|Me thinking about run-away trains|
To begin with, I realize that in pondering this question, we are merely thinking hypothetically, and our answers bear only little weight in reality.
The moral thing to do, in my mind, is to pull the lever and push the man. I don't know if I could actually push the man when the time for action came, but I think it would be the right choice. Many argue that the weight of the one man's life would press heavily on their conscience if they knew they had caused his death, but I say that if I didn't pull the lever then the lives of the ten would weigh more heavily on me. It is true that you did not put yourself in this situation, however, I argue that since you are in the situation, you are endowed with a responsibility to make a decision, and thus not pulling the lever, and not pushing the man would become murder of omission. From a utilitarian perspective, my choice is correct, but there are many who would argue against it. From a Taoist perspective, for example, we just need to let things happen, and not mess with the natural way. I actually disagree with this because I feel that we should be actively, not passively pursuing the greater good. From a Mormon statement of faith, someone argued that death is not the end, so allowing the ten to die would be better than having the murder of one on your hands. I would agree from a statement of faith that death is not the end and that killing is an evil and terrible thing. However, I would argue against this perspective because I feel that I would have the murder of ten (and thus the greater sin) on my hands by not acting. From yet another interesting perspective I heard, the directness of the action determines morality. The person who presented this perspective said that it was ethical to pull the lever but not push the man because they would feel better about pulling the lever than pushing the man. I agree that these two actions would feel different, however, I feel it would be selfish to change your opinion of morality based on this feeling. The person who argued this perspective also said that by pulling the lever, they were only acting on the train, and thus the degree of murder was somehow lessened. To this I say that when you flip the switch on an electric chair, you are only electrocuting a chair which then acts on a living human being, or by pulling the rope to drop the guillotine, you are only acting on a rope, which in turn acts on a giant blade, causing it to fall and sever a head. This method of execution is removed by at least two degrees, but does that make it ethical? As you can see, this argument amounts only to ridiculousness in my mind. I argue that the moral thing to do in this situation is to end the least people's lives no matter how you have to do it. However, this does not necessarily mean I would be able to push the man onto the tracks. But beyond this, and forgoing all perspectives and reasoning concerning the question, I would say that if you are in this situation and you try to the best of your ability and knowledge to do the right thing, acting without selfishness or malice toward any, you have not committed any wrong.