Antisocial personality traits predict utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas

A study conducted by Daniel Bartels, Columbia Business School, Marketing, and David Pizarro, Cornell University, Psychology found that people who endorse actions consistent with an ethic of utilitarianism—the view that what is the morally right thing to do is whatever produces the best overall consequences—tend to possess psychopathic and Machiavellian personality traits.

In the study, Bartels and Pizarro gave participants a set of moral dilemmas widely used by behavioral scientists who study morality, like the following: "A runaway trolley is about to run over and kill five people, and you are standing on a footbridge next to a large stranger; your body is too light to stop the train, but if you push the stranger onto the tracks, killing him, you will save the five people. Would you push the man?" Participants also completed a set of three personality scales: one for assessing psychopathic traits in a non-clinical sample, one that assessed Machiavellian traits, and one that assessed whether participants believed that life was meaningful. Bartels and Pizarro found a strong link between utilitarian responses to these dilemmas (e.g., approving the killing of an innocent person to save the others) and personality styles that were psychopathic, Machiavellian or tended to view life as meaningless.

These results (which recently appeared in the journal Cognition) raise questions for psychological theories of moral judgment that equate utilitarian responses with optimal morality, and treat non-utilitarian responses as moral "mistakes". The issue, for these theories, is that these results would lead to the counterintuitive conclusion that those who are "optimal" moral decision makers (i.e., who are likely to favor utilitarian solutions) are also those who possess a set of traits that many would consider prototypically immoral (e.g., the emotional callousness and manipulative nature of psychopathy and Machiavellianism).

While some might be tempted to conclude that these findings undermine utilitarianism as an ethical theory, Prof. Bartels explained that he and his co-author have a different interpretation: "Although the study does not resolve the ethical debate, it points to a flaw in the widely-adopted use of sacrificial dilemmas to identify optimal moral judgment. These methods fail to distinguish between people who endorse utilitarian moral choices because of underlying emotional deficits (like those captured by our measures of psychopathy and Machiavellianism) and those who endorse them out of genuine concern for the welfare of others." In short, if scientists' methods cannot identify a difference between the morality of a utilitarian philosopher who sacrifices her own interest for the sake of others, and a manipulative con artist who cares little about the feelings and welfare of anyone but himself, then perhaps better methods are needed.

Provided by Columbia Business School

4.2 /5 (22 votes)

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TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (7) Sep 30, 2011
"A study conducted by Daniel Bartels, Columbia Business School, Marketing, and David Pizarro, Cornell University, Psychology found that people who endorse actions consistent with an ethic of utilitarianismthe view that what is the morally right thing to do is whatever produces the best overall consequencestend to possess psychopathic and Machiavellian personality traits."

-Oh really?

I think the physorg Controllers like to interact with us participants once in awhile. But this may be my imagination.

"The issue, for these theories, is that these results would lead to the counterintuitive conclusion that those who are "optimal" moral decision makers (i.e., who are likely to favor utilitarian solutions) are also those who possess a set of traits that many would consider prototypically immoral (e.g., the emotional callousness and manipulative nature of psychopathy and Machiavellianism)."

-I think the true psychotic would have little interest in saving anybody from runaway trolleys.
hush1
1 / 5 (4) Sep 30, 2011
Do you want to resolve the ethical debate?
You saw the flaw your studies assert to reveal.
Do you need consensus for your interpretation?
Before attempts at correction? If so, why?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 30, 2011
I think the average person might factor into his decision, consciously or unconsciously, specific biological traits like the age, gender, or apparent tribal affinities of the individuals in peril.

Tribalism is a powerful generator of morality; this being the combination of altruism among members with animosity toward outsiders. Tribes with stronger expression of this dynamic could be expected to prevail in conflict with others which had less of it; and thus we were selected for these traits.

Humans have been taught to extend this perception over ever larger and more disparate groups of people in the form of communities, religions, or states for instance.

But I would think that in times of stress when instinct tends to predominate our judgement, we would value the lives of people who are more like us than not, more appropriate as mating partners, or more apt to want to save us for the same reasons; ie allies.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Sep 30, 2011
Do you want to resolve the ethical debate?
You saw the flaw your studies assert to reveal.
Do you need consensus for your interpretation?
Before attempts at correction? If so, why?
What?
gwrede
5 / 5 (3) Sep 30, 2011
Prof. Bartels:
In short, if scientists' methods cannot identify a difference between the morality of a utilitarian philosopher who sacrifices her own interest for the sake of others, and a manipulative con artist who cares little about the feelings and welfare of anyone but himself, then perhaps better methods are needed.
This is the most honest statement I have ever heard from a Psychology scientist.

We need more people like him in the sciences.
SemiNerd
5 / 5 (4) Sep 30, 2011
Assumptions are the bane of science. I applaud the authors for examining one of the base line assumptions underlying sacrificial dilemma research and throwing it into question. That the questions arising from this research point to new directions to explore is a big bonus.
cmn
not rated yet Sep 30, 2011
Prof. Bartels:
In short, if scientists' methods cannot identify a difference between the morality of a utilitarian philosopher who sacrifices her own interest for the sake of others, and a manipulative con artist who cares little about the feelings and welfare of anyone but himself, then perhaps better methods are needed.

