The New York Times book review reviewed two books this week on what is called the trolly problem. Would you throw the fat man off the bridge?
Two situations are offered. The first has five people tied to a track sure to die when the trolly rolls over them unless you throw a switch that diverts the trolly onto a side track. If you do, it will roll over only one person tied to the side track. What do you do?
The second scenario has a fat man standing next to you on a bridge over the tracks. Five people tied to the tracks below can be saved if you toss the fat man off the bridge knowing his body will be large enough to stop the trolly. What do you do?
Apparently there are all kinds of philosophers interested in people’s varied reactions. It even has a name, trolleyology.
Most startling to me was this sentence from the reviewer, “When Americans dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on the argument that a quick end to the war would save lives, by some macabre coincident, the Nagasaki bomb was nicknamed Fat Man.”
Makes one wonder, did the namers know about trolleyology? No answer given in the review, but reviewer Sarah Bakewell does tell us that”trolleyology now forms part of the philosophy course at West Point.”