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Philosophy reading group: Would you kill the fat man?

  • The English Bookshop Svartbäcksgatan 19 753 32 Uppsala (map)

The Trolley Problem and What Your Answer Tells Us about Right and Wrong
by David Edmonds

A runaway train is racing toward five men who are tied to the track. Unless the train is stopped, it will inevitably kill all five men. You are standing on a footbridge looking down on the unfolding disaster. However, a fat man, a stranger, is standing next to you: if you push him off the bridge, he will topple onto the line and, although he will die, his chunky body will stop the train, saving five lives. Would you kill the fat man? The question may seem bizarre. But it's one variation of a puzzle that has baffled moral philosophers for almost half a century and that more recently has come to preoccupy neuroscientists, psychologists, and other thinkers as well.

In this book, David Edmonds, coauthor of the best-selling Wittgenstein’s Poker, tells the riveting story of why and how philosophers have struggled with this ethical dilemma, sometimes called the trolley problem. In the process, he provides an entertaining and informative tour through the history of moral philosophy. Most people feel it’s wrong to kill the fat man. But why? After all, in taking one life you could save five. As Edmonds shows, answering the question is far more complex – and important – than it first appears. In fact, how we answer it tells us a great deal about right and wrong.

David Edmonds is the author, with John Eidinow, of the best-selling Wittgenstein’s Poker, as well as Rousseau’s Dog and Bobby Fischer Goes to War. The co-founder of the popular Philosophy Bites podcast series, Edmonds is a senior research associate at the University of Oxford’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and a multi-award-winning radio feature maker at the BBC. He holds a PhD in philosophy.

For total beginners! Sign up for this reading group either by dropping by the shop (and getting the book) or emailing

Moderator: Madeleine Hyde
Entrance fee: 185 kr for the book + 60 kr for entrance with tea and cake

Looking forward to discussing the book!
/Madeleine and friendly bookshop staff

Earlier Event: October 9
Filosofiskt forum: Svartsjuka
Later Event: October 10
Filosofiskt forum: Svartsjuka