Variations on the Trolley Problem


The "Trolley Problem" is a highly problematic thought-experiment about utilitarianism and morals -- ripe for skewering in the pages of McSweeney's.

The Ethics Teacher

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards four workers. You are on your way to teach an ethics class and this accident will make you extremely late. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits just one person. This will make you slightly less late to your class.

The Meta-Ethical Problem

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards Immanuel Kant. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits Jeremy Bentham instead. Jeremy Bentham clutches the only existing copy of Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. Kant holds the only existing copy of Bentham’s The Principles of Morals and Legislation. Both of them are shouting at you that they have recently started to reconsider their ethical stances.


Lesser-Known Trolley Problem Variations [Kyle York/McSweeney's]

(via Kottke)


(Image: Trolley Outside Shore Line Trolley Museum, Tony Fischer, CC-BY)