Isn't this what the psychopathy tests measured? Also, couldn't they just ask the test subject his/her motivation in the given scenario(s)?
jimbo92107
5 / 5 (2) Sep 30, 2011
Oh darn, I just pushed the next Einstein in front of a train.

Predictions are hard, especially about the future. -Yogi
Thanos251
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 30, 2011
The above scenario is a stupid one. The right action is to do nothing.

As you don't know enough about the five person that might be kill by the run away train. Thus you don't have enough information to make a judgement if the life of the 5 persons is better than your life or the larger person next to you.

If the 5 persons that might be kill are criminals, gang members, bad people, crooks & swindlers, etc., and the 1 person live is an honest person of character, then it is better for the 5 person to die and not risk the live of the 1 decent person.

And what make the 5 person lives better than the 1 person that the 1 person should sacrifice his life for the 5 person, and interering with faith & destiny.

And what about Darwin principle of survival of the fittest. If the 5 persons are not smart enough to run out of the way of the run away train, then it is their destiny to die.

And you are interfering with destiny.

There is no easy answer.
hush1
2 / 5 (4) Sep 30, 2011
What? - O


Dear Prof. Bartels:
Do you want to resolve the ethical debate?
You saw the flaw your studies assert to reveal.
Do you need consensus for your interpretation?
Before attempts at correction? If so, why?

The Prof. sees a flaw and explicitly states his:
"study does not resolve the ethical debate"

The Prof. is stating his study recognizes a flaw.
A debate with a flaw can be discarded.
A debate with a flaw corrected can be debated further, if the corrected flaw does not resolve the debate.
The Prof.'s study makes no attempt to correct the recognized flaw.

Either the Prof. does not have a correction for the recognized flaw - in which case the ethical debate can be discarded or...
the Prof. is withholding his correction for the flaw until there is consensus for interpreting the debate as having a flaw he asserts.
The Prof. does not need consensus for his interpretation or the alleged flaw.
The Prof. either discards the debate as having an irreconcilable flaw or ....
hush1
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 30, 2011
...obligates himself to upholding a continued debate with a flaw corrected.

The Prof. offers neither a correction nor commits to discarding the debate. In short we are right back to a point where such a study had never been submitted.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (4) Sep 30, 2011
Oh darn, I just pushed the next Einstein in front of a train.
Not that simple.

What that particular dilemma represents, is an inevitable sacrifice of human life. By doing nothing (inaction), you effectively sacrifice the lives of 5 innocent people. Or you can act, and sacrifice the life of 1 innocent person instead. In that thought experiment, either way at least one life will be lost, no matter what you do. Depending on what you choose, more than one life could be lost, however.

And here, your rational brain comes into conflict with your emotional brain. In your gut, the act of physically pushing someone against their will in front of the train registers as much more of an overt act of murder. Your instinctual aversion to murder causes you in effect to massacre 5 people.

I don't know what these tests ever hoped to really measure. Interpretive ambiguity aside, real-life situations will evoke different responses compared to hypothetical mental exercises.
hush1
1.7 / 5 (6) Sep 30, 2011
Thks. Prof.
For nothing.
Nanobanano
1.5 / 5 (6) Sep 30, 2011
If you create a ridiculous enough scenario, you can probably make anyone seem to be evil.

The scenario of kill one innocent or stand by and watch 5 innocents die is an unfair scenario.

Now that I think of it, the "heros" on the 4th plane on 9/11 killed everyone on board the plane in order to save the white house. However, that isn't exactly the same scenario, because had they done nothing, perhaps ten times more people would have died.

If there are no good choices, then the only option is to either do nothing at all, or to do the lesser of two evils.

People will still find fault with you no matter which choice you make.

If you throw yourself in the path, you will be remembered as a hero, but will accomplish nothing, but adding another corpse to the tally, and in the end its' a useless gesture.

There is no right answer, because even the "self sacrificial" approach doesn't benefit anyone. Why die if it won't help anyone anyway?
xznofile
5 / 5 (1) Sep 30, 2011
I'm pretty sure moral dilemmas don't bother psychopaths or Machiavellians, they would (with any sense) just watch the process unfold. It would be a mistake to become involved by pushing the fat guy because everyone else would call it murder since nobody could prove after the fact that the others would have been killed. Accusations of murder limits many future options that a psycho-machiavellian with any sense of survival would grasp in an instant. Only if the situation were such that everyone on the platform could see that sacrificing the fat guy was absolutely necessary, & no murder charges would be brought, then any one could do it. (like maybe the 5 people included Ghandi, some super-models, & a few likable famous/rich guys (I can't name any offhand) who would naturally be grateful).
Nanobanano
1.5 / 5 (6) Sep 30, 2011
Only if the situation were such that everyone on the platform could see that sacrificing the fat guy was absolutely necessary, & no murder charges would be brought, then any one could do it. (like maybe the 5 people included Ghandi, some super-models, & a few likable famous/rich guys (I can't name any offhand) who would naturally be grateful).


Uh, so killing 1 to save 5 people is "justifiable" if they are desirables, VIPs, etc, but would be evil any other time. How very NAZI of you.

Pushing the guy to his death would be considered murder in the U.S. courts, or at the very least manslaughter.

