Mountain Terrorist Scenario

Mountain Terrorist Scenario

The following scenario comes originally from the philosopher, Bernard Williams.

You are in a remote mountain village. A group of terrorists has lined up 20 people from the village; they plan on shooting them for collaborating with the enemy. Since you are not from the village, you will not be killed. Taking advantage of your position, you plead with the terrorists not to carry out their plan. Finally, you convince the leader that it is not necessary to kill all 20. He takes a gun, empties it of all its bullets except one, and then hands it to you. He has decided to kill only one villager to set an example to the rest. As an honored guest and outsider, you will decide who will be killed, and you will carry out the deed. The terrorists conclude with a warning; if you refuse to kill the villager, then they will revert back to the original plan of killing all 20. And if you try any “funny business,” they will kill the 20 villagers and then kill you. What should you do?


1. Take the gun, select a villager, and kill him or her.

2. Refuse the terrorists’ offer and walk away from the situation.

Explain what you would choose to do given the circumstances as well as how you arrived at your decision including which ethical system(s) you feel you used. If you chose to kill a villager, describe how you would select the villager you would shoot. If you chose to walk away, describe how you would feel upon leaving when gunshots begin to ring out. Feel free to add any additional thoughts you may have on how this exercise made you feel. You must make a choice.

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