Seminar: Dr Natalie Gold, "Judgments in Trolley Problems"

Past Event

04 May 2011, 4:00pm - 5:30pm

Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

Abstract: Trolley problems were designed to test moral intuitions that apply across a range of domains. Philosophers aim to come to a reflective equilibrium between their intuitions in these problems and a consistent ethical theory. Although trolley problems involve life and death decisions, the resulting theory (doctrine of double effect, the doctrine of doing and allowing, etc.) is supposed to be applicable across a range of domains. For instance Quinn (1989, p. 287 fn 2) says, “Harm here is meant to include any evil that can be the upshot of choice, for example, the loss of privacy, property, or control. But to keep matters simple, my examples will generally involve physical harm, and the harm in question will generally be death.” It is not at all obvious that intuitions in cases involving life and death will be the same as intuitions in cases involving other types of harms. I present the results of an experiment designed to test whether trolley intuitions (specifically, what Judith Thomson called “the trolley problem”, namely the difference in most people’s intuitions between the bystander at the switch and pushing someone off a bridge) are preserved in different domains of harm.

Bio: Dr Gold has been with Edinburgh University’s Department of Philosophy since August 2006, having come from a post-doctoral fellowship at Duke University and, previous to that, a post-doctoral fellowship in the Probability, Philosophy and Modelling group based at the University of Konstanz. Dr Gold received her PhD at Oxford. Her research interests include practical reasoning and rationality, collective agency, moral psychology and experimental philosophy. Her approach is interdisciplinary and includes collaborations with researchers in the social and behavioural sciences. Her research interests are Moral Psychology, Reasoning and Rationality, Philosophy of Social Science especially as regards issues in contemporary economics and psychology.