The only thing that isn't legally a crime is standing there doing nothing.
PinkElephant
4.8 / 5 (5) Sep 30, 2011
@Nanobanano,
If you create a ridiculous enough scenario, you can probably make anyone seem to be evil.
This scenario, while ridiculous, is not as fantastical at its core as it might seem.

Commanders in war theaters routinely face such dilemmas: order a subordinate to sacrifice their life, so that other soldiers or civilians might be spared. You'd think that doesn't quite have the gut-punch emotional aspect since you're ordering someone to die vs. killing them with your own bare hands... But such decisions can haunt people for the rest of their lives.
Nanobanano
2.1 / 5 (7) Sep 30, 2011
"The needs of the few out weigh the needs of the many." - Kirk.

In the real world, you won't have perfect knowledge. You won't know exactly how many are in danger and you won't know the exact odds of success of any action.

Self sacrifice is a choice, but I don't think it is an obligation.

People should probably try to help even if they don't know the odds or don't know how many people, if any, can be saved.

It's a tragedy for a reason, unfortunately.
Nanobanano
2 / 5 (7) Sep 30, 2011
Pinkelephant:

Ordering a soldier who has sworn their allegiance to nation and unit to sacrifice their life is a bit different, since that was his/her free will.

PinkElephant
5 / 5 (5) Sep 30, 2011
a soldier who has sworn their allegiance to nation and unit to sacrifice their life is a bit different
What if that soldier is an involuntary conscript? What if that soldier is a potential future Einstein? What if it's not a soldier, but a police trooper or a firefighter? What if it's a triage situation in a disaster, and you have to choose between saving family A vs. family B but don't have time or resources to save both?

When the Allies cracked the Enigma code in WWII, Churchill and the Allies deliberately allowed many German attacks to succeed despite foreknowledge due to communications intercepts, so as to maintain the illusion amid the German ranks that Enigma was safe. Not just many soldiers, but also many civilians were sacrificed, to ostensibly save many more and win the war. Etc.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
You forfeit your entire discourse when targeting an unknown individual with one word.

Civilian first. Soldier second. And the allegiance is to a constitution. Nothing else. In theory.

A dilemma is a crisis.
"Never let a crisis go to waste." is pathological.
"The only way to help another is to diminished your success."
More pathology.

The closest we are allowed to view this discovered "flaw" is with the word "methods" - that fail. And better "methods" are needed.
The author's vagueness wreaks havoc with readers' wishes to understand and response rationally.

We have:
The set of moral dilemmas used.
The set of three personality scales.
The set of traits that many would believe immoral.

And finally:
The "flaw";
The use of sacrificial dilemmas to identify optimal moral judgment.

All this can not distinguish between good and bad.
The "flaw" is not the usage.
The "flaw" are the words use in the sets.

"for exact understanding exact language is necessary."

And the commentary...

hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
... reflect the vagueness of the words used in all sets.

With speculation for example over who the five people are: Rich, poor, fat, old, sex, creed, race, blind, etc., etc.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
My comments address Nano first. Others are not addressed directly.
hush1
1 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2011
Send me my check, Prof. The ethical debate is resolved - with exact wording.
hard2grep
1 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
beep,beep!
ShotmanMaslo
3.5 / 5 (2) Oct 01, 2011
The above scenario is a stupid one. The right action is to do nothing.

As you don't know enough about the five person that might be kill by the run away train. Thus you don't have enough information to make a judgement if the life of the 5 persons is better than your life or the larger person next to you.


Even according to this logic, the right action is to push the guy in front of the train, because until we have some evidence that the guy is a good man and those five people are criminals, we need to treat them equally. Not knowing what kind of people they are does not imply that right action is to do nothing.
RobertKarlStonjek
4.5 / 5 (2) Oct 01, 2011
1/2
There is a second variable which is not even considered here ~ how do you know that the people will be killed if you do nothing and how do you know if the action of killing the innocent bystander will prevent the deaths and third, how do you know if it does turn out the way you expected that you are going to be able to convince the authorities that the murder you perpetrated was justified?

The degree to which we trust our own judgement or the degree to which we trust the advice from others (who may have informed us that the deaths were inevitable) is at least as much of a determinant as the action plan we choose.

But what would we consider to be the most secure and trustworthy source of information possible? The head of the USA's primary intelligence gathering body who had the support of intelligence agencies world wide?? We saw that this agency thought that WMDs in Iraq was a 'slam dunk' but were wrong.
RobertKarlStonjek
4 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
2/2
If the intelligence upon which you based your decision was wrong, eg the people were not really in danger at all or pushing the guy onto the tracks would have derailed the trolley and killed everyone, then potential accident may well become a murder trial, yours, for the six deaths you caused.

Does nobody else see the elephant in the room? The only logical, ethical and moral decision is to do nothing as there is no possible authority anywhere in the world that could possibly have sufficient information with sufficient surety to validate any other action.

How did the experimenters insure that only the variables given were considered by participants ie that they blindly accepted that there could be a condition in which only the evaluation of one against five deaths need be considered an no thought was given to the of real situation, consequences of actions when the police arrive, getting involved, murder of an innocent bystander who chose not to volunteer, surety of information.et
Sigh
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 01, 2011
The only logical, ethical and moral decision is to do nothing as there is no possible authority anywhere in the world that could possibly have sufficient information with sufficient surety to validate any other action.

