problem’. It has a philosophy problem.” Sen. Lamar Alexander

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill turned their attention to philosophy this week after Monday saw what appears to be the nation’s third trolley-related homicide since April. Members of both houses of Congress raised the prospect of legislation to regulate the violent content found in much contemporary moral philosophy, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill to study the effects of violent philosophy on children and adolescents.

The proposal comes in the wake of the death of Amtrak employee Charles Shubin, who was killed Monday when a runaway trolley was diverted onto the side-spur to which Shubin had been tied by unknown individuals. Two trolleys involved in similar incidents in April turned out to have had their brake lines cut.

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June 1, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Philosophers discover new moral principle

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Members of the Moral Philosophy Research Group hard at work

A previously unrecognized moral principle was discovered last week after ethicists at the University of Mesa realized that they would rather kill an old lady’s cat than a young girl’s puppy. The principle of moral naivete, as it is being called, justifies this preference by holding that the wrongness of inflicting a given harm can depend in part on the degree to which the victim has previously been exposed to such a harm.

The breakthrough came late Thursday as several members of the Moral Philosophy Research Group analyzed the results of a thought experiment they had run earlier in the night. “We were messing around, getting pretty sloshed,” explains Anthony Vega, the group’s principal investigator. “Basically it was just another night at The Lab,” a local bar and the group’s favorite venue for conducting research. Vega and several graduate students were playing Would You Rather, a party game and the standard research tool in normative ethics. Before long the group hit upon the question that has since sparked a firestorm of scholarly interest: Would you rather kill an old lady’s cat or a young girl’s puppy?

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February 6, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Experimental philosophy gets real

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“Ten bucks an hour? Sweet!”

A new study confirms what philosophers have long suspected: ordinary folk disapprove of violently killing innocent bystanders. Published this week in Science, the study is turning heads less for its conclusion and more for its methods. Studying folk intuitions in moral dilemmas is nothing new. But in response to criticism that his laboratory experiments lack ecological validity, Harvard’s Joshua Greene decided to take his research out of the lab and into the field.

“Sure, people will say that pushing a man in front of a speeding trolley is wrong on paper,” says Greene, the study’s lead author. “But what happens when they actually get out there and kill a man? Still wrong? Nobody knew because nobody had tested it.”

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February 25, 2012 at 4:16 pm