What We May Learn from Michael's Solution to the Trolley Problem

In Kimberly S. Engels (ed.), The Good Place and Philosophy. Wiley. pp. 87-96 (2020-08-27)
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Introduced by the British philosopher Philippa Foot, the trolley problem asks us to imagine a runaway trolley heading toward five unfortunate workmen. They can only be saved from being crushed and killed if the trolley is diverted to a side track, occupied by a sixth unfortunate workman who would meet the same fate. For the early Michael, a demon torturer and architect of the human afterlife, the 'problem' here is how we could manage to kill all six workmen. But, in line with what may be The Good Place's most dominant moral theme, even an immortal demon torturer can learn human ethics. After he has learned what it means to face a moral dilemma, Michael claims to have solved the (real) trolley problem: you should sacrifice yourself. Although self-sacrifice is not an available option in the set up of the original trolley problem, this article argues that self-sacrifice might still have normative implications for our judgements about different kinds of trolley cases.



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Andreas Bruns
University of Heidelberg

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