The Trolley Problem from Jeremy Stangroom

Jeremy Stangroom posted  a link on philosop-l to his site, where he has given 4 problems interactive electronic versions.  I’m using a link here to all 4 problems, but I’ve only looked at the trolley problem.  It seems to me very well done, but that’s not quite what we’re going on to look at.

We’ve had some worries about the trolley problem before, but there’s a discussion of it on philosop-l that draws our attention to a problem we haven’t discussed; Ron Anumdson raises the  issue, which is this:  In one version of the problem, the options are to push a fat man from the bridge or not.  Should we find thatoffensive?

And if it is offensive, just why is it offensive?  One thing that may strike one about the discussion on philosop-l is that the critical terms are not very precise, to say the least.  Most of it is in the terms Anumdson introduces:  does it contain a sub-text that  fat people are not as valuable as others?  Eventually Rob Helpy-Chalk does introduce the idea that intentionally or not it could hurt someone’s feelings.  Everyone is aware that the individual has to be very large, and someone suggests making him a football player.

I confess that the reference to the fat person seems to be really unfortunate.  Does it to you?  What do you think is bad about it? 

My own sense is that the problem is linked to the problems involved in using terms for diabilities in similar contexts.  That would perhaps mean that it reinforces the way we let a person’s weight take over their whole identity, and it presents the person as simply a cog in a problem.  We mightn’t mind letting a reference to a football player just signal a cog in a problem, because they do not have trouble, generally speaking, with being discriminated against here, there, and everywhere.

Or is it something else?  Or nothing at all?   Let us know  your opinion.

Let Constance take her girlfriend to the prom

In case you’ve missed it, a Mississippi school canceled its prom after a student, Constance asked if she could bring her girlfriend. It seems the letter she got the ACLU to write in her support convinced the school that they couldn’t legally ban same-sex couples. And since keeping out the lesbians was far more important than anything else, they canceled the prom.

You can support Constance and the ACLU by joining the Facebook Group Let Constance Take Her Girlfriend to the Prom.