When the Arrow Came before the Trolley: Jewish Aspects of the Trolley Problem

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In 2014 Bruers and Breckman addressed a series of subsidiary questions arising from the trolley problem and their answers. In this article I describe ancient and precedent treatments of some of these issues over thousands of years as found in Jewish literature and the original solutions that have been proposed throughout history by Jewish philosophers and legal scholars. I address questions that have been posed to Jewish halakhic authorities when two obligations clash — whether one may save the lives of many at the cost of killing an individual — and discuss whether this is permitted in order to save lives or forbidden owing to the prohibition of murder. I also present new problems that have been introduced into the halakhic and philosophical discussions around the trolley problem in Jewish literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-206
Number of pages14
JournalPhilosophia (United States)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Jewish Law
  • Judaism
  • Trolley problem


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