Steve Rogers and the Trolley Problem


Upon watching Avengers: Infinity War for the first time since seeing it in the theater, there was one particular line that struck me the most. When the Avengers are discussing the impending threat of Thanos, Vision suggests destroying the Mind Stone (and him with it) in order to keep the powerful stone out of Thanos’s hands. Captain America immediately disagrees, heroically: “we don’t trade lives, Vision.” That more or less ends that debate, and sets up for a memorable reversal of the line later when Vision saves Cap’s life. However, I’m not sure I can agree with Steve Rogers’s pristine moral code in this case

The reason for my criticism is simple. Isn’t trading lives exactly what the Avengers are doing in the Battle of Wakanda? They can’t have seriously expected all of the Wakandan soldiers to survive the fight, the purpose of which was ultimately to save Vision’s life by extracting the Mind Stone from his head. And it’s not as if the Avengers are unaware of what’s at stake here: Thanos’s quest to kill half of all the universe’s life is spelled out to them in the same conversation as the aforementioned quote. It’s Vision’s (single) life that’s on the line directly, weighed against the several hundred Wakandan soldiers who put their lives at risk to protect him, as well as half the universe if Thanos were to succeed. This seems like a pretty simple formula to me, and I don’t think our heroes can be completely absolved for not paying heed to it.

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