Some thought experiments follow this template:
- We have a moral intuition
- We make some computation to what this intuition implies
- We check how we feel about this implication, and it feels counter-intuitive
Then some people bite the (3) bullet. But bullets sometimes (always?) have a counter-bullet.
You can reverse those thought experiments: take ~(3) as your starting moral intuition, and then derive ~(1) which will be counter-intuitive.
For example, you can start with:
- I would care about saving a drowning person even if it came at the cost of ruining my suit
- There are a lot of metaphorically drowning people in the world
- Therefore I should donate all my money to effective poverty alleviation charities
This is called "shut up and multiply".
But you can also use the reverse:
- I don't want to donate all my money to effective poverty alleviation charities
- A drowning person would cost more to save because it would ruin my suit
- Therefore I shouldn't save a drowning person
This is called "shut up and divide" (also related: Boredom vs. Scope Insensitivity).
Step (2) might be eliminating a relevant feature which generates the counter-intuition, or it might be a way to open our eyes to something we were not seeing. And maybe for some thought experiment you find both the assumption and conclusion intuitive or counterintuitive. But that's not the object of this post.
Here I'm just interested in seeing what the reverse of ethical thought experiments look like. I'll put more examples as answer. I would like to know which other ethical thought experiments have this pattern -- that is, an ethical thought experiment that starts with an intuition to derive a counter-intuition, which can be reversed, to instead derive that the initial assumption is the wrong one.
Update: As I'm writing some of them, I realized some ethical thought experiment are presented as a clash of intuitions (so the "reverse" is part of the original presentation), whereas others seem to be trying to persuade the reader to bite the bullet on a certain counter-intuition, and omit to mention the reverse ethical thought experiment.
Yeah that makes sense