Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mr. Kitching

Hi everyone,
What a fascinating programme! I was struck very particularly by one of the 8-year-old girls interviewed at just after 17 minutes on the first podcast. She said, in response to the “transplant problem”:
“I think that you should do it, but it’s not right, but… it’s right at the same time...”
Listen and think about the situation with which she was presented – I think actually she gave a rather a smart answer. What do you think she was trying to say?


  1. I also agree that this is a smart answer, because she looks at both sides to the situation, in terms of the fact that it is right and wrong at the same time. I think she was trying to say that obviously it is better to save the five people, but why should one healthy person have to be killed to solve this dilemma. That is not right.
    Personally I agree with the other girl who said that the healthy man should not have his organs given up due to the other peoples lack of good health. It is not his responsibility, however way they got sick.
    The scenario could be improved if he was asked if he would offer his organs and he agreed or something.
    I also agree with the scientist Francis Canne who basically said human lives should not be juggled with at the hand of another person. "people have a right not to be murdered or tortured."
    HOWEVER whichever situation you are in the conscience of death would be on somebodies hands.

  2. Nana Kwame Sakyi OwusuAugust 18, 2010 at 8:36 AM

    For me, it is very fascinating that even at such a tender age, the child is torn between utilitarian judgment and doing a moral wrong. She realises that there is a greater benefit to killing the one person rather than leaving the other patients to die but at the same time, she knows that it will be wrong to kill that one person to save the five. In my opinion her answer is smart because it realises the need to save more lives but at the same time appreciates that the consequence of killing another man is wrong. It can be inferred that she agrees with Jeff Mcman's theory of intention because she believes the one man should be killed with the intention to save the five not just to kill the man. She does not totally commit herself to a utilitarian viewpoint neglecting the ethics of the whole situation but considers the situation holistically.

  3. Well i believe her rather indecisive answer brings out the complexity of the situation and many other scenarios where morality comes into play as a deciding factor for ones actions. The girl's response also establishes how the there has to be a combination of reasoning of the consideration of ethical implications before decisions are made. I think she was trying to say that the necessity of the action is not enough reason to go along with it when morality is concerned. Personally the inquiry into children's perspective on this issue of morality because it raises the issue of the innate nature of moral standards.

  4. The answer given from this child is very intellectual. Unlike many others who answered tthe first trolley situation just by saying she they will pull the lever, she also says she will try and alert the fat man of the upcoming danger. I think of all the answers from people this child really shows her morality as since she tried to warn the fat man, she thereby reduced the guilt that will be felt if the man died. I do not totally agree with nana kwame when he says she does not totally commit herself to a utilitarian viewpoint neglecting the ethics of the whole situation but considers the situation holistically. Her actions seem to be totally ethical as she makes two life saving actions, that is; pulling the lever to save the five people and also alerting the fat man to move from the incoming train

  5. The girl indeed has revealed the complexity of the issue, but its only one decision that stands as the ethical decision. Personally, i do not think that it is right to kill that one man because five others can be saved. The one man may not have been condemned to death as the five so killing him is close enough to murder. Unless the one man/his family are the willing donors of his organs, it is wrong to take his life.
    The little girl is confused and indecisive, because she thinks it's right and wrong! Whatever decision she eventually takes, it will not be ethically sound if it supports the killing of the one man, because the five people will die naturally, whereas the one man will be killed!
    So will you allow 5 natural deaths, or you will willingly cause someone to die?

  6. The child's answer encapsulates the dilemma many of us find ourselves in when we are torn between making decisions based on ethics/morality and on rationality. Obviously, saving five lives is better than saving one life. Just as Lloyd said, the girl's answer demonstrates the need for us to draw on both rationality and ethics in decision making. The first part of her answer, "I think you should do it but its not right" highlights her ethics and morals but then the second part of her answer," its right at the same time" highlights her rationality. Personally, even though her answer is quite brilliant, I would say that to kill one man to save five others is wrong, especially when the killing is necessary or intentional and not a side effect.

  7. The girl's response caused me to think deeper about the issue at hand. Killing one person to save five people is as wrong as much as it is right. Unlike the other children, this girl realizes that situations involving human lives, a factor that cannot be juggled around to save the masses.
    Enlgand's decision to divert German bombs to the south of London is another decision which must have involved a lot of thought and consideration but by looking at the bigger picture, it is in a sense economically “better" for the Germans to destroy the south of England which was less populated and less developed than the center of government, since it will cost England much less to rebuild those areas as compared to central London. Also the risk of losing “high priority” members of the government must have been a major reason for making this decision.

