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Would You Kill the Fat Man?: The Trolley Problem and What Your Answer Tells Us about Right and Wrong (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 20. September 2013

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One of "Choice"'s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014

Honorable Mention for the 2015 PROSE Award in Philosophy, Association of American Publishers

One of "Choice"'s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014

"A lucid account of a famous thought experiment in moral philosophy."--Editors' Choice, "New York Times Book Review"

"[J]aunty, lucid and concise. . . . In "Would You Kill the Fat Man?" David Edmonds . . . a seasoned philosopher, tells the story . . . with wit and panache."--Sarah Bakewell, "New York Times Book Review"

"[E]legant, lucid, and frequently funny. . . . Edmonds has written an entertaining, clear-headed, and fair-minded book."--Cass R. Sunstein, "New York Review of Books"

"[E]legantly written . . . Edmonds's book is especially valuable for the way in which it embeds his introduction to the trolley problem in a story of the social reality that produced it."--Hallvard Lillehammer, "Times Literary Supplement"

"David Edmonds's vastly more ambitious "Would You Kill the Fat Man?" has the cartoons--and just about everything else you could want in a thoughtful popular treatment of [the trolley problem]. A marvel of economy and learning worn lightly, Mr. Edmonds's book ranges pleasurably back to Aquinas and forward into the future of robots, who will of course need an ethics just as much as people do. Perhaps best of all, Mr. Edmonds recognizes that the origins of 'trolleyology' are at least as interesting as the many philosophical writings, academic exercises and parlor games that have sprung from the original trolley paper, published in 1967 by an English philosopher named Philippa Foot."--Daniel Akst, "Wall Street Journal"

"An accessible, humorous examination of how people approach complex ethical dilemmas. . . . Written for general readers, the book captures the complexities underpinning difficult decisions."--"Publishers Weekly"

"Informative, accessible, engaging and witty, his book is a marvelous introduction to debates about right and wrong in philosophy, psychology, and neuro-science. . . . In the hands of a lucid explicator like David Edmonds, trolleyology is, at once, serious business (relevant, among others things, to preferences for drone strikes) and lots of fun."--Glenn Altschuler, "Psychology Today"

"This is a rare treat--a serious, thought-provoking book on ethics that is also witty, funny, and entertaining. Not to be missed. . . . David Edmonds has taken the well-known trolley car problem and breathed new life into it, examining it from different perspectives and using it to shed light on the ethical theories of Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham, John Rawls, Aristotle, and others. If you think philosophy has to be ponderous and difficult, you haven't read this book. . . . What's intoxicating about this book is that every time you think you know what you think, Edmonds tosses out a new element. . . . There's lots more to enjoy and learn from this book, a real gem and one of my new favorites."--Mark Willen, "TalkingEthics.com"

"[H]umans seem hard-wired to draw a distinction between a foreseeable side effect that sadly results from doing good (switching the tracks) and purposefully harming another, no matter how noble the cause (pushing the fat man off the bridge). Edmonds's exploration of why this is so is at the heart of his thoroughly delightful book."--Brian Bethune, "Macleans"

"[A] fascinating and important field. The light it throws on the moral institutions of human beings is its own reward, and this book will make its readers think."--Richard King, "Australian"

"This provocatively titled tract opens with a burst of drama that proves philosophy can be exciting."--David Wilson, "South China Morning Post"

"Edmonds enjoyably traces the ever-expanding sub-genre of trolleyology through debates about language, abortion, cannibals, war, and a complicated love quadrangle involving the novelist Iris Murdoch and the philosopher Philippa Foot, offering insights on ethics, politics, and sex along the way."--Katherine Mangu-Ward, "Reason"

"[A] fascinating book. Edmonds uses the problem of the fat man as a jumping-off point for a fairly wide-ranging exploration of morality and ethics, and he asks us to consider carefully how we would respond. It's a big subject packed into a relatively small book, and we leave the volume with perhaps more questions than answers, but isn't that the point here--to make us find our own answers?"--David Pitt, "Booklist Online"

"[I]mpressive. . . . [A] walking tour of moral philosophy organized around one of the most well-known thought experiments of the last half century. . . . By weaving together abstract principles, biographical sketches, historical examples, and trendy research in this just-so way, Edmonds has figured out how to illustrate the dimensions and consequences of moral decision-making without sacrificing entertainment value. . . . [A] carefully executed book."--Robert Herritt, "Daily Beast"

"This is a witty and informative discussion of the trolley problem in philosophical ethics by Oxford University researcher Edmonds. . . . Through a highly informed yet not technical discussion, readers get an excellent introduction to some main lines of 20th-century moral philosophy."--"Choice"

"Edmonds does an outstanding job of introducing the reader to the historical emergence and subsequent development of trolleyology, explaining its significance for both moral philosophy and moral psychology, and responding to a number of substantive criticisms of the field. Edmonds's expertise is clearly on display throughout the text, and he largely succeeds in producing a work that is informative and sophisticated without being overly technical."--Eli Weber, "Metapsychology"

