[Buddha-l] Ethical Dilemmas

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Thu Jun 10 02:19:32 MDT 2010

>> You forgot to mention the man on the other track is the Buddha...

Joy's quip is the healthy beginning of the undoing of that sort of question. 
It's constructed to foster the assumption that this sort of ethics is 
quantifiable -- fewer dead is better. But what if the five people on the 
track have just left a home where they raped and killed all the occupants, 
while the one person on the other track is a scientist on the verge of 
discovering the cure for AIDS? Does the "equation" change?

Since the potential switch puller does not have time to run background 
checks, all these facts, while contextual, cannot enter into the decision 
process. Hence the decision has to be reached without a proper weighing of 
the relevant factors. Hence the decision, whatever else it might be, will 
not be ethical ... and it would be unethical to presume otherwise.

As for what would the Buddha think/do? He would want to know what a "train" 
is, and would not have enough time to figure out what relation the switch 
has to the train and the tracks (any more than you would know how to disarm 
an atomic weapon discovered in your backyard). If he had read too many 
Jataka tales, he would have thrown himself on the tracks to divert the 
train -- and been run over moments before the train took out the other five 
people down the track. Now that sort of morality Richard would applaud.


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