Fatalism can feel rational

Filosofix - «Morality is an emotional matter, not a math problem»

Jump to content
  1. Culture
  2. Filosofix
  3. Current article
content

Can you sacrifice one person to save five? Are we allowed to listen to our feelings when making moral decisions? The German philosopher Richard David Precht faces the ethical thought experiment of the "tram". He reveals why he would make an exception with his own child.

Mr Precht, you are standing at the signal box and you have to decide whether you want to let a train run into a group of five construction workers or a single worker. That is the starting point in the “tram” thought experiment. What would you do?

I don't know what I would do. I would probably shout wildly and in vain. But the question doesn't want to know what I would really do either. She wants to know what I think I should do. And then I would probably also switch the switch to the individual worker.

Is it morally worse to actively kill a person than to let them die passively? If yes why?

Both are equally bad for philosophical "utilitarianism" because it evaluates an action according to its consequences. In our moral sense, however, we also judge the intention and motivation of an action.

If I don't donate, and farmers in Eritrea die as a result, my actions may be cold and indifferent. However, when I travel to Eritrea and shoot or strangle a few farmers myself, I act deliberately sadistically. Even if the consequences are the same, the action should be assessed differently.

Would you also set the course if the individual was your own child?

Of course not!

Can it be morally right to give preference to people who are close to us?

It's right because it feels right. Morality is a highly sensitive emotional matter and not a mathematical arithmetic problem. An ethic that ignores our biological instincts may be fair, but at the same time inhumane.

Should we push the fat man off the bridge?

No way!

Why not?

For the reasons just mentioned. We don't push because this moral act is counter-intuitive.

Is it not allowed to instrumentalize people under any circumstances? Or are there situations in which it is morally permissible to, for example, torture someone?

There is no good answer to that. In practice, we have to find the right balance somewhere: between Kant's command that we must not "ramify" a person and the utilitarian maxim of weighing between happiness and suffering. In any case, we find ourselves between two poles on this issue.

The interview was conducted in writing.

Imagine...

Open the box Close the box

Philosophy asks the really big questions and helps us to find our own answers with thought experiments. «Filosofix» presents the most important thought experiments in animated short films - an entertaining stimulus to think for yourself. Here you will find:

Richard David Precht

Open the box Close the box

Richard David Precht is a German philosopher and author of the bestseller «Who am I - and if so, how many?». The first volume of his three-part history of philosophy was recently published: «Know the world. History of Philosophy »(Munich 2015).

  1. Culture
  2. Filosofix
  3. Current article

Most read articles

Scroll left Scroll right

Social login

For the registration we need additional information about yourself.

{* #socialRegistrationForm *} {* firstName *} {* lastName *} {* emailAddress *} {* displayName *} {* mobile *} {* addressCity *} {* / socialRegistrationForm *}

Welcome back

Please log in to enter a comment.

{* loginWidget *} Use a different account

Login and register


Log In

{* #signInForm *} {* signInEmailAddress *} {* currentPassword *} Forgot your password? {* / signInForm *}

Simply log in with your social media account or your Apple ID

{* loginWidget *}

Create a new password

Enter the email address of your user account. We will then send you a link that you can use to create a new password.

{* #forgotPasswordForm *} {* signInEmailAddress *} {* / forgotPasswordForm *}

Create a new password

You will shortly receive an email with a link to renew your password.

Didn't get a message?

If you have not received an e-mail after 10 minutes, please check your SPAM folder and the details of your e-mail address.

Welcome back

Please log in to enter a comment.

{* #signInForm *} {* signInEmailAddress *} {* currentPassword *} Forgot your password? {* / signInForm *} Use a different account

Technical error

Oh oops! A technical issue occured. Please try again later or contact our customer service.

Confirm mobile number

So that you can enter a comment, we ask you to confirm your mobile number. We will send you an SMS code to the mobile number.

There has been an error. Please try again or contact our customer service.

Too many codes have already been requested for the mobile number. The function is blocked to prevent misuse.

