I'm a PhD student studying biochemistry. I was so impressed by HPMOR that I decided to look up EY. I then discovered LessWrong and have been reading a post a day on rationality ever since in an attempt to make myself as rational a human being as possible.


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I'm new to LessWrong so pardon me if my question has an obvious answer or seems silly, and please let me know if there are flaws in my reasoning.

"The self-benefiting thing to do is to run away, but I hope I would at least try to drag the girl off the railroad tracks." In this context, is the rational choice different for different people?

I believe that rationality can mean different things to different people because people have different moral compasses- a set of values they believe is right or are the most important to them. If I place another human's life in high enough regard that I would try to drag the girl off the railroad tracks, and that instinct is greater than my need to run away (self preservation), then I will end up trying to help the girl. If my priorities are reversed and I value self preservation more, I will likely run away.

Now what if I'm the sort of person who values self preservation more and hence am likely to run away, but I WANT to be the kind of person who would stop and help the girl? I'm making a conscious effort to be selfless in life. What is the rational choice for me then? I understand that if I were to actually be in such a situation, I would not have the time to logically make up my mind about what to do but would simply act on instinct, but I'm still interested in understanding what the rational choice would be in that situation.