When taking into consideration how I would respond in two possible cases in a zombie
outbreak, both involving a man about to murder his curable, zombie wife and children, my views
seemed to carry a bit of dispute. The first case consists of the man with a rifle, allowing you to
take the gun and kill the man slightly more indirectly. While the second scenario involves no
weapons, requiring you to very directly kill the man with your own hands. I think both of these
cases follow a direct correlation with the previously discussed trolley cases, in that the first case
allows you to pull a lever, killing one man and saving four, while still keeping a distance from
the situation. And in the second case, you are required to directly push a man off the bridge to
save four people. The difference between both cases seems to come down to direct and
indirectness. My view on the first case, in both the zombie and trolley scenarios, follows
utilitarianism, while the second case brings out a deontology view.
When it comes to personhood, it isn’t about whether I am seeing one person as more
important than another, but rather if I would find myself capable in the situation to have a direct
hand in choosing someone’s, anyone’s, death. In case one of the zombie situation, one must
make a more indirect choice. This scenario could allow for slightly greater rational thinking. If
it would be easy to kill the man with his gun, then really the only decision seems to be whether
more or less people die. This is where utilitarianism comes into play. It is an obvious utilitarian
choice to simply shoot the man because this creates greater happiness by saving more people (his
wife and children). Some may argue that the choice to just kill the man could end up not being
the best, or most pleasurable, option. Say if the man was actually on the verge of solving world
hunger, or if one of his children grows up to be a serial killer. Then the choice to kill the man
and save his family no longer maximizes happiness. This is when it comes down to rule
utilitarianism, stating that we can generally assume that saving more people is better than one. In
a quick decision, we cannot possibly assess every outcome, so the best decision is the one with
the most immediate happiness.
In the second zombie scenario, involving no weapons, my view seems to take a turn. If
needed to actually beat a man with my own hands, I don’t believe I would do it. This decision
clearly doesn’t follow utilitarianism, seeing as it really only has to do with my happiness of
avoiding beating a man. So, the choice seems to fall under deontology, most specifically the 2nd
formulation of the Categorical Imperative, stating to, “Act so as to treat humanity as an ends,
never as a mere means.” If I were to kill the man, it would just be to save his family, and thus
would be treating him as a mere means to get to a goal. I obviously would not want to kill the
man, so it would not be my goal, or an end. This would be wrong from a deontologist point of
view. The right decision would be to avoid treating anyone as a means completely, that being to
not kill the man, just to save his family. But this seems to end with all the wrong consequences.
This act results in an entire dead family, and one grieving old man. I completely agree that this
is the wrong result. While I don’t believe I could brutally kill the man, I do think that it would
end up being the wrong choice not to do so.
Clearly, sometimes consequences matter. In my mind, both cases should end in killing
the man to save more people, but that doesn’t mean that I could do so myself. Yes, utilitarianism
may seem to be the right answer in both scenarios, but that doesn’t mean we have to follow it.
Morality isn’t always easy.
• First item on the list is what position the essay you read defends
• Second, the reasons you see offered in favor of that position
• Third, the objection to that position
• Finally, the response to the objection.
You should then assess the argument for clarity, completeness, and whether it is compelling.
• Clarity: Did you understand it? Was any of it unclear? Were there grammatical errors (significant or insignificant)? How many times did you have to read it to understand it.
• Completeness: Did they do everything the essay asks them to do (i.e. does your list have all four of those items)? What is missing? Are things out of order? (Do they have their support reasons after their objection?)
• Compelling: Did you find the argument convincing? Did they offer a strong objection or a weak one? Were their reasons (in defense of their view and in response to the objection) good, strong, interesting?