Six moral vacuum questions


The first three are rather similar to each other as are the last three.

#1: A train is running on tracks that are about to fork. One path will run over a single individual who is tied down to the tracks, killing them. The other path will run over five individuals who are tied down to the track, killing them. You cannot stop the train. You must decide which path the train will take by flipping a switch. Which path are you obligated to choose (and are you obligated to act at all? Are you obligated to do nothing and to let the train run whichever way it was going to before your awareness of the dilemma?).

#2: A train is running on a single track that is destined to run over five individuals tied down to the track, killing them. There is a large individual whose mass you know will be enough to stop the train if he were placed in the train’s path. Pushing this individual into the path of the train (thus killing him) is the only way which the train can be stopped before it kills the five individuals tied to the tracks. Are you obligated to push the man into the path of the train? Are you obligated to do nothing? If your answer to this question is incongruous with your answer to #1 can you explain why?

#3: A laboratory has caught fire which contains many fertilized human embryos that are waiting to be implanted so that they may be born. Also in the building is a two-year old girl (presumably the daughter of someone who works there). You are in the unique position where you only have the time and the means to save either the two-year old girl or five of the fertilized embryos from dying in the fire. Obviously you are obligated to save one or the other. Which are you obligated to save? Why?

#4: An individual is about to murder someone right in front of you. You perceive this and realize the only way to stop the murder is to kill the perpetrator. Are you obligated to do this? Are you obligated to do nothing?

#5: Exact same scenario as #4 except in this case the perpetrator has legal authority to murder and you will face legal punishment if you kill him. The reasons this person has legal authority are bogus and his killing of the individual in front of you will still be the sin of murder. Are you obligated to kill the perpetrator under these circumstances? Are you obligated to do nothing? Does your answer to this question differ from your answer to #5? If so, why?

#6: A doctor is on his way to perform a legal abortion. You are the only person who can stop this from happening, but the only way to do it is by killing the doctor before he performs the abortion. Are you obligated to do this? Are you obligated to do nothing? How does your answer to this question compare to your answers to #4 and #5? If they differ substantially, why?


Forgive me for asking, but is this homework?


You do realize #6 is cold blooded terrorism and murder of the Doctor. Extreme Zealots from all religions use that “I’m obligated by my God” defense every day. So to even ask this question should be offensive to everyone, Pro Life, Pro Choice, Catholic or Not. This is the reasoning of the people who murdered Abortion doctors in the past and said they were doing God’S work protecting children ironically enough.


If killing the doctor in #6 is cold blooded terrorism, then killing the perpetrator in #5 is, too, if you take it as a given that unborn human life is entitled to the same rights as persons already born. If the moral obligations in #5 and #6 differ, then the difference must be explained.

Specifically, it must be explained why unborn life is undeserving of the same protections as born life if life truly begins at conception. Now, I think it’s a false dichotomy to say that life must not begin at conception if our obligations to #5 and #6 are different, but I want to know the reasons why.

So, no. I decline that it is offensive to ask a question. That’s just unacademic.

Also, I don’t think I mentioned God at all in any of my questions…


It’s not homework.


This sort of navel-gazing is usually a complete waste of time. That’s bad enough. But here, it’s even worse because I have the feeling it’s going to be used to justify either the killing of abortionists, or to attack Catholics who won’t kill an abortionist.

Either way, I’ll pass. And others should too.


This railroad has some serious management issues.


There’s no predefined agenda here; no plan of attack. I just perceive a seeming incongruity in the way these questions are answered. Why has no one taken this seriously? I don’t think we should kill abortion doctors and I don’t think Catholics who won’t kill abortion doctors are deluding themselves. I would just like to hear the reasons why it’s justified to kill a person murderously assaulting another person, but it’s not justified to kill an abortion doctor. Aren’t the unborn and the born of equal value and possessing the same right to life? Why is one granted the right to protection from harm, but the other is not.

More importantly, why is the obvious question being dodged under the pretense that I have a poisonous agenda underneath it all? Why is the asking of a question being perceived in this way?


Dear Mort Alz,

This pro-choice nonsense isn’t fooling anyone. Save it for an Atheist forum where they have nothing better to do than discuss such things. Read the Catechism instead of listening to Sanders or Clinton. :slight_smile:

RPR :slight_smile:


Some people are just tired of having to defend their faith to people who post only to bait, trap and attempt to discredit or argue with others beliefs. It has happened too many times, and people have become pretty good at sniffing out threads that exist only to incite debate.


#1 seems like a clear-cut case where you’d use the principle of double effect. You’d probably try to save as many lives as you can. Similar to if a pregnant woman is dying, and the only way to save her is by performing an operation that will likely kill her unborn child = you try to save one life, instead of doing nothing and having both die. Or a doctor in a triage situation, who, being able to work on only one patient at a time, would have to quickly choose if two patients at the point of death are brought in.

#2 is a case where the PDE would NOT apply, because in order to save the five lives, you have to do something which is intrinsically immoral = directly killing an innocent person. In #1 you are merely flicking a switch, and the person on the track’s death is a foreseen but unintended consequence. In this case, the person’s death is the MEANS by which you are saving the five lives. This is akin to a doctor killing one patient and harvesting his organs to save five other patients who are dying.

#3 Again, this is akin to triage, where neither choice is “wrong” = all the human lives involved are valuable. The person would need to make a decision based on other factors. For example, a two-year-old will feel intense pain if she dies in a fire, whereas the embryos will feel nothing. The two-year-old’s chance of survival is also higher, since embryos need to be kept at a constant temperature in lab conditions and even in optimum conditions most will not survive implantation, let alone after being through a fire. Human emotions will also play a part in how you decide, for example, if the embryos are your children and the two-year-old is unrelated to you, then you will likely favour your own children. Again, neither choice is “wrong”.

#4 Yes, you’re perfectly entitled to shoot the person. You are morally (and legally) allowed to kill someone in self-defence, or in defence of another innocent person.

#5 I don’t understand this question. If the person has no authority (i.e. he’s not a police officer trying to kill you because you’re threatening to kill him first), then this is again a case of self-defence. It’s not the “sin of murder”. I don’t think maybe you understand what “murder” is. It’s not simply killing someone. It’s killing an innocent person.

#6 Killing the abortionist achieves nothing. He’s not some random guy holding a gun to a stranger’s head, who you can take down and then the stranger will be safe. If you kill the abortionist, you will be sent to prison, and then another abortionist will perform the abortion anyway. The abolitionists didn’t go around using violence against slave traders, because they knew that doing so would not achieve anything. It would only result in all abolitionists being treated as criminals and making it even more difficult to eliminate slavery altogether. Similarly, pro-life people know that killing abortionists (who may not even fully understand that they are killing an unborn person in an abortion) will not prevent abortions from happening, and will in fact hinder progress in making abortion illegal in the long-term.


Amen. These hypotheticals always have an agenda.
I think we can figure out what’s going on here.
I’m out as well.


Most of these dilemmas are not possible. What are you trying to say?


If a train leaves from Hoboken and a train leaves from Lodi, going 120 km/h and both are heading to Richmond, what is the mass of the sun?


Unless we’re in Ordinary time, of course.


What if we’re going by the Julian calendar?


But only on Sunday. Obviously.


The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

Hello, world!


It also depends on the liturgical season. Especially in the Traditional Latin Mass. Love those vestments! :slight_smile:


Mea culpa OP.
We just got carried away.


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