Contrastive consent and secondary permissibility

Theron Pummer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Consider three cases:

 Turn: A trolley is about to kill five innocent strangers. You can turn the trolley onto me, saving the five and killing me.  

Hurl: A trolley is about to kill five innocent strangers. You can hurl me at the trolley, saving the five and paralyzing me.  

TurnHurl: A trolley is about to kill five innocent strangers. You can turn the trolley onto me, saving the five and killing me. You can instead hurl me at the trolley, saving the five and paralyzing me.

Most find the following four claims intuitively plausible:

(1)  It is permissible to turn the trolley onto me in Turn.

(2)  It is impermissible to hurl me at the trolley in Hurl.

(3)  It is impermissible to turn the trolley onto me in TurnHurl.

(4)  It is permissible to hurl me at the trolley in TurnHurl.

But how does turning go from permissible to impermissible, and hurling from impermissible to permissible, when both alternatives are available? I argue that such “secondary permissibility” claims are explained by contrastive consent. Even if I do not consent to being harmed, it is likely I'll consent to being hurled at the trolley rather than being turned onto.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research
VolumeEarly View
Early online date12 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jun 2022

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