If you know me, then you know I’m a creature of structure and habit. I like having things organized, and I don’t like the idea of mixing things up for the sake of it. I believe that the best way to accomplish most things is through preparation, but occasionally, opportunities will come up that shouldn’t be turned down.
I was talking with a friend today, and he was throwing some moral quandaries at me. He asked me the train track dilemma of the ‘choice of killing one loved one versus five strangers’, and questions similar to it. I learned a quite a bit about myself today, in that regard. While I was familiar with the dilemma, I never really asked myself anything along those lines, so it was interesting to really think about it.
When I was thinking about these questions, I realized that sitting back and analyzing what my personal, logical choices would be, and the decisions I actually would make in such a situation were two very different things. I can easily analyze what the most logical conclusion is for me, weighing the pros and cons of killing one person I know rather than five people I don’t. There is, of course, an argument to be made for both. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that in times of stress we don’t have the luxury of thinking about it this way.
I’m not saying that you will ever be forced to choose in a lose-lose scenario with stakes so high, but think about it. If there was a train coming and you had to choose between those two horrible options, what would you do? Not which one is the correct choice, but what would you do? Would you let time run out and fate decide? Would you switch the rails (if we’re using this analogy) over and over to make it random? Think about it. Think about what you think a logical solution to this problem is, and weigh it against the actions you would take in such a time of stress. Maybe you wouldn’t make the ‘right’ choice (which in these circumstances is admittedly a moral gray area).
If you really devote some effort into thinking about the dichotomy between your decision and the right one, you can learn about yourself. Are you afraid of doing something you regret? Are you afraid of loss? Perhaps you’re worried about repercussions. Maybe you like running people over with trains. Who am I to judge?
I believe that the first step in changing something about yourself is learning about a problem. With the conversation I had with my friend, I discovered I had logical fallacies in the arguments I made behind the reason I ‘chose’ what I did. In fact, eighty percent of the way through that conversation I changed my answer because of the circle I drew. Maybe you can learn something, too.
But this is all hiding the real truth. I think that the real question we need to be asking ourselves is “Who is tying all of these people to train tracks?”