What would you consider "sufficient surety"? If you demand certainty, you will never act on any empirical information, because all empirical information is subject to measurement error. But if you want to set a criterion less demanding than perfect knowledge, can you avoid getting right back to a utilitarian calculation?

I don't see how you can make your position logically consistent. Would you elaborate?
Sigh
5 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2011
One more thing: doing nothing is also a choice, which has consequences. Would you argue that you are not responsible for those consequences? If, on the other hand, you are responsible, why should doing nothing have the privileged position of being the only justified choice in the face of uncertainty?
Isaacsname
3 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
First off, how the hell does a trolley have a high-speed accident, is it the trolley 'O death ?

..idk...seems that such a limited range of choice of action is completely unrealistic...why is the person constrained to pushing another into the tracks, what would be the interpetation of the study if I just grabbed you and flung us both into the path of the trolley ? We'd equally have a chance at survival, passengers included.

etc, etc.
bluehigh
1 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
Do whatever it takes. Just ensure the train/trolley is not damaged.

ubavontuba
1 / 5 (2) Oct 01, 2011
It's the Kobayashi Maru.

Cheat. Change the circumstances.

http://en.wikiped...shi_Maru

Brian Macker
3 / 5 (2) Oct 01, 2011
Just yell, "watch out", and hope for the best. Why push the guy who is intelligent enough not to loiter on train tracks to save five idiots who aren't?

Except if you are a utilitarian then you should dive onto the tracks yourself because you are useless. Doesn't matter if the it stops the cart or not.
Brian Macker
3 / 5 (2) Oct 01, 2011
These philosophers seem to think thatthe evil guy in the Saw movies is just doing philosophical experiments to get to the true nature of morality.

The fact of the matter is that morality depends on reciprocity and there are situations where no reciprocity is possible. They are not situations in which a moral outcome is possible.
freethinking
1 / 5 (5) Oct 01, 2011
A conservative would say, the 5 people who got on the trolley made that decision, and the guy standing by the track shouldnt be punished for the actions of the 5.
A progressive would say, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and will deliberately kill the one to possibly save many.
A progressive says take from someone who has, as long as it isnt them, and give it to someone who has not, in hopes of making everyone even. A conservative tries to help the one who has nothing without taking from someone else who has.
A progressive will stop free speech if it will stop speech they hate, a conservative will protect free speech and attempt to reason with those they disagree.
A progressive will force parents to vaccinate or give blood transfusions to save just one child thereby removing all parents rights, conservatives will allow parents to be wrong and suffer the consequences however all parents rights are preserved.
Progressives debate the value of a persons life, a c
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2011
"A progressive will force parents to vaccinate or give blood transfusions to save just one child thereby removing all parents rights, conservatives will allow parents to be wrong and suffer the consequences however all parents rights are preserved."

Parents will not suffer the consequences of such a stupid conservative decision. Innocent children will.
freethinking
1 / 5 (5) Oct 01, 2011
When government takes away the right of parents to do what they think is in the best interest of the child to save just one child, parents lose all rights to determine how to raise their children.

The death of your child, due to you being too stupid to allow a blood tranfusion, does not affect me or my family. Government removing right of parents to do what they feel is right and in the best interest of their child, affects every family.

If both parents agree, then the government has no right to determine what medical treatment a child should or should not have.
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2011
"When government takes away the right of parents to do what they think is in the best interest of the child to save just one child, parents lose all rights to determine how to raise their children."

Non sequitur.

"The death of your child, due to you being too stupid to allow a blood tranfusion, does not affect me or my family. Government removing right of parents to do what they feel is right and in the best interest of their child, affects every family."

So child abuse is OK if parents do it?

Child is a person with full human rights, including right to protection of life and health. If parents do not respect human rights of the child, its child abuse, and the state should intervene.

I think you are just a troll, noone could seriously think that parents should have a right to do anything with their children..
freethinking
1 / 5 (5) Oct 01, 2011
Progressive thinking: Because of the real threat of child abduction, the government is mandating that every child born will be tattooed with an identification mark and an implantable microchip surgically implanted at birth so that if the child is abducted or lost, they can be found. Why would any loving parent object? Dont you want to be able to identify and find your child if they are lost and abducted? If this saves just one child, this program would be successful. Only abusive parents would object. Itll give worried parents peace of mind.

If you agree government can force a blood transfusion, but disagree with the government implementing this program, please tell me why one is ok and the other isnt?
freethinking
1 / 5 (4) Oct 01, 2011
I never said a parent has a right to do anything to a child.

If a parent directly causes harm to a child, not providing food/water, breaking bones, stabbing them, killing them, then the government has a right and duty to step in. Letting nature take its course and refusing medical treatment, even if I disagree with it, is not abuse.

Also I stated, if parents have the best interest of the child at heart.

Would you like it if I controlled government and forced you to raise your child the way I think you should? I guess not. Let everyone try not to be a Hypocrite.
freethinking
1 / 5 (2) Oct 01, 2011
Watched this video earlier today about abortion.

http://www.youtub...=related

Since I'm against killing unborn babies, how do I reconcile my belief in parents rights and not be a hypocite? Shouldn't a parent be able to kill a unborn baby who is defective or unwanted?

