Author(s): Thomas Cathcart
A runaway trolley is hurtling down the track, brakes gone, aiming directly at five track workers who won't be able to get out of the way. You happen to be standing next to a lever that would reroute the trolley onto a spur where one worker is in the trolley's path. Would you pull the lever and reroute the train so it kills one person instead of five? How about this scenario: same runaway trolley, same five people in its path but this time there's no spur. You're observing the action from a footbridge over the tracks. The only way to stop the tram is to put a heavy weight in its path. A very large man happens to be standing next to you - do you push him onto the track in order to save the five workers? The Trolley Problem is an ethical thought experiment dreamed up in 1967 by British philosopher Philippa Foot, and further developed by American thinker Judith Jarvis Thomson in the '70s (she added the big man on the bridge). Since then, philosophers and thinkers have devised a variety of iterations of the problem, each adding its own twist on the moral dilemma, and The Runaway Trolley explores these through the lens of a trial in the court of public opinion - readers are members of the jury. Cathcart presents two opposing philosophical takes on the problem through the lawyers closing statements, but also offers up several alternative outlooks on related conundrums through a variety of other media - newspaper editorials, blogs, a police report, a debate, and overheard conversations.