Moral Thought Experiments

The goal of these questions is for people to be able to apply their answers to real life situations as the situations come up, without having to make moral decisions under pressure. Otherwise people's intuitions may lead them astray. I don't think that there are correct or incorrect answers to most of these. The important thing is for people to think about these over time and decide for themselves.

Which is better? For something good and something equally bad to happen, or for nothing to happen at all?

What if the good and bad things have very little impact? If the answer is still the former, how important would the event need to be to sway you the other direction?

Which is better? For something slightly bad and something very good to happen, or for nothing to happen at all? Where is that line drawn?

Is it worth it to have something bad but very minor happen to lots of people if a single individual benefits greatly?

Is it worth it to have something very bad happen to a single individual if lots of people benefit in a minor way?

Is it more important to make other people happy or to be happy yourself?

One I cannot claim, a classic: A run-away train is about to hit four people on a track. There is another track with a single person on it. You have a lever which will switch the train to the second track. To switch or not to switch?

Another classic: You are a doctor and you have one healthy patient and four sick patients. If you took the organs from the healthy patient and placed them in the sick patients, the healthy patient would die, but five other people would live. Would you do so?