Monday, November 25, 2019

This is an entirely hypothetical philosophical question.

Imagine that there are three trains, all out of control and without drivers, careening out of control towards the edge of a cliff; you have to choose one of them.

For some reason.

The first train is a racist train; hitched to an even more racist train; and backed up by a big racist train in America.

The second train is, according to some people, a bit racist, or at any rate, a bit slow at dealing with racism in its own carriages.

The third train is not at all racist.

As signalman, do you vote for the slightly racist train, which has a very real chance of winning.

Or do you vote for the not at all racist train and thus maintain your ideological purity, even though, this makes it practically certain, due to the first past the post signalling system, that the very racist train will win the election?

Purely hypothetically.

7 comments:

  1. In my local area I can also vote for the train which thinks that if the other trains hurtle over the edge we can turn aside at the last moment and watch them plummet to their doom.

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  2. For this election (and maybe only this election), it seems clear to me that the thing to do is vote for whichever party is best placed to unseat the Racist Train in one's own constituency. This will mean some supporters of one of the other trains voting for their less preferred of the two non-Racist Trains. Sadly, it seems inevitable that ideological purity in both of the other trains will split the non-racist vote enough for the Racist Train to win.

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  3. All trains are heading towards a cliff anyway (and this was the democratic wish of the passengers) so does it really matter which one you choose? Or which one was more racist?

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  4. ….I mean, you can chose which train you wish to be a passenger in, but as the terminus really is terminal, the only consolation is that you'll be going to the great hereafter with a group of likeminded souls.

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  5. You mean this is all about Narnia again?

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  6. In real life you are never a signalman choosing between one old lady getting knocked down and a party of school children going over the cliff.

    I was addressing the specific question of race: and the people who wrote a letter to the Guardian saying "We will never ever vote for the possibly allegedly according to his enemies maybe according to some definitions not sufficiently against racism candidate, even at the cost of letting the unapologetically and obviously very very racist candidate in."

    I could have asked a different question, e.g "If there was one train who definitely wanted to go over the cliff, and one train that definitely didn't want to go over the cliff, and one train that wanted to have a vote on whether to go over the cliff or not; why would the passenger who definitely didn't want to go over the cliff support the train that was likely to facilitate the train that definitely wanted to go over the cliff."

    I have been thinking quite a lot about how parables work lately.

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