6 Interesting Thought Experiments

Philosophy, Thought Experiments

Experience Machine
Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired. It could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Should you plug into this machine for life, preprogramming your life experiences? While in the tank you won’t know that you’re there; you’ll think that it’s all actually happening. Would you plug in?

The Trolley Problem
A madman has tied five innocent people to a trolley track. An out of control trolley car is careening toward them, and is moments away from running them over. Luckily, you can pull a lever and divert the trolley to another track. The only problem is that the madman has also tied a single person to that track. Considering the circumstances, should you pull the lever?

The Good Bribe
A businessman, known for being less than honest, comes up to the PM and asks to be included in the Queen’s honours list for which he’ll give $10 million to help improve water supply to hundreds of thousands in Africa. Should the PM accept this good bribe?

Ticking Time Bomb
Suppose that a perpetrator of an imminent terrorist attack, that will kill many people, is in the hands of the authorities and that he will disclose the information needed to prevent the attack only if he is tortured. Should he be tortured?

Ticking Time Bomb 2
Suppose the perpetrator of an imminent terrorist attack, that will kill thousands, is in the hands of the authorities but will only disclose information if his wife and/or child is tortured. Should they be tortured?

Ship Of Theseus
The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, in so much that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.” —Plutarch
Is the ship still the “same” ship, even though it has been entirely replaced, piece by piece?

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