Deontologists vs Utilitarianists

Posted by Beetle B. on Sun 02 October 2016

Utilitarianism (save the most lives) vs Deontologism (cannot impinge on individual rights - even to save many lives).

Both claim their philosophies are based on careful reasoning.

Trolley study. Two variants:

  1. Push someone in the path of a train to save 5 lives (direct)
  2. Use a switch to direct the train to kill one instead of 5 (indirect)

The actual study had many stories (not just trolley ones). Half involved direct harm. The others had indirect harm.

fMRI was used to compare responses. Pushing someone clearly had more “gut” emotions. The strength of emotion correlated with the response (immoral vs not). The author strongly believes that deontologists feel the way they do not because of deep reason, but because of this gut response. The elephant is influencing the rider.

Ethics is strongly tied to biology and not just to reason. Wilson seemed correct, and Kohlberg seemed wrong.

tags : trm, morality, Haidt