WARNING SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS INFINITY WAR AHEAD
The Marvel epic featured themes of sacrifice and salvation, but was there a common trend among all the difficult ethical decisions for the greater good?
Well one Reddit user’s theory on Avengers Infinity War has proven very popular among fans.
Is this what the film is really all about?
The Reddit theorist writes: “The Trolley Problem. Different characters experience variations of the Trolley Problem and try to solve it in different ways.
“For those unfamiliar, the Trolley Problem is a thought experiment to help understand the complexity of ethics and choices. The basic scenario is that you’re the conductor of a runaway trolley barreling towards a group of 5 workers.
“You can trigger a switch on the tracks to divert the trolley — which will save the workers — but kill 1 pedestrian in the trolley’s new path. Do you trigger the switch?
“Thanos is the conductor in the basic scenario. He sees the universe’s finite resources as the trolley, all the future lives of the universe on one track (the 5 workers) and chooses to throw the switch: kill half the universe (the 1 pedestrian) so that future generations will survive.
“Thanos is a sympathetic villain, because the most common conclusion of the Trolley Problem is that saving the 5 workers is a moral obligation. This is how our movie begins.”
They continued: “The story picks up with Doctor Strange, who actually agrees philosophically with Thanos, and goes out of his way to say it. His choice is to protect the Time Stone and stop Thanos, even if it means sacrificing Stark or Spidey. He’s flipping the switch to save the 5 workers too, just in a different way than Thanos.
“Star Lord experiences the first variation of the Trolley Problem: the Fat Man’ The setup is the same, with the runaway trolley, but instead of the conductor, you’re standing on a footbridge above the tracks. There’s a fat man next to you, and you could push him onto the tracks to stop the trolley.
“The important distinction is that you’re actively taking a life, instead of passively letting someone die. Gamora is the Fat Man, and shooting her on Nowhere would stop Thanos. He pulls the trigger.
“Around the same point in the movie, Vision personifies a new variation of the Trolley Problem called the Super Samaritan, where the conductor has the third option of derailing the trolley (killing himself in the act). He begs Wanda and Cap to destroy the Mind Stone so that others may live, which is reasonably beyond the moral obligation of the trolley conductor.”
The theorist added: “However, Cap says “We don’t trade lives,” and he’s the first person to challenge the previous answers to the Trolley Problem. By objecting to “flip the switch” and kill Vision, he adds the premise of incommensurability to the story: it’s not possible to weigh and balance the value of human lives.
“Next, Thanos experiences a new variation of the Trolley Problem. If we conclude that killing 1 person to save 5 is the moral obligation, what happens if you switch the random pedestrian with a loved one? The outcome is the same — 5 people live, 1 person dies — but this twist in the scenario usually has people second-guessing their original conclusion. Thanos, however, is resolute, and kills Gamora for the Soul Stone.
“Back to Doctor Strange! Whereas he had resolved to let Stark die originally, he trades the Time Stone for Stark’s life (and metaphorically switches the trolley back to the original course). Why? He has information from the future that reveals how Stark is important to the endgame.”
They concluded: “That’s a new variation of the Trolley Problem, where the 1 person’s life might be valued higher than the 5 lives (the traditional twist is that the pedestrian is a scientist or doctor, with the cure to a disease). From this perspective, human lives can be compared, but it’s not as simple as every life being valued the same.
“Wanda is our next flip-flopper. She first resisted the obligation to destroy the Mind Stone, but faced with the consequences, she changes her mind. She pushes the Fat Man onto the tracks to try to save the lives of others, just like Star-Lord did.
“The movie ends with only one person solving the Trolley Problem on their own terms: Thanos. The two unresolved choices belong to Strange and Cap, and they’re unique because they both disagree with Thanos’ conclusion… Cap refuses to weigh the value of life, Strange chooses to value one life for the eventual greater good, and we’ll find out where these choices lead in Avengers 4.”
Avengers 4 is released in UK cinemas on April 26, 2019.