"Rich in anecdote and example and wide-ranging in scope, "Would You Kill the Fat Man?," is by turns fascinating and unsettling."--Gabriel Carlyle, "Peace News"

"David Edmonds bravely attempts to make possible the impossible, offering us this well-reviewed book on the sanctity of life. His story is enlivened with biographical details, anecdotes, curiosities, pictures and jokes. Short of setting passages to music it is hard to see what more could have been done. There is something here for everyone."--Christopher Miles Coope, "Philosophical Quarterly"

"Edmonds should be congratulated on his grand undertaking, and what I take to be his successful illumination of an important problem."--Joel Dittmer, "Philosophy in Review"

Honorable Mention for the 2015 PROSE Award in Philosophy, Association of American Publishers
One of "Choice"'s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014


"Lucid, witty, and beautifully written, this book is a pleasure to read. While providing an introduction to moral philosophy, it also presents engaging portraits of some of the greatest moral philosophers from Thomas Aquinas to the present day, and it makes the case for the relevance to ethics of the new experimental moral psychology. It is a tour de force."--Kwame Anthony Appiah, author of "The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen"

"This is a splendid work. You shouldn't expect it to resolve all your trolley problems but you can look forward to a romping mix of fine humor, intriguing anecdote, and solid argument. It's a sheer joy to read."--Philip Pettit, Princeton University and Australian National University

"David Edmonds has a remarkable knack for weaving the threads of philosophical debates into an engaging story. "Would You Kill the Fat Man?" is a stimulating introduction to some key ethical issues and philosophers."--Peter Singer, author of "The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty"

"David Edmonds's new book, "Would You Kill the Fat Man?," is both highly informative and a delight to read. Written in a clear, engaging, and witty style, it succeeds admirably in making various fascinating and important debates in philosophy and psychology accessible to a broad readership."--Jeff McMahan, Rutgers University

"This is a highly engaging book. David Edmonds's reflections are full of insight and he provides fascinating biographical background about the main players in the history of the trolley problem, in a style reminiscent of his very successful "Wittgenstein's Poker.""--Roger Crisp, University of Oxford

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Must read for anyone interested in moral philosophy 9. November 2013
Von John Martin - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Would you Kill the Fat Man? by David Edmonds is a must read for anyone interested in moral philosophy or just what is the right thing to do. The title is based on a famous hypothetical situation in moral philosophy. There are various versions but the main one is as follows: 1. You are standing beside a trolley track. An out of controll trolley is speeding down the track. At the other end are five people who are tied to the track and will be killed by the oncoming trolley. But beside you there is a switch that will put the trolley onto a spur. At the end of this spur is one person tied to the track who will die. Do you switch the trolley onto the spur? 2. Now you are on a footbridge under which there is a trolley track. Again you see a trolley hurtling down the track toward five people tied to the track who will be killed. But alongside of you is a fat man who if you push him over will land on the track and stop the trolley. Of course he will be killed, but the five other people will survive. Do you push him over?

These two situations correspond to basic moral positions in philosophy. The first is utilitaritarianism as proposed by John Stuart Mill. Someone espousing this approach looks at the consequences of an act before deciding what to do and acts to maximize happiness or minimize pain. Such a person would not hesitate to throw the switch or push the fat man over since killing one person is less painful than killing five. The second approach is deontology which says that acts are right or wrong in and of themselves regardless of the consequences. The most noted person for this approach is Immanuel Kant and his formulation of the Categorical Imperative. Advocates of this approach would not push the fat man over because killing someone is wrong regardless of the consequences.

Edrmonds trances the history of the trolley problem from its inception by Philippa Foot through its various adaptations over the years. Along the way we are introduced to such ideas as the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE ) which says that intent and foreseeability need to be taken into account in judging morality. For example it is still moral to commit an act that kills someone as long as you did not intend to kill the person even if you can foresee that happening. A number of other interesting hypothetical situations are presented. For example suppose you are a transplant surgeon. You have five patients waiting for a transplant, 2 for lungs, 2 for kidneys and 1 for a heart. A healthy young man comes into your office. Do you kill him and use his organs to save the five others? Most people would be horrified by such an act. Yet Utilitarianism says you should do it.

Edmonds writes in an interesting style and the book is both informative and fun to read. More importantly it will change the way you think and quite possibly make you a better person.
14 von 17 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen "Reason often takes a back seat to unconscious influences." 19. Dezember 2013
Von E. Bukowsky - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
David Edmonds demonstrates that philosophical discussions can be fun and entertaining in his provocative new book, "Would You Kill the Fat Man?" Edmonds presents a number of thought experiments that pique our interest, stimulate our curiosity, and "test our moral intuitions." Although some of Edmonds' scenarios may seem far-fetched, they motivate us to ponder complex ethical issues. The author includes intriguing anecdotes about Winston Churchill, Grover Cleveland, and Harry Truman, all of whom had to make controversial decisions. In addition, Edmonds provides fascinating background information about Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Stuart Mill, and Jeremy Bentham, as well as such lesser known philosphers as Philippa Foot (Grover Cleveland's granddaughter) and Elizabeth Anscombe.

