The Trolley Problem

The Trolley Problem

Part of a series on Troll Science / Troll Physics. [View Related Entries]

Updated Nov 29, 2022 at 05:00PM EST by Owen.

Added Apr 16, 2016 at 02:21AM EDT by Muffinlicious.

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The Trolley Problem is a popular thought experiment explaining a philosophical ethical dilemma. The dilemma was translated into a popular comic drawing, which then became an exploitable in online forums.


The Trolley Problem thought experiment was first introduced by Philippa Foot in 1967. In this experiment, a trolley theoretically approaches five people tied down to a set of tracks. Using a lever, the trolley can be diverted to a different set of tracks, where only one person is tied down; a person could either allow the trolley to kill five people or divert it to kill one. The Trolley Problem is frequently discussed in military circles to metaphorically address issues of population targeting.

The exploitable comic was originally drawn and posted by philosophy professor Jesse Prinz on his site[1] sometime before 2009. The image was posted along with a depiction of connected moral dilemma called the Fat Man Problem.


While it's difficult to trace the first posts using the images in 4chan boards, the image has most frequently been used on the literature board, /lit/,[2] and the history board, /his/,[3] in a number of different edits. The first known edit on /lit/ occurred on November 29th, 2013, where the faces of the people tied to the tracks were photoshopped to be popular 20th-century philosophers like Slavoj Žižek and Judith Butler.

File: 135 KB, 756x406, trolley problem.png [View same] [iadb] [saucenao] [google] [report] Anonymous Fri Nov 29 01:57:16 2013 No.43 17230壶 Dear analyticfags: WHERE'S YOUR GOD NOW??? [Reply] [Original] Anonymous Fri Nov 29 01:58:16 2013 No.4317235 File: 60 KB, 500x361, MultiTrackDrifting.jpg [View same] [iqdb] [saucenao] [google] [report] US

As of April 18th, 2016, according to Warosu, where the /lit/ archive is held, and Desustorage, where the /his/, /co/, and /r9k/ archives are held, the trolley problem has been discussed hundreds of times on each.

Various Examples

ooa MULTI- TRACK DRIFTING!! Hedonist's Trolley Problerm The track is heading towards B If you pull the lever, it will switch to A but it won't do the totally sick loop-da-loop You're waifu Your favorite studios and mangaka

Search Interest

External References

[1] Jesse Prinz – Website

[2] Warosu – /lit/ archive search: trolley problem

[3] 4chan – /his/

[4] New York Times Sunday Book Review – Clang Went the Trolley

[5] Warosu – First known mention of problem on /lit/

[6] Desustorage – search: trolley problem

Recent Videos 10 total

Recent Images 206 total

Top Comments

Muffinlicious Moderator

in reply to toiletmunger

Doing nothing and allowing the trolley to run over five people means you've allowed five deaths, but didn't directly cause them. Flipping the lever and making the train hit the single person means you have made the conscious decision to kill someone. Although it makes more logical sense to kill one person, people are morally inclined to watch five people die rather than bear the guilt of knowing they have caused someone's death.


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