Although I don’t follow anyone on Twi**er, as I’d never get anything done if I did, I do count on the kindness of stranger (and readers) to call interesting tw**ts to my attention. Here’s one that Grania sent me.
I watched the video that these tweets ultimately link to, and put it below.
Sam is, of course, referring to the famous trolley problem first outlined by philosopher Philippa Foot. As you probably know, modern versions involve making a decision that involves you taking an action that will lead to someone’s death, while inaction will lead to more people’s deaths. Five people are on one track, with a runaway train about to smash into them, surely killing all five. But, by pulling a switch, you can divert the train onto a track so it will hit only one person. Do you take that action? (I’d say “yes”.)
An alternative is that you’re standing on a footbridge over the tracks with a fat guy beside you whom you don’t know. If you throw him onto the tracks, you can stop the train and save five lives, though the chubby man dies. (You’re assumed to be too thin to stop the train.) Do you heave that person onto the tracks? The consequences are exactly the same, but most people, including me, would say “no” to that question. It’s interesting to ponder why we see a difference between these two innate feelings, and why we somehow feel that hurling the fat guy is wrong.
There are lots of variants of this problem, all designed to explore our moral intuitions. It’s a good Gedankenexperiment to explore why we have different knee-jerk reactions to “moral” situations that are fundamentally similar.
Below is a funny video in which a father who knows about the trolley problem poses it to his son. His solution is unique, but I have to say that if I were a kid, I would probably have done the same thing!
Finally, Matthew Cobb, who reads the Times Literary Supplement, found a review of a book called Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing (but why the asterisk given that there’s already a well know book called On Bullshit?). He shared some of the review’s contents on Twi**er, and it was shared widely. Trigger warning: scatology, profanity, and sexuality!
Looking up “Gropecuntelane,” I found there’s a long Wikipedia entry for it, and that many streets in England were given that name, all because they were where prostitutes plied their trade. (British street names often derived from the activities taking place there.) There were in fact several streets in London alone with this name, but all disappeared by the end of the 16th century.