"Imagine that there are five hospital patients who urgently need organ transplants. If a healthy man walks in, should the doctors use his organs to save the other five, thus sacrificing the man’s life? For most people the instant response would be: no. Now imagine that a runaway trolley is about to plough into five workers standing on the track. There is a fork in the track, and throwing a switch could divert the train down the other line, where there is only one worker. The same question: should we sacrifice the one worker for the sake of the five? In this case, most people will again have an almost instant response: yes.It's an interesting article, but ignoring that it rather throws into relief what I think is a fundamental conundrum I find in my own personal morality. These are variants on the 'Trolley Problem'.
How is it that we are able to react so quickly and with such certainty to moral questions of this type? According to the psychologist Marc Hauser, it is because we are born with an innate moral faculty, analogous to our language faculty."
I like to think that I follow a broadly utilitarian philosophy (with some modifications) but this little moral conundrum is the one that challenges that. Like most other people I reject the former choice, and accept the latter - but how do I justify that? Of course I can appeal to practical concerns* (I don't think as a matter of fact that it is likely that all five would survive the transplants, and even those that do will not survive for that long before rejection, and they may have survived a reasonable period without transplantation anyway, and, of course, we could just cannibalise one of the five to transplant to the others), but that is not engaging with the meat of the argument. I don't have an answer, and it is a little troubling.
*I think that this line of argument is more promising when considering a similar (and real) dilemma (often attributed to Peter Singer) about how much money we should give in charity to save lives.