Stoicism and the Trolley Problem

We’re all familiar with the Trolley Problem.  A Trolley comes barreling down the tracks.  Do you let it run over 5 people or do you switch the track to make it run over 1 person.  The Utilitarian says to switch the track.  The Kantian says to let the Trolley run over the 5 people, at least you didn’t deliberately make it kill one person.

So what would the Stoic do?  Virtue ethics is less about the consequences or act itself and more about the intentions and character traits of the agent.  Honestly, the Stoic in my opinion is free to let Kantian or Utilitarian intuitions take over.  In the case just mentioned, I imagine that the Stoic Sage would switch the tracks to save the five people.  So I think Utilitarian intuitions would take over in that case.

Now would you push a fat man off a bridge in front of the Trolley to stop the Trolley from running over 5 people?  This situation seems intuitively different than merely switching the tracks.  So I think the Stoic Sage would err on the side of Kantian intuitions and not push the fat man to his death in order to save the 5.

Honestly, the Stoic in my opinion will just do what seems the most ethically intuitive when character traits traits are too vague to be useful in determining what to do in such ethical dilemmas.  Just do what you’re compassion tells you to do in each situation and you’re safe.

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