Would You Kill the Fat Man?

Would You Kill the Fat Man?

The Trolley Problem and What your Answer Tells Us About Right and Wrong

Book - 2015
Average Rating:
Rate this:
In this book, David Edmonds, coauthor of the best-selling Wittgenstein's Poker, tells the riveting story of why and how philosophers have struggled with the ethical dilemma posed by the trolley problem. In the process, he provides an entertaining and informative tour through the history of moral philosophy.
Pt. 1. Philosophy and the trolley : Churchill's dilemma ; Spur of the moment ; The founding mothers ; The seventh son of Count Landulf ; Fat man, loop, and lazy Susan ; Ticking clocks and the sage of K©œnigsberg ; Paving the road to hell ; Morals by numbers -- pt. 2. Experiments and the trolley : Out of the armchair ; It just feels wrong ; Dudley's choice and the moral instinct -- pt. 3. Mind and brain and the trolley : The irrational animal ; Wrestling with neurons ; Bionic trolley -- pt. 4. The trolley and its critics : A streetcar named backfire ; The terminal -- Appendix: Ten trolleys: a rerun.
Publisher: Princeton ; Oxford : Princeton University Press, 2015.
ISBN: 9780691165639
Branch Call Number: 170 ED
Characteristics: xvii, 220 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Nov 28, 2015

The weakest part of the book is the first thirty or so pages where he just writes in a gossipy about the lives of Foot and others.
Apart from that, its entertaining and clear, but it doesn't get much in to the details or complexities of 'trolleyology' (that's where the fun really is). A good bibliography and clear notes are included.

ksoles Mar 08, 2014

Is it justifiable to steer a train away from five people tied to the track when, as a result, an individual on a side track will perish? Is it morally acceptable to cause the death of one man in order to save five innocent lives? What about pushing a large man off a footbridge to block a runaway train that is hurtling towards five people tied to a track? In his provocative new book, "Would You Kill the Fat Man?", David Edmonds demonstrates the fun of philosophical discussions. He presents a number of thought experiments that pique interest, stimulate curiosity and "test our moral intuitions." Although some of Edmonds' scenarios sound far-fetched, they succeed in motivating us to ponder complex ethical issues.

"Would You Kill the Fat Man?" provides an immensely pleasurable read. Neither ponderous nor pretentious, Edmonds explains technical terms such as the "Doctrine of Double Effect" clearly and concisely. In addition, he deftly mixes law, evolutionary biology, linguistics, medicine, psychology, and sociology in his effort to explain why we act as we do. Do we make specific moral distinctions instinctually? Does a person's geographical/cultural background influence his/her behaviour? Finally, the author includes intriguing anecdotes about figures like Winston Churchill, Grover Cleveland, and Harry Truman, all of whom had to make extremely controversial decisions.

The book does not supply conclusive answers though it does have practical implications. Soldiers might have to attack a military installation, knowing they might kill civilians in the process; agencies invade people's privacy with hopes of foiling terrorist plots; law enforcement officials deceive suspects to make them reveal vital information. Every day, in both dramatic and mundane situations, each of us must make moral and ethical judgments.

No "one-size-fits-all" solution exists. Even if some convince themselves to push the fat man off the footbridge, for others, no rationalization could eliminate the guilt that might ensue. We all think, cry and laugh differently; we all have memories and, in most cases, feel empathy for others. "Would You Kill the Fat Man?" ultimately encourages us to reflect on Kant's statement: "Persons must never be treated merely as a means to some other end."


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at APL

To Top