Philosophical Psychology 24 (1):73-94 (2011)

Bryce Huebner
Georgetown University
Altruistic self-sacrifice is rare, supererogatory, and not to be expected of any rational agent; but, the possibility of giving up one's life for the common good has played an important role in moral theorizing. For example, Judith Jarvis Thomson (2008) has argued in a recent paper that intuitions about altruistic self-sacrifice suggest that something has gone wrong in philosophical debates over the trolley problem. We begin by showing that her arguments face a series of significant philosophical objections; however, our project is as much constructive as critical. Building on Thomson's philosophical argument, we report the results of a study that was designed to examine commonsense intuitions about altruistic self-sacrifice. We find that a surprisingly high proportion of people judge that they should give up their lives to save a small number of unknown strangers. We also find that the willingness to engage in such altruistic self-sacrifice is predicted by a person's religious commitments. Finally, we show that folk-moral judgments are sensitive to agent-relative reasons in a way that diverges in important ways from Thomson's proposed intuitions about the trolley problem. With this in mind, we close with a discussion of the relative merits of folk intuitions and philosophical intuitions in constructing a viable moral theory.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/09515089.2010.534447
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 50,287
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
The View From Nowhere.Thomas Nagel - 1986 - Oxford University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.

View all 23 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Mindlessness.Ezio Di Nucci - 2013 - Cambridge Scholars Press.
Self-Sacrifice and the Trolley Problem.Ezio Di Nucci - 2013 - Philosophical Psychology 26 (5):662-672.
Empathy and the Limits of Thought Experiments.Erick Ramirez - 2017 - Metaphilosophy 48 (4):504-526.
Trolleys and Double Effect in Experimental Ethics.Ezio Di Nucci - forthcoming - In Christoph Luetge, Hannes Rusch & Matthias Uhl (eds.), Experimental Ethics. Palgrave-Macmillan.

View all 10 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Self-Sacrifice and the Trolley Problem.Ezio Di Nucci - 2013 - Philosophical Psychology 26 (5):662-672.
Seemingly Semantic Intuitions.Kent Bach - 2002 - In Joseph K. Campbell, Michael O'Rourke & David Shier (eds.), Meaning and Truth - Investigations in Philosophical Semantics. Seven Bridges Press. pp. 21--33.
Person as Scientist, Person as Moralist.Joshua Knobe - 2010 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33 (4):315.
Folk Concepts and Intuitions: From Philosophy to Cognitive Science.Shaun Nichols - 2004 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 8 (11):514-518.
Folk Psychology and Folk Morality: Response to Critics.Joshua Knobe - 2004 - Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 24 (2):270-279.


Added to PP index

Total views
108 ( #83,481 of 2,325,694 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #293,124 of 2,325,694 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes