WUnderground’s Resident Philosophy Asshat Presents: The Loop Trolley Problem

For the purposes of this example, I have bracketed a distinction between positive and negative action because I’m not some sort of Kantian dipshit.

You are the conductor of the Loop Trolley, and it’s happened again. A man has stumbled onto the tracks ahead of you, thrusting you into an overdone ethical dilemma, bringing back painful memories of your Freshman Philosophy class (you got a C) and most likely ruining your Monday. As the conductor, it is within your power to conduct the trolley onto the other set of tracks which are notably devoid of squishy humans. The dilemma is this: if you continue forward on your current path, you will kill the man. However, you will also bring much needed publicity to the Trolley. You look back into the empty trolley car, wondering how long you’ll be able to keep your job if nobody takes the trolley, and how helpful this man’s death could be for not just you, but all the denizens of the Delmar Loop. Yup, this is gonna be a tough one.

But let me throw a wrench into your plans, or, perhaps more aptly, a man into your trolley tracks. As you approach the befuddled man who refuses to move from the tracks, you notice he is carrying a box of kittens! Wait, nevermind. It’s some of those hairless, scrotum-looking cats. Honestly, kind of makes you want to hit him more because those things are gross.

It’s at this point that you feel a tap on your shoulder. Oh yeah, it’s the elderly lady that occasionally takes the trolley, your only occasional patron. You must have missed her earlier. She tells you that there is a man on the track, and that you should change the tracks; otherwise, you might hit him. She asks you why you have an erection right now. You inform her that you are fully aware of the situation, and that you are deciding whether or not to hit him. For whatever reason, she looks panicked and attempts to pull at the lever. You inform her that only you have the authority to operate these levers, that you are the Mad God of this trolley, and ask her to please take her seat. She complies, remarking that she can’t believe this is happening again.

As you and two tons of vindictive steel hurtle towards the man on the track, you think of your father. Would he approve of smooshing this man? Probably not. But you’ve always hated your father, who never let you practice the violin and instead forced you to play the cello.

As you, Death, approach on the Loop Trolley, your white horse, you are just now within harkening distance. You hear the man on the track say, “Just one more day until retirement.” Damn, you really don’t want to be that guy. I mean, not only would it be rude to squish this man on the day before he retires, but it would also be falling into an incredibly overdone bit.

It’s only now, moments away from your last chance to change your course, that you realize that it’s no man; it’s Phillipa Foot, inventor of the Trolley Problem. It’s only then that you can make up your mind. You do not change tracks. You righteously crush Phillipa Foot beneath the uncaring, unfeeling wheels (?) of the trolley. Not only does she deserve it for coming up with this bullshit, but it adds a flair of dramatic irony to the situation that improves the overall satirical content of this essay, and you’re nothing if not meta. As you feel the small, almost imperceptible thud of the trolley striking her, you think about how that, while they let you off the hook for the last trolley murder, they probably won’t do so again. As the police cart you away, you remark, “Am I being detained? It was all for the greater good™!”