I think my belief is consistant because I believe that a parent cannot actively harm their child. After the child is born, a parent can give up their baby if they don't want him or her, or if the baby is sick (and both parents agree and want what is in the best interest of their child) withhold medical treatment to prolong the childs life. (If you want to withhold treatment just because you don't want the child or want to cause the child to suffer or just to kill the child, I think government has a right to step in)
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (4) Oct 01, 2011
A conservative would say, the 5 people who got on the trolley made that decision
How would "a conservative" know that? Or is that just another blind assumption in an attempt to rationalize the act of standing by and watching them die? Is this an attempt to "solve" the problem by pretending it doesn't exist at all?
A progressive will stop free speech if it will stop speech they hate
Your definition of "progressive" is very strange, indeed. But then, so is your definition of "conservative".
conservatives will allow parents to be wrong and suffer the consequences
But the correct phrasing would have been as follows: "FREETHINKING will allow parents to be wrong and FOR CHILDREN TO suffer the consequences". There, fixed it for ya.
The death of your child, due to you being too stupid to allow a blood tranfusion, does not affect me or my family.
Unless those were your stupid parents, and you're the dead child.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (4) Oct 01, 2011
Government removing right of parents to do what they feel is right and in the best interest of their child, affects every family.
How do you feel about a parent's right to have sex with their child, or to trade their child (temporarily, of course) for another child to have sex with? How do you feel about a parent's right to drown her children in a bathtub, to "save" them from growing up in the corrupt and evil world? Reason I ask, is because those are real-world scenarios that had been in the news recently...
If both parents agree, then the government has no right to determine what medical treatment a child should or should not have.
What about the child: should anyone bother to ask them whether they want to live or die? Or do the parents also have the right to keep their child prisoner until it's dead? Are children the PROPERTY of their parents, to DISPOSE WITH as the parents wish?
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2011
tattooed with an identification mark and an implantable microchip surgically implanted at birth so that if the child is abducted or lost, they can be found.
The first thing any abductor would do, is slice off the tattoo and cut out the microchip. These won't be very effective measures, IOW. But I'll give you credit for a not-so-imaginative "mark of the beast" proposal. Keep on dreaming.
If you agree government can force a blood transfusion, but disagree with the government implementing this program, please tell me why one is ok and the other isnt?
One is an act of actively refusing to save a life when the means to do so are immediately available. The other is a preventative or prophylactic measure, foregoing which does not immediately lead to any loss of life.
If a parent directly causes harm to a child, not providing food/water ...
How is not providing food/water fundamentally different from not providing critically needed medicine?
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (4) Oct 01, 2011
Letting nature take its course and refusing medical treatment, even if I disagree with it, is not abuse.
So, when an extreme preemie baby is delivered, it is perfectly fine with you if the parents refuse medical services and let the baby die. Strange position, given your stance on abortion...
Also I stated, if parents have the best interest of the child at heart.
Yes, some parents would indeed say it's best for their child to have sexual experiences as early in life as possible.
Would you like it if I controlled government and forced you to raise your child the way I think you should? I guess not.
That depends. Would you impose rules that are objectively fair and neutral, or would you try to impose your subjective and irrational religious beliefs?
Since I'm against killing unborn babies...
But you're OK with killing them once they're born: "The death of your child, due to you being too stupid to allow a blood tranfusion, does not affect me or my family."
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (3) Oct 01, 2011
I believe that a parent cannot actively harm their child.
Is withholding of food and water an active harm, or a passive harm? Is neglect an active behavioral pattern? What about withholding of medical care?
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
@free
We can not help you. Even Prof. "Flaw" points out there is a flaw. And no one can logically disagree with him and remain consistent.
Prof. "Flaw" is for 'new' "methods", new sets, because the existing "methods" or sets fail their purpose:
To resolve the ethical debate.

Prof. "Flaw" believes the "flaw" to be:
"The use of sacrificial dilemmas to identify optimal moral judgment."

I told Prof. "Flaw" if you want "to identify optimal moral judgment" he must use exact language. And any methods or sets not using exact language will be flawed, regardless how well any methods and/or sets are written.

Where is my goddamn check, Prof. "Flaw"?
The ethical debate is resolved - with exact wording and language.

He is being told to use exact wording and language "to identify optimal moral judgment" and to forget the efforts of old and/or new "methods" and/or "sets".

I refuse to provide that exact language. Why?
cont...
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
Because Prof "Flaw" is flawed. All humans fall short. No human can assure me that once they in a position "to identify optimal moral judgment" there will be abuse on their part.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 01, 2011
"...there will be NO abuse on their part."

CAPS marks typo correction.
hunter3
5 / 5 (4) Oct 01, 2011
The question is flawed; it's asking you to commit what would be legally murder, so it's small wonder that psychopaths would favor that choice.

A more neutral question would be:
You are standing next to a switch that can change a train's tracks. A runaway train is hurtling towards five people, but if you move the switch, the train will instead head towards one person. No one is aware the train is coming, and no one will be aware of your decision.

