We all know this one: there's a train coming and there's a baby lying on the rails. You can pull a switch to make the train change to another track, thereby saving the toddler but killing a handful of grown-ups.
image by Tumisu - source: Pixabay
This is a moral dilemma; a situation where you're forced into making a moral decision with no possible outcome that's evidently preferable or even acceptable. There's a ton of these and they're all equally mind-bending. Try this one:
You are an inmate in a concentration camp. A sadistic guard is about to hang your son who tried to escape and wants you to pull the chair from underneath him. He says that if you don’t he will not only kill your son but some other innocent inmate as well. You don’t have any doubt that he means what he says. What should you do?
source: ListVerse: Top 10 Moral Dilemmas
I have a son. I wouldn't know what I'd do in this situation. I can imagine the choice would make me freeze up completely, make me physically incapable of responding to the rational that says I'd be unnecessarily sacrificing one extra life. Or maybe I would hold on to the irrational hope that in the last second something miraculous would happen to spare me from having to make the choice at all, again sacrificing that unknown innocent. Or maybe I'd give in to rational thought despite it all and kill my own son by my own actions, thereby ensuring my own heart to be broken. Maybe commit suicide afterwards...
These ethical paradoxes are not to be solved, they can't be solved. But in my mind they do serve a purpose; they show me that moral absolutes simply don't exist. You cannot claim that not killing a baby is always the ethical thing to do. How many grown-ups have to be spared to "justify" not touching the switch and sacrificing one newborn? What's the answer to the old time-travel dilemma that goes like this: if you could travel back in time, would you be justified to kill Adolf Hitler as a toddler? Not answerable, and that's why there's no absolute right or wrong here. Or anywhere else for that matter; in the end all moral decisions are made by weighing good versus bad.
I already wrote a post on our fading moral skills a while back and won't say too much more about it now, but I discovered this gem on YouTube I just had to share whit you all. If you have 15 minutes of spare time and are not easily offended, please have a look at the video by DarkMatter2525. He makes truly great animations about these and other philosophical theme's.
Be warned though: the absolute morality that's under scrutiny here is that of the Christian Bible. So if you are a religious person that is easily offended by criticisms on the Holy Book, please watch it at your own discretion. I found the animation very well made and the essential problem with moral absolutes masterfully conveyed. Time-travel, plot twists, philosophy, action even: this little animation has it all :-) If you like this as much as I do, I'd encourage you to visit DarkMatter2525's YouTube channel and leave some love there.
The Future of Morality
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