[Buddha-l] Ethical Dilemmas

Erik Hoogcarspel jehms at xs4all.nl
Thu Jun 10 01:14:29 MDT 2010

Op 10-06-10 08:59, Joy Vriens schreef:
> Bankei wrote
>> You look around in an attempt to stop the train. There is nothing you can
>> do, but there is a switch next to where you are walking which you could
>> pull. This would divert the train onto another track, saving the 5 people.
>> But at the last minute you see there is a man on the other truck and he
>> would be unable to be warned in time. Therefore he would die if the switch
>> was pulled.
>> What would you do?
>> A. Do nothing
>> B. Flick the switch, killing one, but saving 5.
>> A Utilitarian would flick the switch as this would produce the greatest
>> good. What would a Buddhist do, or better what would the Buddha have done?
>> You forgot to mention the man on the other track is the Buddha...

As to the first question a possible answer is that there is a Jātaka where the bodhisattva kills the captain of a boat in order to save the fifty passengers. So utilitairism is not unacceptable in Buddhism. The whole dilemma is a bit of an advertisement for utilism, I've seen many variations. If the other person is a Buddha, she can cope with a wild train, just like the other one handled the wild elephant.


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