Psychology is a "soft" science, it's difficult to get any useful, objective conclusions from these studies.
Kris Kringle
3 / 5 (2) Oct 02, 2011
The questions are flawed. As a psychopath if I saw five people about to die by a runaway trolley I'd stand back and watch the fun about to happen. Why kill one when five dead AND a runaway train is a lot more interesting.

Sounds like someone should interview a few psychopaths first before making up questions that don't really measure our mindsets. There was no "moral" dilemma in the question because we don't have morals so to speak.
Kris Kringle
not rated yet Oct 02, 2011
After reviewing the comments it's no wonder psychopaths blend so easily into society. We just have to copy the stupidity of those around us.

Everyone is concerned about morality and ethical dilemmas and several are even trying to figure out how to word the questions so we are more easily identified.

How wrong you all are. You so called "normal" people with all your problems caused by the rules forced upon you by a flawed society are going to die early worrying about everything.

Why should someone 3000 years ago write down a rule and make all of us live by it? Why should Emily Post's rules of etiquette be revered and followed by millions today? She was an uneducated housewife over 100 years ago who said burping at the table was bad manners. I believe Emily Post had bad manners telling me how to live!

Live your life as you wish and stop worrying about the unwritten rules of society around you. You will be a lot happier and live longer.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 02, 2011
I agree.
http://en.wikiped...ki/Chaff

"Separating the loose chaff from the grain is called winnowing traditionally done by tossing grain up into lightly blowing wind, dividing it from the lighter chaff, which is blown aside."

chaff=words
grain=meaning
wind=psychology

Tragically, Daniel Bartels and David Pizarro died, using the wind they passed that did not separate what they ingested.

Proof? Hunter3 is still alive.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 02, 2011
@Kris
You are winnowing - passing wind. Your 'Kost' indigestible.
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (2) Oct 02, 2011
Freethinkings position is logically inconsistent - he is not OK with parents causing PASSIVE harm done by not providing food, but he is OK with equally PASSIVE harm done by witholding necessary treatment.

Children have a right to medical care, as they have a right to food and water.
Cin5456
3 / 5 (1) Oct 02, 2011
I think the psychopath would push the one person onto the tracks regardless of whether it would save anyone. An opportunity to commit mayhem is just another opportunity to get their jollies.

From personal experience with a psychopath, I learned that there is no logic to their actions. Their internal communication with themselves is flawed. Attack equals a position of power. Passiveness equals a rube who can be exploited to their psychopathic purposes. And this includes children of their own who can be used as if they were inanimate objects of sexual expression. Any interference in a psychopath's purpose is "evil" and "a reason to act in self-interest."

I've known a whole set of psychopaths who were dumped on the streets when government programs were discontinued. Some were passive enough when on medication. But none of them were logically coherent when unmedicated. Uncontrollable rage resulted in every one of them that lived in the small mountain town where they were dumped.
Cin5456
4 / 5 (1) Oct 02, 2011
"Sounds like someone should interview a few psychopaths first before making up questions that don't really measure our mindsets. There was no "moral" dilemma in the question because we don't have morals so to speak."

Kris, I agree, except for the last statement. We do have morals, and our judgements are based on the morals we are raised with, or the morals we are indoctrinated to believe.

Some Middle Eastern countries promote the belief that girl children are subpar, and deserving of mutilation or "trade." Is it morally right? No.

Some religions teach that it is morally wrong to medically treat their children. Does thier religious convition make them morrally right? No. But they get away with it anyway.

I think the more advanced a culture is, the more likely they will reason out better moral beliefs, and attempt to enforce them on criminals and amorals. But some people will still let children die, even in advanced cultures. There is no real cure for religious fanatacism.
Cin5456
not rated yet Oct 02, 2011
Civilian first. Soldier second. And the allegiance is to a constitution. Nothing else. In theory.

Personal allegiance is probably with fellow soldiers in his/her unit first, and to a higher authority second. But higher authority can force an override involuntary sacrifice keeps a soldier at his insecure post regardless of expected outcome, such as irreparable damage to the body or certain death.

They keep putting one foot in front of another, one confident step at a time, regardless of the IEDs they know are deployed.

Was it free will that put them in harms way? Perhaps to the extent that they believe in their potential for survival, and that their free will in the execution of their duty can keep them safe. It was not free will that set them on that foreign road. A higher authority ordered where and how they participate.

They must do their duty, though, because they are the bastion against anarchy in the world. The constitution doesnt figure in his daily duty.
Cin5456
not rated yet Oct 02, 2011
Civilian first. Soldier second. And the allegiance is to a constitution. Nothing else. In theory.

Personal allegiance is probably with fellow soldiers in his/her unit first, and to a higher authority second. But higher authority can force an override involuntary sacrifice keeps a soldier at his insecure post regardless of expected outcome, such as irreparable damage to the body or certain death.

They keep putting one foot in front of another, one confident step at a time, regardless of IEDs they know are deployed.

Was it free will that put them in harms way? Perhaps to the extent that they believe in their potential for survival, and that their free will in the execution of their duty can keep them safe. It was not free will that set them on that foreign road. A higher authority ordered where and how they participate.