  8. sorry i think i spoke bout the wrong girl

  9. I don't know how many of us watch the tv show 24. Most of the time the protagonist jack Bauer is faced with very critical situation where he has to offer one life to the terrorists (Mostly Russian lol) in order to save the lives of tens of thousands of Los Angeles citizens. Trust me most of the time Uncle Jack does his possible best to prevent anybody from dying but at that point where he has to make that critical decision numbers matter. The woman from Harvard does not believe that one person's life is less important than any other number of lives but if faced with Bauer situation would she watch 20,000 people die. She will definitely start bordering on sadism wouldn't she. I'm not totally disagreeing with her but i believe that it gets to a point where numbers do matter.

  10. Glad you realised

  11. This situation is not one where you can have alot of time to think about the decision to make and so to me I am not really sure that the "moral"choice is to save the fat man especially when five other people can die. It is a very tough decision but I will not think the way the little girl did because of the man is fat, he can easily die from a heart attack or something like that when five people can die. However pulling the lever makes it your own fault that the man dies and so the guilt is all on you. And so someone can be passive, such as the guy that doesnt want to "play God" and not make any decision and he may still have the guilt of having done nothing. But also it is possible that the train would have stopped before even reaching the five men and pulling the lever could have even accelerated the death of the fat man. The future is unknown and so your "ethical decision" maybe the one to kill an innocent person.

  12. While I do agree that the girl did give a smart answer, I'm not entirely sure she weighed in all the factors - what exactly makes it "right" at all? For all she knows, none of the five people she intends to save by more or less sacrificing the one may not necessarily be under the label "innocent". For all she knows they may actually be detrimental to society in the future. I agree with Asantewaa, and one of the little girls in the clip when she says that it's not the healthy patients fault that the 5 are sick and hence he should not have to suffer on their behalf if he does not want to. In my opinion, no one can play judge,jury and executioner in this instance.

  13. i would agree with the the 8 year old girl when it comes to keeping the healthy guy alive and letting the other five patients in need of organs die.This is because if as the doctor you decide to kill the healthy being you would have committed murder which is unmoral both biblicaly
    and in most of our societies.Letting the other patients die will be the best option because first of all the fact that the patients have unhealthy organs is non of the doctors fault and also it is a common way of dying.so the doctor will not be haunted by any guilty conscious.On the other hand when looking at the fat man scenario it will be wise to just watch what happens rather than trying to save any of the people.This is because if you save the four workers and kill the fat man the workers whose lives you would have saved would claim that you are a murderer and would not believe the fact that you saved their lives.Overall,taking an 'ethical decision' is really difficult and requires sacrifice known as opportunity cost in economics.


  14. I feel that at such a young age of 8, the girl gave an incredible response .It is remarkable that she was able to sympathize with the fat man and the other 5 patients at the same time. Her morals kicked in almost instantaneously and she decided that it would be beneficial to the majority to kill the fat man however no human has any right over another human’s life .However, in the long term it is the right decision to make to kill the fat man to save the others but it is a sin you will have to live with everyday, which makes it a delicate decision to make.Moving onto the other scenario , I feel that the girl that decided it was inappropriate to give the other mans organs way to the sick was right in doing so however it would be a violation of human rights to give away his organs without his permission although there would be no harm in it , as it would help others.

  15. i think that the girl's answer is right coz no man's life should be sacrificed for another especially if it's against their will. but also at the same time it is reasonable to save five people at the expense of one. and also perhaps the people who get the donated organs may not survive as their bodies may reject the organ. also the healthy man is more productive than the other sick men who have to take time if they are going to recover at all. also the transplant will make him bedridden for some time just like the other men or even may also kill him and that will be six people dead! however if it works and none of them is disadvantaged, then it is fine.again if the man has agreed to do the transplant then that is another case.that's why i think the girl said that it is right and not right as the same time and this is what she was trying to say.

  16. I also agree that her answer is intelligent. She realises that killing is both wrong and right in this scenario .However, i think she implying that saving the five people is more important. Sometimes we do bad things for the greater good hence making ethical decisions hard to make.

    Steven Jjumba

  17. Soem really good responses here - well done! I can't reaspond to them all at the moment, but here are a few thoughts about what you have written. let's keep the discussion going...

