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Would You Kill The Fat Man?

Written by John (the other John).

I was recently reading a book called “Would you Kill the Fat Man” which discussed an interesting moral philosophical question regarding killing one person if it could save the lives of many more people. The story goes as follows:

A runaway train is racing toward five men who are tied to the track. Unless the train is stopped, it will inevitably kill all five men. You are standing on a footbridge looking down on the unfolding disaster. However, a fat man, a stranger, is standing next to you: if you push him off the bridge, he will topple onto the line and, although he will die, his chunky body will stop the train, saving five lives. Would you kill the fat man?”

Of course the above specific scenario is an unlikely scenario, but today we do face similar scenarios in our daily political and economic lives which bring the same ethical dilemma of “would you ki!! [fill in the blank]…..” if it would save the lives of many more people. To simplify the conversation (and to avoid anyone getting their home searched by their nation’s security services), let us discuss this as a hypothetical to someone who lived in the past and is long deceased (for example, AH, Stalin, Mao, Lenin, Marx, Genghis Khan, Mo, Nero, etc…; take your pick[s]). If you had a time-machine and could go back in time to the era of any of these people, and if you had the proper weaponry to ki!! any of these people knowing that perhaps thousands of lives to perhaps hundreds of millions of lives would have been spared, would you ki!! that person? 
I suspect most people would say “yes”, but ultimately the overwhelming majority of these people would be unwilling to follow through with it. (Of course doing such a deed while in the military raises a distinct moral question, because in such a forum the task has an ethical validation by his/her own nation that makes the decision much easier). As for Christians, I suspect that the concept of “love thy neighbour” and “turn the other cheek” would prevent most of them from following through with this. 
Any thoughts on this most interesting of ethical questions that we face today?
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