[CW: This post talks about personal experience of moral dilemmas. I can see how some people might be distressed by thinking about this.]
Have you ever had to decide between pushing a fat person onto some train tracks or letting five other people get hit by a train? Maybe you have a more exciting commute than I do, but for me it's just never come up.
In spite of this, I'm unusually prepared for a trolley problem, in a way I'm not prepared for, say, being offered a high-paying job at an unquantifiably-evil company. Similarly, if a friend asked me to lie to another friend about something important to them, I probably wouldn't carry out a utilitarian cost-benefit analysis. It seems that I'm happy to adopt consequentialist policy, but when it comes to personal quandaries where I have to decide for myself, I start asking myself about what sort of person this decision makes me. What's more, I'm not sure this is necessarily a bad heuristic in a social context.
It's also noteworthy (to me, at least) that I rarely experience moral dilemmas. They just don't happen all that often. I like to think I have a reasonably coherent moral framework, but do I really need one? Do I just lead a very morally-inert life? Or have abstruse thought experiments in moral philosophy equipped me with broader principles under which would-be moral dilemmas are resolved before they reach my conscious deliberation?
To make sure I'm not giving too much weight to my own experiences, I thought I'd put a few questions to a wider audience:
- What kind of moral dilemmas do you actually encounter?
- Do you have any thoughts on how much moral judgement you have to exercise in your daily life? Do you think this is a typical amount?
- Do you have any examples of pedestrian moral dilemmas to which you've applied abstract moral reasoning? How did that work out?
- Do you have any examples of personal moral dilemmas on a Trolley Problem scale that nonetheless happened?
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