    Nana Kwame: what is the role of intention in moral judgement? Should we distinguish between the primary goal of the decision and unavoidable side effects?

    Lloyd: is there no role for reason in the decision not to kill the one man?

    Sanaa Poku: i think rationality vs. Ethics does not work as an opposition. In TOK, ethics is an area of knowledge whose subject matter is moral thought and conduct. There are roles for both reason and emotion within this field, so i think you need to re-phrase your comment.

    Lloyd: does there come a point when the numbers are so skewed (kill one to save a million) that the utilitarian argument is unassailable? Where is that point?

    Temitope: is there an important difference between our cool calm reflection on a moral situation from the comfort of our armchairs and actually being faced with the situation? If so, what are the implications for the study of ethics?

    Tafadzwa: I’m really interested in your connection to economics – can you explain a little more about how this is connected to ethical decision-making?

    Emily: is there an innate dimension to morality? The famous linguist Noam Chomsky (look him up!) has claimed that we are all born with a “language organ” in the brain pre-adapted to deal with the acquisition of language in the world – do you think there could be something similar with respect to a “moral organ”?

    Steven: how about a more general question – do the means ever justify the ends? Is this what it’s really all about?

  18. I mean "do the ends justify the means?", of course...

    Busy day...

  19. zelalem abate borjaAugust 19, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    In my point of view the girl’s answer is smart because she considered the action from different angles .One as she said killing one person for helping five people is the right thing to do and killing one person in order to save five people is not supported morally. To me I believe that the life of one person and five people weighs the same. So I don’t totally agree in killing a person to save five people. Even in religion a person who kills one person and a person who kill s more than one will be judged equally. so generally what I am saying is who is meant to die should die whether we like it or not if those five people are meant die whether we pushed the fat man or not they will die.
    By zelalem abate borja

  20. Nana Kwame Sakyi OwusuAugust 19, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    @Kenneth Narh: Ken, I also believe the girl's take on the situation is most ethical but you must agree with me that this girl NOT ONLY considers the utilitarian point of view - it is better to save 5 people and kill 1 person- but also understands that despite that, killing 1 person is still immoral and unethical; in that she considers both sides of the coin, the rational and the ethical. It's also not a simple matter of choosing one. And you can't choose both or neither. Therein lies the complexity.

    @Mr. Kitching: I believe it does a lot of good to distinguish between the intention and the side effects of a moral decision. Taking the scenario of the 'healthy one' against 'the sick five'. One can either decide to save the five, because in their opinion, there will be five more people in the world to impact it whether positively or negatively with their talents and their human resource in general but killing a healthy man as a side effect; but then again, one can decide to save the healthy man, and let the diseased five die to reduce world disease or something. Farfetched as this may sound, on one hand there is increased population and hopefully increased human resource and on the other, there is a healthier world (where you're guaranteed that people will not go about harming their own organs...hehe) it all depends on intention.

  21. I think the little girl's answer is comparable to the issue of animal testing. Animal rights activist are against animal testing because they feel it is not right to expose animals to potentially life threatening drugs, however at the same time would they rather have these drugs tested on "more valuable" humans? Many people would offer a firm NO!

    Wrong as it may be most people think in terms of quantity. So there the needs of many will outnumber that of the few. I wonder if the choice would be that much easier for the little girl if she had been personally acquainted with each person involved?

  22. @Mr Kitching, I think my comment was not phrased correctly because I do agree that both reason and emotion play a role in ethics and both of them should be called upon to make decisons in such difficult situations. I believe to make a better decision or possilbly the best decision, we need a combination of the two and not an isolation or individual assessment.

    In response to Mr Kitching's question to Tafadzwa:
    The concept of opportunity concept is to a high extent essential in the study of ethics.
    Ermm...for those that do not study economics.. Opportunity cost is the next best alternative forgone when a choice or decison is made.
    Now most ethical decisons involve weighing the "pros" and "cons" of the situation, just like opportunity cost in economics, we try to look at the bigger picture and the end result of our decision or actions before we make them. By extension into TOK this concept of opprtunity cost means that the doctor in the situation may decide to weigh the odds of saving the five men as opposed to killing one man. However, the problem I have with this is that it may tend to be subjective or relative to the individual making the choice...but then again..aren't ethics and morals usually relative and subjective?


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