Thoughts on Moral Dilemmas

Let me tell you a joke.


There’s a company that sells chicken. They’re doing okay, but they could be doing better. They do a review of everything, and find that if they could find a more efficient way to pluck the chickens, they could greatly increase their profits.
“Get me the smartest man you can find,” says the chairman, “and ask him to come up with a better way to pluck chickens.”
His men go out and find the smartest man in the country – a Nobel Prize winner in theoretical physics.
They bring him to the company and explain their problem. He thinks for five minutes, and says “Okay, I’ve got it.
“First, we assume the chickens are perfect spheres in a frictionless vacuum…”



I was watching an episode of The Mentalist the other night, and it had a whole thing around Moral Dilemmas – you know the sort, “There’s ten people on a railway track and a train is coming, do you push a fat guy off the bridge to save the other people?”
I flat out refuse to answer these – or, if I think the asker is well-read enough to get it, I’ll answer “Mu.”
Mu is always the correct answer. These questions are false constructs – no-one will ever be in such perfectly sterile morally ambiguous situations, and so the answers to such questions are meaningless – about as useful as a plucking machine designed for perfectly spherical chickens.
Sometimes, people counter this with the “Well, what if a psychopath gives you a gun and tells you to choose one person to kill, or he’ll kill all of them?” dilemma. Yes, such situations have arisen, but I am fairly sure that there is no way to tell what you would choose until you are actually in that situation, no matter how many beers you discuss it over in the pub.


Note that I have no problem with discussing the moral consequences of such dilemmas – these are, after all, the real point of asking such questions. However, there seems to be an insistent, arrogant mindset among some people that it is absolutely necessary that you have answers for these questions, and that those answers will reveal your moral character.



(And, speaking of bulls, does a cow have Buddha nature?)


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