They must do their duty, though, because they are the bastion against anarchy in the world. The constitution doesnt figure in his daily allegiance.
stummies
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
Personally, it would be immoral to sacrifice another against their will. I do not have a special responsibility to any of these people except to not cause them harm. The 5 to be killed by the trolley are in an unfortunate scenario which I have no ability to assist. Why would saving more people be moral? I do not know any of the people, I am in no position to decide what kind of people they are or if they deserve it. Even if I did know this, I am not afforded the right to lay judgement on others. It doesn't matter if the 1 person is an escaped convict and the 5 are children, this decision is not mine to make. The only person that could make this sacrifice is the person that can change the outcome themselves.

If I could sacrifice myself to save the 5 I would. If I could place all of my worldly possessions in front of the trolley to stop it I would. This experiment fails to reach the conclusion they desired because they never identified what the moral answer is.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
@stummies,

Would your reasoning change if instead of 5 people slated to die, there were 50? 500? 5000? 5 million? 5 billion? The entire human race except for you and the fat guy? Are you saying that under NO circumstances would you ever move a finger?

I find that hard to believe. Probably, each of us has some threshold where we'd push the fat guy over.
stummies
1 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
@PinkElephant

It still is not my choice to make, it is up to the fat guy to make that choice, it is HIS moral dilemma not mine. It comes to responsibility, I have none in this case. Why is the logical conclusion to sacrifice the other person, how would that be my fault if he didn't make that choice?

I already said if I had the means to alter the outcome I would. The fat guy however does, maybe he should be asked this question?
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
Well, let's say the fat guy is a chickenshit coward and refuses to sacrifice himself. Then what? Let the whole human race die when you could've prevented it (and become a murderer in the process)? Would becoming a murderer for the sake of saving so many people, not also be a form of self-sacrifice -- particularly when you find the act itself so repugnant to begin with? In other words, is your own perceived "moral purity" worth the sacrifice of all those other lives? Are you THAT much of an egotist?
stummies
1 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
Ok, you're creating straw man arguments, you're missing the point. This is a hypothetical scenario with an uncommon amount of foresight. You can't expect to gauge a persons moral compass on a situation like this because it's impossible. How do I know all of these things, and why don't the other people too? How can a fat man stop a trolley that must be traveling at a lethal speed? Work with what's in the article, you are taking an impossible situation and making it even more impossible.

In real life, I wouldn't know these things and can't imagine any scenario where through deduction I would determine shoving a fat man in front of the trolley was the right thing to do or would even help the situation. The only way I can answer this is to imagine myself in this situation, once you ask a person to suspend logic to come to a conclusion you've tainted your experiment.

I won't entertain your proposed scenario since it's just as ridiculous.
lairdwilcox
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
I smell the creation of another stereotype, i.e., individuals who resort to utilitarian logic are really secret Machiavellians and psychopaths. This is an unfounded generalization and I suspect that it serves -- as it was quite possibly intended intended -- to stigmatize and marginalize anyone who makes a utilitarian argument.

Utilitarian arguments have a reasonable place in discourse on any number of subjects. They need to be taken for what they are and explained by rational analysis, not dismissed by this kind of name-calling.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
@stummies,

In other words, you refuse to actually answer the question because you're too scared of the answer. Coward.

The point of thought experiments is not realism, but to illuminate some aspect of reality that would be difficult to measure otherwise. For instance, Einstein's thought experiments involving an observer moving at the speed of light, are actually unachievable in practice -- but they allowed him to gain a deeper understanding of the problem, and ultimately to derive his theory.

You are given conditions describing the experimental setup. It is not your job to question and waffle about hypotheticals. Your job is to take in the conditions, and act (or not act.) Period, full stop, end of story. Thanks for playing.

Yes, the particular dilemma in question actually IS a poor example, because those who are not too cowardly to make the choice, will do so for all sorts of different reasons. Which is the main point of the study described above, actually.
stummies
1 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
When Einstein did his work, he worked with the evidence he had available to him. His conclusion still needs to account for all of it, regardless of how he got there. I am not afraid to answer the question proposed in the article, I have several times now. Your question is not relevant to the article, which I originally commented on.

The only way for someone to make a moral choice is on their subjective view on the world. What this experiment asks is suspension of reality on how the world works. It doesn't matter what I answer to this, it proves nothing morally. Wasn't that the whole point?

Thought experiments are good to do, but to expect some revelation from this question is a stretch. A persons answer to this question is unreliable at best. It's not even worth mentioning some kind of connection to Machiavellians and psychopaths since their experiment is fundamentally flawed.

Why is it hard to present a realistic scenario?
rsklyar
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
Plagiarism in a "family" style
How young ambitious capoes and soldiers from Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) under supervision of a decrepit american don-godfather from Northwestern University are successfully completed their sequential plagiaristic enterprise: http://issuu.com/...saivaldi
kochevnik
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 03, 2011
Since I'm against killing unborn babies
There is no such thing as an unborn baby. Either it's a fetus, unable to live without parasitizing a host, or it's a baby. Just as there are no freethinkers who believe in worshiping an imaginary dead zombie Jew.
kochevnik
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 03, 2011
A conservative would say, the 5 people who got on the trolley made that decision, and the guy standing by the track shouldnt be punished for the actions of the 5.
A progressive would say, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and will deliberately kill the one to possibly save many.
If by "progressive" you mean liberal, you have that exactly backwards. A liberal would acknowledge your free choice to decide your own actions, while a conservative would incarcerate you for causing the loss of five servants to your king Bush, and bill your family for the loss. This is no different than the Dark Ages when the accused was burned for heresy, and the family billed for the executioner's services, court fees and kindling. You don't seem very qualified to live in your own republic. A conservative might suggest that you be deported.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
Well, there you have it, Dan&Dave. A flaw. Total agreement among the commentators. Pinpoint it. Correct or alleviate it.

