Situation Ethics

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  • Situation Ethics
    • Three approaches to moral thinking
      • Legalistic
        • A set of predefined rules and regulations
        • Judaism at the time of Jesus was legalistic in its approaches
        • A legalist must continue to add to the rule book to encompass different new scenarios.
        • To be moral means to follow the appropriate moral law or applying a previously determined law.
        • Fletcher believed that this is found in Christianity and  Catholicism based on the thinking of Natural Law
        • Fletcher rejected this approach
      • Antinomian
        • Reverse of legalistic ethics
        • There are no rules or regulations in regards to ethical rule making
        • Every attempt at moral decision making is completely unique.
        • Fletcher was highly critical of antinomian ethics
        • 'It is literally unprincipled, purely ad-hoc and casual. They follow no foreseeable course from one situation to another. They are exactly anarchic.'
      • Situational
        • The morality of an action depends on the situation
        • A situationist will enter into a moral dilemma with ethics and rules based on community or tradition
        • More concerned with loving people than loving rules
        • Reason is the instrument of moral judgements
        • For situationist's all moral decisions are hypothetical
        • Situation ethics dsagrees with  the idea that good is to be discerned fromn the nature of things or the love of of things.
        • 'the situationist follows a moral law or violates it according to lover's need.'
        • Situationism presents itself as a principled attached to ethics that is based on circumstances and love rather than actions and precepts.
        • Influenced by christian theologians, the christian response should be a flexible message of forgiving grace
    • Agape Love
      • A form of unconditional love
      • Similar to the love of 'love thy neighbour.'
      • It is a love that many Christians hold within them and place at the heart of their moral conduct.
      • Bishop John Robinson
        • 'there is no one ethical system that can claim to be christian.'
      • Rudolf Bultmann
        • Jesus had no ethics apart from 'love thy neighbour as thyself.'
      • Agape love is the highest end.
    • 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.
        • Particular acts do not have love in them, they are right or wrong depending n the situation.
      • Second
        • 'the ruling norm of christian decision is love; nothing else.'
        • Commandments are not absolute as Jesus broke them when love demanded it.
        • Love replaces law
      • Third
        • 'love and justice are the same thing; for love is justice distributed,'
        • 'Justice is christian love using its head, calculating its duties, obligations, opportunities, resources.'
        • Justice is love at work in the whole community.
      • Fourth
        • 'Love wills the neighbours good.'
        • This love is not a matter of feeling but of attitude.
        • Your neighbour is anybody and agape love goes out to everyone regardless
        • Agape love is unconditional, nothing is required in return.
      • Fifth
        • 'Only the end justifies the means, nothing else.'
        • Considering moral actions without reference is a haphazard approach
        • Actions acquire moral status as a means to an end.
        • When weighing up a situation, one must consider the desired end, the means available, the motive for acting and the foreseeable consequences.
      • Sixth
        • 'Love's decisions are made situationally not prescriptively.'
        • Whether something is right or wrong depends on the situation
        • Morality based on set codes can be repressive.
        • 'whether any form of sex is good or evil depends on whether love is fully served.'
        • It is possible for euthanasia to be the most loving thing in the situation.
    • Four working presuppositions
      • Pragmatism
        • Based on experience rather than theory
        • Fletcher quoted William James; 'A pragmatist... turns towards concreteness and adequate, towards facts, towards action and towards power.
        • e.g. Catholic church allowed artificial contraception in 1993 after many civilian women were ***** as a means of conflict in Bosnia.
      • Relativism
        • Based on making the absolute laws of Christian ethics relative.
        • Situation ethics, 'relativizes the absolute it does not absolutize the relative.'
        • e.g. Jesus' followers picked corn on the sabbath, the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.'
      • Personalism
        • The legalist puts law first, the situationist puts people first.
        • 'Ethics deals with human relations, situation ethics puts people at the centre of concern not things. Obligation is to persons, not to things; to subjects not objects.'
        • There are no values in the sense of inherent goods
        • Nothing individualistic about personalism
        • e.g. buying cheap clothes made in sweatshops uses the poorly treated workers.
      • Positivism
        • Natural Positivsm
          • Reason deduces faith from human experience or natural phenomena
          • Nature provides the evidence and reason grasps it
          • e.g. Natural Law
        • Theological Positivism
          • Faith statements are made and people act in a way that is reasonable in light of these statements
          • reason is not the basis for faith but it works within faith
        • Situation ethics depends on Christians freely choosing faith that God is love, so giving first place to christian love.
        • When the situationist approaches a moral dilemma her thinking begins with faith of love not obedience to rules or trust in human reasoning.
        • e.g. a soldier shooting his friend in the battlefield to save the agony of an untreatable injury  is acting out of faith in love.
    • Conscience
      • Conscience in situation ethics is not a bag or reliable rules and principles to tell you what to do, it in no way guides human action.
      • The error is thinking about conscience as a noun instead of a verb, there is no consequence per se.
      • It is a word which describes our attempts to make proper decisions
      • Fletcher adopts Aquinas' idea that 'conscience is reason making moral judgements.' he rejects Aquinas' other moral thoughts.
      • It doesn't simply review our actions but is the process of making the decision.
    • Joseph Fletcher (1905-1991)
    • Teleological Ethical theory
    • Rudolf Bultmann
      • Against the concept that Jesus sought to establish some new ethical ideology, some set of abstract unwritten immutable legalism or idealism, a law of heaven.
    • Karl Barth
      • 'God's commanding,' can only be this individual, concrete and specific example of commanding not only a rule.
      • Barth wasn't opposed to the concept of morally wrong actions, there is an outside chance that it could be right to break a moral law.
    • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
      • Situationist
      • Determining the will of God in any concrete situation is based on the need of one's neighbour and the model of Jesus.
      • 'These are the only two rules.'
      • All we can do is act according to these two things and offer our conduct to God's judgement, mercy and grace.

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