Wednesday, February 08, 2017

That trolley, revisited

John Horgan has been writing some posts about philosophy over at Scientific American, and they make for some interesting and amusing reading.   I'll just note this as an example:
Post-post-postscript: In “The Singer Solution to World Poverty,” Peter Singer uses a variation of the trolley problem to guilt New York Times readers into donating more to the poor. He asks us to imagine a man, Bob, watching a train bearing down on a child. Bob can pull a switch that diverts the train onto another track, but then the train will destroy Bob’s Bugatti sports car. Any sane person, Singer writes, knows that it would be "gravely wrong" for Bob not to pull the switch and save the child. It is equally wrong, he asserts, for us to spend on stuff we don’t really need rather than donating to groups that can save the lives of poor children. I was relieved when the Times published a letter that pointed out a kink in Singer’s reasoning. According to a strict utilitarian analysis, Bob should let the train kill the child, because he could then sell the Bugatti and donate the proceeds to a charity that would save lots of children.

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