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June 30, 2006

Can bad men make good brains do bad things?

Talk about ridiculously easy run-of-the-mill moral dilemmas. Meanwhile, it is Germany v Argentina today: You tell me who to support. Can't they both lose?

On Twin Earth, a brain in a vat is at the wheel of a runaway trolley. There are only two options that the brain can take: the right side of the fork in the track or the left side of the fork. There is no way in sight of derailing or stopping the trolley and the brain is aware of this, for the brain knows trolleys. The brain is causally hooked up to the trolley such that the brain can determine the course which the trolley will take.

On the right side of the track there is a single railroad worker, Jones, who will definitely be killed if the brain steers the trolley to the right. If the railman on the right lives, he will go on to kill five men for the sake of killing them, but in doing so will inadvertently save the lives of thirty orphans (one of the five men he will kill is planning to destroy a bridge that the orphans' bus will be crossing later that night). One of the orphans that will be killed would have grown up to become a tyrant who would make good utilitarian men do bad things. Another of the orphans would grow up to become G.E.M. Anscombe, while a third would invent the pop-top can.

This via INDC Journal, from whence my recycled comment. Gordon at Harry's Place has decided that, on balance, it is best to support Germany. And so, God help me, have I.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at June 30, 2006 08:27 AM