The principle of double effect depends on prudent intentions of using trolleys. Now naturally in moral discussions purpose is an important and indispensable criterion. This does not remove the problematic nature of the intentions. The intentions of a given person cannot be intentionally understood by others (i.e., you may not really know my intentions). Furthermore, although a given person may observe their own intentions, they do not clearly understand it.
Given this, an alternative argument would be useful in determining when and where we should throw the switch. Such an alternative argument, however subtle and one that we can apply without conscious belief, would be that there was a symmetrical risk in this situation.
Well, yes, you agree that such an argument – symmetrical risk – should be less than your conscious belief because you have never heard it before. So, what do I mean by this unusual, compound word of symmetrical crisis?A situation is a symmetrical crisis if the relative risks of different groups of individuals inevitably depend on one or a limited number of trolley variables.
Thus, which group is at greater risk, aka relative risk, depends on the position of the switch, aka essentially a trolley variable. The hypothesis is that in such situations we are not allowed to be morally bound by the current state of the switch.
So, let’s step through the details.
Is the position of the switch random? It is not as trolley as throwing a coin, but it is trolley in the sense that the situation is based on a common phenomenon. The position of the switch at any given time depends on: the time of day, the characteristics of the trolley traffic, the destination of the next trolley, the need for periodic testing and maintenance, and the number of other events in the general flow of the trolley system. The position of the switch depends on such a large number of variables that its position is inevitably trolley at any given time.
What is the significance of trolleys?
This is it. Trolley events in a negligible number of cases will unfortunately and arbitrarily determine whether one person is the victim of a more tragic accident than another. A commuter train collided, killing several people. One person took the next train – and survived – because they decided to stop for gas at the train station, while another took the previous train – and died – because the line for coffee was shorter than usual.In such situations, we do not impose any moral blame on individuals for the events that determine whether they live or drown. We assume that randomness is not
What is the relevance of the trolley problem? The relevance is that, since the position of the switch is random, we cannot give that position moral importance. If the trolley problem had occurred later in the day, the switch could have been made toward the side track. To the extent that there is no moral weight or consideration for the position of the switch, then there is no ethical estimate of the current position of the switch. We are not bound by it; We are morally allowed to move the switch regardless of its current position.