Ohhh, I would say Ayn Rand was a philosopher — just not one I get much value or enjoyment from :P Anyone who asks “why” does philosophy.
And yes I agree that there is a moral hazard to both choices. Either way, people are going to die, so what do you do?
For me, it boils down to only making moral decisions that affect other people, if I would want that same choice to be made for me if the roles were reversed.
A truly altruistic, selfless person should pull the lever and push the fat man, because they would certainly want the same choices to be made for them if the roles were reversed.
I would not want to be pushed or hit by a train, so in my opinion, I have no right to pull the lever or push the fat man. If I lack the conviction to want the decision to be made for me, then I don’t believe I can morally make it for someone else.
The situation with the teens not helping the drowning man is also interesting. Teens have not fully developed that area of their brain that can effectively process many moral choices, and are much more limited in their capacity to arrive at decisions independently. I don’t know the details of the story — I’ll look it up — so these are just initial thoughts. I think of dumb things I did as a teen — things I knew were wrong — but did them regardless because I lacked the capacity to consider their morality. Stealing a pair of sunglasses from a store and getting caught, for example. I did not need them. I was consciously aware of the negative expected value attached to this decision, but made the decision to steal them anyways. That’s all to say, teens are weird.
I have not seen that OITNB episode, but enjoyed your article. I like when television and film incorporate ethical dilemmas from philosophy. I always think of the prisoner’s dilemma worked into The Dark Knight. It also makes me feel smart when I am able to identify them, so that’s cool.