Let’s start with a question I’m sure all of us have been asked at least once in our life. There’s an unstoppable train and it can be diverted in one of two ways. On one, there’s ten people stuck on whom the train will run over and on the other, there’s only one person but that one person is someone you love like a family member, a friend etc. Who do you save? Now, logic dictates that you save the ten people for the “greater good”. And I’ve heard most people say that as the answer. But there have been others who’ve raised an obvious question, would you really be able to sacrifice a loved one for people you don’t even know? And however illogical that seems, it is a legitimate argument. If I were to really put you in this situation, I don’t think you’d be able to pull the trigger on someone you love as easily as you say it.
And in this seemingly simple two choice question that little kids ask each other in a game of situation, Truth & Dare—lies another deep and difficult question- when the time comes, what is the right way? The logical one, or the one that you feel is right?
It's not always a life-or-death situation but all of us come across this dilemma some time in our life. A lot of teens face this when they’re choosing their career path. People with difficult family conditions often have to suppress their passions to take up jobs which logic (and society) dictate as simply better because it fetches more money.
And what about the gut feeling you have sometimes, when you feel that something is off even when everything seems fine? What do you do then? History has examples in which following this gut feeling people have, turned out to be right and there’s also cases where it turned into a complete disaster.
Some people argue that emotions are the ability to feel differently from others, the ability to have your opinion regardless of what the world says or does, it is what makes us unique individuals. But if that is the case, then to what extent is this uniqueness, this desire to be separate from the crowd, good? Because it is these emotions such as jealousy and anger, these different opinions on how the world should function and who should have what powers, that have led to some of the darkest times humankind has seen.
But on the other hand, even logic isn’t so noble either because it is hostile. Where there’s logic, there’s no room for anything else. For example, in the train dilemma, logic dictates that you don’t even flinch before sacrificing a loved one. So in that case, emotions are what make that question a question. Because even if you decided to save a loved one, it was a really difficult choice and it shows that you’re a human.
As you’re reading this, I’m sure you feel that Emotions and Logic are complete opposites. But, there’s one thing that’s common between them which is that they’re very easy to manipulate. So, back to the train. Now, I’ll ask you the same question that I asked you in the beginning but with certain changes.
First, I’ll tell you that the ten people on one side are criminals. Suddenly, it’s an easy question right? Who cares if ten criminals are run over, they’re bad people, and more importantly, someone you love needs to be saved. Emotions win.
Question two. This time people on both sides are total strangers. Obviously, you save the ten guys. One person whom I didn’t love but maybe others did, logic dictated that I had to save 10 people. Round two goes to logic.
So you see, it is not emotions or logic but our ability to perceive and manipulate a problem into solving it emotionally or logically is what makes it a true dilemma.
So finally, if you read till the end to see if there’s an answer to this question, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but there’s not. At least not that I know of. So I guess I’m going to spend my life hoping no train’s brakes ever fail.
Author: Manas Mehta
Editor: Amrita Pillai