We haven’t been that enamored of the trolley problem as a model of human moral reasoning. Nonetheless, I did want to bring back from SF a picture of an actual trolley.
And also to report that though Philippa Foot was the inventor of the problem, her presumptive intellectual heir, Michael Thompson (Pitt), was saying at the Pacific APA conference that she meant it to illustrate a technical problem, and not be a paradigm of moral reasoning. (That is also what my memory suggessts.)
Thompson had in fact some quite cutting remarks about philosophical discussions of the trolley problem. To switch to the version most recently discussed on this blog (see link above), he would say “In this case, push the fat man over,” completely fails as a example of moral advice. To say that he was not very clear about why it was such a failure would be an understatement, I would expect most people there to agree. He remarked that it was failure because we are not told who is address. People in New York City? Americans? or who?
I suspect that what he meant is that what makes some issue about a problem a moral issue was completely lacking. And I’d conjecture that is because what puts something in the moral domain has to do with human excellences (virtues), human practices, and so on.
If that’s right, then we might say that the dog (or cat) who wakes you up to get you out of a burning building may do something wonderful, but it is not moral. Animals’ lives don’t contain the sitting needed for genuinely moral behavior, even though they may do something in order to save a life.
Someone who knows his thought better, might be able to add in here. Or someone who stayed to the bitter end might have gotten more. If you can add anything, please do!
In the meantime, I will wonder how Michael Thompson came to look and act so like Elizabeth Anscombe, down to the contempt for questioners. There were, I should insist, some elements of his reactions which, however tempted she may have been, I never saw her exhibit. She was English, after all.