Topic A: Would you kill the fat person
Let me start by saying I have never been so inclined to answer both topics because I find them both to be fascinating. But I chose to go with topic A because after watching the videos, especially “The Trolley Problem in Real Life” it wasn’t just a moral dilemma but also a mental one as well.
To answer the first question, about throwing the switch, I would like to say that I would switch the track to save the greatest number of lives possible. Utilitarianism is a moral theory that focuses on the consequences of our actions and states actions should be measured in terms of the happiness that is produced. More importantly, the “Principle of Utility” states “we should act always so as to produce the greatest good for the greatest number.” With this in mind, the greatest good for the greatest number would also be to preserve the greatest number of lives. Not only that, but also spare five families the suffering of losing a loved one rather than one family which in theory would be the greatest number of greatest good.
As for throwing the heavy-set person off the bridge to stop the train… I would not. The reasoning behind my decision is that that person had nothing to do with the situation at hand. The people on the tracks were doing their job, which means, they most likely knew the risks of doing that job. The person on the bridge was a bystander who should not have had to know the risks of the workers’ jobs. Also, similar to the example that was given in the “Utilitarianism Crash Course Philosophy #36” video, where the bystanders should not have to walk around everyday hoping they don’t get taken to have their organs harvested to save five lives, heavy people on bridges shouldn’t have to walk around everyday hoping they don’t get thrown off a bridge to save five railroad workers.
To be quite honest though, just like in “The Trolley Problem in Real Life” Video (which I found to be extremely interesting and entertaining) I don’t know what I would do in the moment during that situation. A lot of the people in the experiment said they were thinking about flipping the switch but there was a disconnect between their brains and their hands. I like to think of myself as fast on my feet and great at making tough choices but when it comes to lives of actual people that I “should” not have any association or anything to do with I think I would have the same brain/hand disconnect.
“On utilitarian grounds, actions and in-actions which benefit few people and harm more people will be deemed morally wrong while actions and in-actions which harm fewer people and benefit more people will be deemed morally right.” So, in these two scenarios I do not believe there is a difference whether is it is decisively or morally. In either regard, you are playing judge, jury, and executioner with the fate of the lives of six people and encouraging the fall of one man over the other five men or women. Neither you nor they know what will eventually happen if the overly sized human falls off the bridge or you pull that switch, but the fact that you have chosen to intervene at the moment is all the same and does not change your hopeful outcome. I think what it says about a person who is willing to sacrifice two people over five says a lot about them and how far they will go to satisfy what they believe is true to themselves is the greater good. Along with that person whom is probably going to die in a savage train accident, that person has also chosen to lose themselves. In reality, we know someone saw the action take place, it was recorded and is going to be played back to the authorities and he or she will have to explain themselves to that degree. On top of that, that person will forever have to live with the decision knowing that it what they chose to do instead of allowing things to play out a different way. You would have to the mental endurance of a metaphorical fortress to put up with everything from the news, families, mental anguish you would be about to face from then on. As dire as it sounds, living with the consequence is a part of being of utilitarianism.
Abumere, F., Utilitarianism, https://press.rebus.community/intro-to-phil-ethics/chapter/utilitarianism/