Real Life Trolley Problem Leaves One Philosopher Dead

It wasn’t a train this time, but drowning.

A leading French philosopher who wrote a book on risk-taking has died after attempting to rescue two children from drowning.

Anne Dufourmantelle entered the water at Pampelonne beach near St Tropez on 21 July after the children got into difficulty.

Witnesses say she immediately tried to reach them but was swept away by a strong current. Attempts to resusciate her after she was recovered failed, according to local media reports.

The children were later rescued by lifeguards, unharmed. It was unclear whether Dufourmantelle knew them.

Why study moral philosophy? Because, when the time comes to act fast, you will not have the time to puzzle out the correct course of action.

You might have heard of the Trolley Problem that goes as follows:

A runaway trolley is hurtling down the tracks. Ahead, on those tracks, five people are tied up and unable to move. You are standing next to a lever by the tracks. If you pull the lever, the trolley will switch to another track where only one person is tied up. Do you kill the five people who are near death, or do you pull the lever and kill one person?

There are many jokey variations, including one formulation where You are a professor of moral philosophy. Do you tie people to the trolley tracks in order to save your job?

Myself, I would not choose to pull the lever because I don’t know if those six people tied¬†themselves to the tracks for a fetishistic thrill, so I don’t want to save the five people who tied themselves to a live track and punish the one person bright enough to check the train schedule.

It’s clear that Dufourmantelle died in response to a moral choice she made for herself years ago, but I don’t see the sense in diving into the strong current of the water when you are not a strong enough swimmer to carry both yourself and two children back to shore.