One of Edmonds' central themes is "trolleyology." Is it justifiable to steer a train, tram, or trolley away from five people who are tied to a track when, as a result, a sixth person tied up on a side track will likely perish as a result of our actions? Is it acceptable to bring about the death of one man in order to save five innocent lives? Another scenario involves pushing a large man off a footbridge to block a runaway train that is hurtling towards five people tied to a track. There are other variations, some of which are complicated (the author includes illustrations to help us visualize them). The trolley question and its variants have spawned "a mini-academic industry" and continues to spark heated debate to this day.

"Would You Kill the Fat Man?" is a pleasure to read. Edmonds never talks down to us, nor he is ponderous or pretentious. He explains and illustrates technical terms such as the "Doctrine of Double Effect" clearly and concisely. In addition, he broadens the scope of his discussion by bringing in science, law, evolutionary biology, linguistics, medicine, psychology, and sociology in his effort to explain why we act as we do. Are we hard-wired to make specific moral distinctions? Does a person's geographical and/or cultural background influence his behavior?

Although "Would You Kill the Fat Man?" does not supply conclusive answers, Edmonds is not merely amusing us with diverting mental exercises. On the contrary, his book has practical implications: Consider soldiers who attack a military installation, knowing that they might kill civilians in the process; agencies whose officials invade people's privacy, hoping to discover and foil terrorist plots; and law enforcement officials who deceive and/or torture suspects to make them reveal vital information. Every day, in both dramatic and mundane situations, each of us must make moral and ethical judgments. When, if ever, is it justifiable to lie and/or withhold information? If we do something that is intended to help many people but might possibly hurt a few, should we proceed with a clear conscience?

The bottom line may be that there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution. Even if we convince ourselves that it is okay to push the fat man off the footbridge, for some, no rationalization could possibly eliminate the guilt that might ensue. We are not robots. We think, cry, laugh, have memories, and in most cases, feel empathy for others. "Would You Kill the Fat Man?" is a lively and elegantly written work of non-fiction. Edmonds does us a service by encouraging us to reflect on Kant's statement: "Persons must never be treated merely as a means to some other end."
4 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Well, would you? 15. Februar 2014
Von Julia McMichael - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
By David Edmonds

5 stars

Well, would you?

“A man is standing by the side of a track when he sees a runaway train hurtling toward him: clearly the brakes have failed. Ahead are five people, tied to the track. If the man does nothing, the five will be run over and killed.”

Who, other than philosophy majors knew about trolleyology and its variations including x-phi (experimental philosophy)? This is a fascinating and fun read complete with the ethics questions that endlessly entertain undergraduates. If one will not consider a sacrificial murder under any circumstances, new details are added to test the boundaries of one’s core beliefs. So, if you could save five people by killing one (he is fat in order to effectively stop the train) would you do it? Enhancements can be added – suppose one could act with remote tools instead of a more personal engagement? The author, David Edmonds is a senior research associate at the University of Oxford’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics so he is eminently qualified to review the brain teasing and moral quandaries that these types of scenarios evoke. Practical ethics deals in deep thought about the choices we make and the underpinnings of those choices whether it is race, religion, bias, nationalism, etc. People make choices based on their ethics so it is practical in the sense that society must understand the ramifications of these choices and what may lie beneath them. A very relevant and interesting look at this topic and in spite of the serious subject; it is a light hearted approach. Fun diagrams, good bibliography, notes to chapters and comprehensive index.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen An interesting introduction to a moral dilemma 28. August 2014
Von Brad4d - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This generally interesting, well-written book discusses the nearly ubiquitous Trolley Problem ("would you redirect a train so it kills one person rather than five?") and a later development ("would you actively kill one person to stop five from dying?"). It seems simple, but this Problem and the studies it created have nearly spawned a philosopher's cottage industry in moral reasoning (the author calls this "Trolleyology"). Many consider the Trolley Problem a good case study to help understand basic moral reasoning, and the author takes us on a tour of how the Trolley Problem began, how it evolved, how emotions affect moral "reasoning," conscious and unconscious problem solving, the limitations of our abilities to manage an unknown and unpalatable situation, how cultural or personal conditioning may affect our genetically conditioned responses, whether alternatives to moral rules or decision trees may be useful, some objections to using hypothetical cases to gauge expected actual responses, etc. The authors point out the Trolley Problem seems much better at fleshing out issues and principles than at predicting how we would/should act. Although the author can't cover every possible issue in this deceptively simple problem, I thought this book was a solid introduction to moral reasoning -- something we should try to do well, even when we humbly acknowledge we can't always give a universally acceptable solution to difficult questions.
5 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting discussion but a bit all over the place 17. Juni 2014
Von PAmato - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
Having never heard of the Trolley Problem before and with no Philosophy- I thought this would be a good introduction to both. In general it was a satisfying read. However, by inserting the extended bios of the various participants in the debate right into the main text it gave the book a disjointed quality. The discussions of the many iterations of the Trolley Problem and the philosophical theories applied to it over time were fascinating and illuminating. Unfortunately without all the bios this might have been more of an extended paper rather than a book.
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