The Trekkis want virtual reality to decide.
Realistically, language, any language is at your disposal. An ungrateful job to weed out flaws in a language to serve your purpose.

All Trekkis are naively wrong. Having an indistinguishable reality pass judgement to "identify optimal moral judgment".

What is your goal, Dan/Dave? Finding everyone's "threshold"(Kudos PE to all responses) and mold the world according to a label defined as threshold?

Forget the check. Submit a study worth correcting.


_nigmatic10
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
In the example question listed in the above article, the idea that pushing one in harms way to save 5 presents an error in judgement at a basic level by assuming the person being questioned has already reached an abject position to be as the ultimate judge over who lives and who dies, when the respect for life begins with the conservation away from such judgments in the first place.

To take it a step further, who is to say the one sacrificed wouldn't have saved many more through direct intervention on their part?

In short, don't borrow trouble.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
In short, don't borrow trouble. - n10

As in DADT. Short lived. Short sighted. In short, falls short.
RobertKarlStonjek
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
1/2
@Sigh
Can you elaborate


No authority can provide sufficiently reliable surety to vindicate murder. Chances are that although this person thought that five people are about to die he/she was simply mistaken if evaluating the conditions from visual information alone.

When one is acting on behalf of an agency then that agency is taking responsibility for the actions you do on its behalf eg as a soldier, as an agent working for a government and so on.

But this person is taking full responsibility, that is what is being tested. So where does this person get sufficient surety to murder? How does this person know that the fat guy will stop the trolley but he wouldn't eg why would fat people answering the question think it is OK to volunteer the life of another instead of the self? Is the fat guy equally convinced that his sacrifice is justified?
RobertKarlStonjek
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
2/2
Think about why no first world country (apart from the USA) has the death penalty. Most agree that some people deserve it, but most also agree that despite the elaborate court proceedings, incontrovertible evidence, eye witness accounts and the considered opinion of twelve impartial peers, we still occasionally get it wrong and innocent people are murdered by the state in the USA.

Doing nothing is also a choice...


This is an entirely false premise. If you do something then you are taking responsibility for the result, if you do nothing then you are free of blame or responsibility. If you are in a position of responsibility, say you are responsible for the outcome eg you own the trolley, then that is a different case. But we are talking about a bystander interfering with other's property.
RobertKarlStonjek
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
3/2
That is why police keep the public so far back from crime scenes, fires, sieges etc : the average Joe's evaluation of the situation is inevitably wrong and their actions consistently counterproductive.

Perhaps there may be a case if the observer is an engineer with intimate knowledge of that trolley...
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
if you do nothing then you are free of blame or responsibility
Not true. Lots of nations have "good Samaritan" laws that obligate able bystanders to help those in obvious danger of injury or loss of life. Failure to act in such cases is usually tantamount to manslaughter (the lowest degree of murder) in legal terms.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Oct 04, 2011
Regressing to a point in an attempt to show what the authors are up against:

Mr. Wittgenstein reminds us once again:
The limits to/of your worlds are the limits of your languages.

The limits to your languages and worlds is limited to the associations associated with each and every word you are aware of and unaware of.

Your senses provide 'languages' as well, without spoken or written languages. None of the impressions delivered to you through your senses needs written or spoken languages as a label for you to distinguished differences.

And finally, the label for all of the above is called:
associations.

The numberless associations create what is called, named and labeled meaning for humans.

Dan&Dave are in search for meaning. Each unique combination of associations has meaning. And when Dan&Dave undercover the right meaning to each and every infinite set of associations:
Call me.
Nanobanano
1 / 5 (2) Oct 06, 2011
if you do nothing then you are free of blame or responsibility
Not true. Lots of nations have "good Samaritan" laws that obligate able bystanders to help those in obvious danger of injury or loss of life. Failure to act in such cases is usually tantamount to manslaughter (the lowest degree of murder) in legal terms.


No, you've got it backwards.

The "good samaritan" laws protect an innocent bystander who DOES act from being sued if something goes wrong.

In the past, a nurse who saw an accident with injury might not help, for fear that the family or the victim would sue her if something went wrong.

And the parable of the Good Samaritan comes from Jesus in the Bible.

If you want to use his standard, then "to know to do good and do it not is sin," which is an admittedly impossible standard, because by that definition all people would be required to donate all their organs to the sick people, and within a few days every healthy person would be dead...
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (2) Oct 07, 2011
"If you want to use his standard, then "to know to do good and do it not is sin," which is an admittedly impossible standard, because by that definition all people would be required to donate all their organs to the sick people, and within a few days every healthy person would be dead..."

Nope, you are obliged to help others in dangerous situation only if it does not endanger or harm you, so thats a strawman.