Too many attempts. Please request a new code or contact our customer service.

Change mobile number

Too many attempts. Please request a new code or contact our customer service.

This mobile number is already in use. Please change your mobile number or contact our customer service.

Change mobile number

The maximum number of codes for the specified number has been reached. No more codes can be created.

Confirm email address

We have sent you an email at the address {* emailAddressData *} Posted. Please check your e-mail inbox and confirm your account using the activation link you received.

Didn't get a message?

If you have not received an e-mail after 10 minutes, please check your SPAM folder and the details of your e-mail address.

Adjust user data

{* resendLink *}

Register and login


to register

With an SRF account, you have the option of entering comments on our website and in the SRF app.

{* #registrationForm *} {* firstName *} {* lastName *} {* emailAddress *} {* displayName *} {* mobile *} {* addressCity *} {* newPassword *} {* newPasswordConfirm *} {* / registrationForm *}

Confirm email address

We have sent you an email at the address {* emailAddressData *} Posted. Please check your e-mail inbox and confirm your account using the activation link you received.

Didn't get a message?

If you have not received an e-mail after 10 minutes, please check your SPAM folder and the details of your e-mail address.

Adjust user data

{* resendLink *}

Your activation email has been sent

Please check your e-mail inbox. The activation email has been sent.

Verified email address

Thank you for verifying your email address.

user account

In this view you can manage your user data.

{* savedProfileMessage *} {* / editProfileForm *}

Change Password

Deactivate account

User data saved successfully

You can view your data in your user account at any time.


Adjust user data

Change Password

Define a new password for your account {* emailAddressData *}.

{* #changePasswordForm *} {* currentPassword *} {* newPassword *} {* newPasswordConfirm *} {* / changePasswordForm *}

Create a new password

Define a new password for your account.

{* #changePasswordFormNoAuth *} {* newPassword *} {* newPasswordConfirm *} {* / changePasswordFormNoAuth *}

Password saved successfully

You can now log in to the article with your new password.

Create a new password

We did not recognize the code to reset the password. Please re-enter your email address so that we can send you a new link.

{* #resetPasswordForm *} {* signInEmailAddress *} {* / resetPasswordForm *}

Create a new password

You will shortly receive an email with a link to renew your password.

Didn't get a message?

If you have not received an e-mail after 10 minutes, please check your SPAM folder and the details of your e-mail address.

Deactivate account

Your account will be deactivated and you will not be able to reactivate it. Recorded comments are not deleted.

Do you really want to deactivate your account?

{* deactivateAccountForm *} {* / deactivateAccountForm *}

Account deactivated

Your account has been deactivated and can no longer be used.
If you would like to register again for the comment function, please contact SRF customer service.

  • Comment from Rolf Künzi (undefined)
    Once again, I can only recommend the philosophers to study near-death reports. Tortured war veterans, for example, often die differently than normal people. They hold out non-compliance for 24 hours. That they can let go is extremely difficult. And morality also plays an incredibly important role in life review. The focus is actually on finding the best possible solution.
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
  • Comment from Severin Heck (think and check for yourself)
    Precht refers to how the individual makes moral decisions. The left introduced this way of thinking for state processes. And thus ignited the incendiary device: They all offend the head: By definition, science is the quantitative representation of the world. And decisions are made on that basis. From the engineer, sociologist, economist, or doctor ... But also the craftsman. E.g. ViaSicura (blanket judgments), extreme regulatory laws vs. crime ...
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment
  • Comment from Severin Heck (think and check for yourself)
    Especially the statement that it is 'not a mathematical' thing, and then the extremist example is symptomatic of the disease of our time: The whole media (Blick and co.) Advertise radical laws in blatant individual cases. The laws are then formulated as follows: 'You just don't violate it', instead of 'Well, it wasn't that bad (quantitatively)'. This philosophy destroyed the whole world of boys: Sure they do shit. But not everything is bad
    Agree Agree to the comment Select answers to reply to the comment

Footer


Metanavigation