Situation Ethics

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  • Situation Ethics
    • Four working presuppositions
      • Pragmatism
        • based on experience rather than theory
        • Fletcher doubts strict philosophicl systems or ideologies are much help in ethics.
      • Relativism
        • There are many different degrees of relativism.
        • Based on making the absolute laws of christian ethics relative.
        • Fletcher sees relativism in the behaviour pf Jesus in rejecting the fixed rule o mentality of the Pharises=es.
        • The situationist approach to relativism  is that  all decisions must be relative to love
        • Situation ethics 'relativises the absolute, it does not absolute the relative.'
      • Positivism
        • Religious knowledge orr belief can only be approached  in one of two way: natural and logical positism.
        • Natural Positvism reason ddeduces faith from human experience or natural phenomena.
        • Theological positivism: faith statements are made and people act in a way that is reasonable in the light of these statements
          • Reason is not the basis for faith but it works within faith
    • Three approaches to moral thinking
      • Legalistic
        • Set of predefined rules and regulations
        • Christianity shows legalistic features based on biblical commandments and the precepts expounded by Aquinas
        • Aquinas argued that they were discoverable in nature and not human ordinations.
        • Fletcher rejected these legalistic approaches that were based on fixed laws
      • Antinomian
        • The reverse of legalistic ethics, there are no rules or regulations or prrinciple of any kind.
        • Each attempt at moral decision making is unique and follows no patterns or systems.
        • Fletcher was heavily critical of antinomian ethics
        • 'it is literally unprincipled, purely ad hoc and casual. They follow no forecastable course from one situation to another. They are anarchic, without a rule.'
      • Situational
        • Moral actions depend purely on the situation
        • A situationist enters a moral dilemma with ethics and rules but they are prepared to set aside these rules if love seems better served by doing so.
        • Reason is the instrument of moral judgements but disagrees that the good is to be discerned from the nature or love of things.
        • Heavily influenced by Christian theologians who took a different approach to deducing moral guidance from the bible rather than simply looking for rules or principles.
        • He was influenced by Bultmann, Barth and Bonhoeffer
          • Bultmann- argued against the idea that Jesus sought to establish some new ethical ideology.
          • Barth- God's commanding can only be this individual, concrete and specific example of commanding not only a rule. He was not opposed to the idea of morally wrong actions.
          • Bonhoeffer- he thought that determining the will of God in ant concrete situation is based on two things: the need of one;s neighbou and the model of Jesus.
            • All we can do is act according to these two things and offer our conduct to God's judgment, mercy and grace.
    • Six propositions
      • First
        • 'only one thing is intrinsically good; namely love, nothing else at all.'
        • Actions aren't intrinsically good or evil, they always form part of a chain of cause and effect
        • Love is the only universal, the only thing to oblige us in conscience.
      • Second
        • 'the ruling norm of christian decision is love nothing else.'
        • Fletcher believes that the commandments are not absolute, Jesus broke them when love demanded it.
        • Love replaces law, it is not equally by other =any other law
      • Third
        • 'love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing else.'
        • Love and justice cannot be separated.
        • Love takes everything into account, it is not partial.
      • Fourth
        • 'Love wills the neighbours good, whether we like him or not.'
        • The love that Fletcher is concerned about is not a matter of feeling but is a matter of attitude.
        • Agape love is unconditional for nothing is required in return.
        • Agape love goes out to everyone not just those that we like but also those that we do't like.
      • Fifth
        • 'Only the end justifies the means, nothing else.'
        • Considering moral actions without reference to their ends is a haphazard approach.
        • Love is the goal or end of an act that justifies any means to achieve that goal.
      • Sixth
        • 'Love's decisions are made situationally. not prescriptively.'
        • Love decides on each situation as it arises without a set of laws to guide it
        • We must be in the moment in order to make a free decision.
        • If an action will bring about an end that dserves love most then it is right.
    • Agape
      • Utilitarians see the greatest happiness as the highest end
      • Kantians look to the summum bonum, others look to love specifically agape.
      • Christianity is a religion based on love, a God that is love and agape.
      • Bishop john Robinson argued that, 'there is no one ethical system that can claim to be christian.'
      • Bultmann argued that Jesus had no eethics about from, 'love thy neighbour as thyself.'
      • Agape love is the highest end.
    • Joseph Fletcher (1905-1991)
      • love is what morality should serve
      • when making a moral decision you should
      • 'the situationist follows a moral law that violates it according to love's need.'
    • A teleological ethical theory
    • Conscience
      • The error is thinking of the conscience as a noune insteead of a verb
      • It is not an internalised value.
      • In no way does  it guide  human action
      • Fletcher adopts Aquinas' thinking that the conscience is reason-making moral judgements, but he rejects his other moral thoughts.
      • It does not simply review our actions, but is the process of making the decision.
  • Conscience
    • The error is thinking of the conscience as a noune insteead of a verb
    • It is not an internalised value.
    • In no way does  it guide  human action
    • Fletcher adopts Aquinas' thinking that the conscience is reason-making moral judgements, but he rejects his other moral thoughts.
    • It does not simply review our actions, but is the process of making the decision.

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