Trolley Cases and Being ‘In the Realm,’

Southwest Philosophical Studies 32:29-35 (2010)
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I argue against Judith Jarvis Thomson’s solution for solving paradoxes surrounding trolley cases. I then offer my own competing, novel solution. Thomson famously proposed that what matters in trolley-type cases is whether an agent does something to a threat itself so as to minimize harm or whether the agent initiates a new threat against a person so as to minimize harm. According to her, we intuitively assume that minimizing harm is permissible in the former case (doing something to a threat) but not the latter (initiating a new threat to a person). I demonstrate that this distinction does not accommodate our intuitions in all trolley-type cases. I then propose a new distinction – that of being “in the realm” and “out of the realm” - that does accommodate our intuitions across the range of trolley type cases. Bringing someone from “out” of the realm “into” the realm thus constitutes a new deontological constraint against minimizing harm.

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Michael Barnwell
Niagara University


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