A Kantian Solution to the Trolley Problem

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This chapter proposes a solution to the Trolley Problem in terms of the Kantian prohibition on using a person ‘merely as a means.’ A solution of this type seems impossible due to the difficulties it is widely thought to encounter in the scenario known as the Loop case. The chapter offers a conception of ‘using merely as a means’ that explains the morally relevant difference between the classic Bystander and Footbridge cases. It then shows, contrary to the standard view, that a bystander who diverts the trolley in the Loop case need not be using someone ‘merely as a means’ in doing so. This makes it possible to show why the Loop scenario does not undermine the explanation of the salient moral difference between the Bystander and Footbridge cases.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Studies in Normative Ethics
EditorsMark Timmons
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198867944, 9780198867951
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • trolley problem
  • Immanuel Kant
  • Kantian Ethics
  • Judith Jarvis Thomson
  • using merely as a means
  • practical reasoning

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