Trolley, Trolley

I love finding Trolley Problem takes. If I had spare time, I’d set up to archive the content. This graphic contextualises the problem. In university, I recall discussing different nuances, including the medical doctor problem of saving a Nobel Prize laureate at the expense of 5 indigent people, whether health compromised or not, so this perspective of privilege is not new. The twist here is that this flips the neutral decision with you in control of the path of the trolley but without knowing anything about the people on the track to the capitalist deciding between another capitalist versus workaday proletariats. It’s almost always frame in from a consequentialist perspective.

May be a cartoon of 1 person and text that says "How you imagine the trolley problem YOU 00000 5 How it's actually going to be 000000 0000 YOU"

Foucault wrote about épistémès, where knowledge and perspective are contextualised in time and place. The bottom picture sums up how the mortgage crisis was resolved in 2008. Too Big to Fail (TBTF) financial institutions were salvaged at the expense of ordinary citizens. Main Street was sacrificed for Wall Street. Considering Derrida, Wall Street had the privileged position over Main Street or High Street.

In the midst of COVID, you can see the argument playing out in the UK and US, as the top route is to close businesses to reduce social contact and the bottom route is to open business because it inconveniences a few shop owners. Note that even people on the bottom path are shouting for the switchman to send the trolley careening down their path.

13 thoughts on “Trolley, Trolley

  1. Nothing to do with the trolley problem. But you mentioned Foucault again. And I’m presently reading “Can the sub altern speak” by Spivak.

    She uses Foucault and Deleuze to make her point.

    You might be interested because, for me, it really goes to the heart of the problem with Foucault and Deleuze, I assumption that they both presume in order to produce theory.


    1. What are you taking away from Spivak? Don’t you feel that Spivak’s position takes a ‘no true Scotsman’ approach and is rather an ad hominem attack—that Foucault can’t take comment on episteme and power if he adopts his own position? This feels a bit desperate and disingenuous, like criticising your physician tending your broken bone because their bone is also broken.

      Funny, I was chatting with an Anthropologist the other week and suggested that I felt that his conclusions were similar to Latour. His response was how could it be similar because Latour focused on Europeans whilst he was focused on Pacific Islanders. I stopped talking. haha

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      1. Well. To be honest: what you point out is exactly why I came up with The Two Routes. But also, how I say, philosophy is only about philosophy. But also a whole slew of things I talk about lol.

        I think Spovak point is similar to Habermas’s. That Foucault’s ‘archaeology’ (and Deleuze similarly) has no point of reference. If one looks for the point of reference from which such proposals could have any substance to make sense. So it is by this inference that we should conclude that he is only arguing and justifying his position of privilege, amd not really talking about anything which is really there. Hence also the general critique those Big Authors.

        But also, such a critique could only come from a “subaltern”, thus her point ironically.

        It is interesting, though,
        Spivak did do the introduction to “On Grammatology”.for Derrida.


      2. It’s not that he adopts his own position, but that his position is assumed omnipotent, as though it is not just his position. His assertion is that his position is “not a position” but is indeed an archeology of history from a position that is assumed common to all humanity. His argument is not “this is my position” but rather “all of us reckon this same position”’


      3. …I mean here that Foucault is not/was not and was/is involved in a “phrase universe”. Not either/or, but And. For how could Spivak as well have any thing to say that Foucault could have understood, then? Let alone me or you?

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      4. That is funny a little Latour. 😆. And totally rediculous. Your freind is a perfect example of what I would call. Misunderstanding and misapplication of Spivak point (at least, from my standpoint, which is really a critique of the point of you that she is or was taking). My point is that there is only Two Routes. People who take her point as meaning that there are various circles of discourses, that resonate and only apply on to themselves, are living in a kind of suspended contradiction which defines the modern state. However, my point is that what is true and the situation is that indeed anyone who considers himself an intellectual is involved in an ideological assertion of propriety, including her friend who is supposed to rely upon the intellectual assertion that there are different discourses and you can’t speak between them. So postmodern.

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  2. As to my version of the trolley problem: I am the observer looking at the trolley problem. My decision is to turn my back. And if I find, ironically, that I am like some figure involved in the allegory of the cave, thinking that I’ve stepped into the sunlight where is actually I’m just a person amongst others chained inside a cave watching shadows on the wall, if it is me myself on the tracks, just make it quick.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. … oh, .but it it it is others lives that are involved in who lives or who dies, then still my back is turned, and when I turn around and dude whoever is living I’ll try and help.


    2. … but you got me thinking.
      I hate the trolley problem. I hate philosophical ethical questions about “what if this situation was presented to you”, because one, those hypothetical ethical situations never occur, and two, if they were to occur, regardless of what decision I would make, I would probably be screwed up in one way or another. It wouldn’t matter what rationality or reasoning that I would make by which to make the decision, I would be upset in someway or another, and be pondering the decision in one way or another such that it would affect the rest of my life. So either way, to my mind, there is no ultra rational answering of these questions, because this ultra rational approach to ethics never arises in reality. It is to me such a fantasy, a sort of thinking that a friend of mine used to call “mental masturbation”. Lol. It’s not even having sex with someone. It’s sitting home Masturbating. And I remember my friends point about it is that, sure it feels great, it makes me feel good, but it really doesn’t accomplish anything at all, nor does it involve anyone else (unless you’re masturbating with someone else), but further it doesn’t accomplish anything except feeling good about yourself.

      But, yes I could think it’s interesting to hear how other people Frame the trolley question, I love your idea for a website. But personally I would have to say that those people who feel that they’re accomplishing anything by pondering the trolley problem are caught in a certain type of idealism that I’m not sure I agree with, I’ll be at, ethically. 🤣


      1. I read an article on the trolley problem recently, where the actions people take are not consonant with the actions they say they’ll take. They know how they are suppose to answer, but when push comes to shove, they do what they feel in the moment. I’m pretty sure this never involves really trolleys, but still…


  3. i’ve thought about it some more quickly ! Lol

    Search idealisms of ethical problems may just well function to train myself to not be ethically disturbed for one of the other outcomes. Which is to say, I could use the trolley problem to convince myself that one or the other solutions to the problem is justified. And so in training myself to believe that, then I can go about the rest of my life being justified in that way and not be emotionally disturbed or compromised.


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