We report a study in which participants responded to a battery of personality assessments and a set of dilemmas that pit utilitarian and non-utilitarian options against each other. Participants who indicated greater endorsement of utilitarian solutions had higher scores on measures of Psychopathy, machiavellianism, and life meaninglessness. These results question the widely-used methods by which lay moral judgments are evaluated, as these approaches lead to the counterintuitive conclusion that those individuals who are least prone to moral errors also possess a set of psychological characteristics that many would consider prototypically immoral.
Our study illustrates that the widely adopted use of sacrificial dilemmas in the study of moral judgment fails to distinguish between people who are motivated to endorse utilitarian moral choices because of underlying emotional deficits (such as those captured by our measures of psychopathy
and Machiavellianism) and those who endorse it out of genuine concern for the welfare of others and a considered belief that utilitarianism is the optimal way of achieving the goals of morality.
Brivat said: as far as I can see the dilemma arises with the assumption that something has to be done, i.e. that activity (of this or that kind) is required in order to be a "virtuous person". I regard this as wrong. There is no obligation to do anything at all in order to be moral - or there would be no way out of samsara/dukkha. It's all about abstention, restraint and letting go. The first precept is not about saving life, it's about being harmless. To save lives is certainly a very meritorious thing, but not saving lives (even if one could) is not killing nor does it have any consequences apart from "having missed a chance" (which, in some cases, might be a "grave consequence" in itself). Whenever saving lives and harmlessness come into conflict (like in the above "dilemma"), one should stick to harmlessness if one wants to stay on the Buddha's path. That's how I see it.
So what would I do? I would not flipping the switch. Perhaps I would somehow try to stop the trolley or to free as much persons as I could - but these options are not part of the dilemma. What would the Buddha do? I'm sure he would not flip the switch. But I also think that he would save the persons lives if he could.
Brivat wrote:Hello chownah,
I think it doesn't matter how complicated such a dilemma is designed. The bad kamma is only on the side of the designer - and those people who act accordingly (thinking they have to). I don't deny that it is understandable to activate the switch when one is overwhelmed by feelings, but this is the very problem and not the solution.
That's how I see it. And I have nothing further to add.
All the best!
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