Situation Ethics

Joseph Fletchers Situation Ethics

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  • Situation Ethics
    • Anti-Nomianism
      • Love is an intrinsic rule in itself
      • "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath"
        • Do what is right in the situation, not what the law says
        • Jesus rejected Phrasaic Judaism
      • Paul Tillich
        • Any belief in the coherence of unity of God's creation, we rule one another is bad faith; mauvaise foi.
        • "We have no excuses behind us and therefore no justification before us."
    • Legalism
      • The Sabbath, one must not work on the Sabbath
      • Empahsis on law, deontological nature
      • Examples:
        • Pharasaic Judaism, 613 strict laws, the Torah
        • Roman Catholicism, Natural Law Principle
    • Historical Background
      • 1960's
        • The Beatles, 'All You Need is Love'
          • Rejecting authoritarianism, towards autonomy
        • Joseph Fletcher (Christian, non secular)
          • 1966, Situation Ethics
            • Agape is the sole intrinsic good
        • 1966, 'Honest to God', Bishop John Robinson
          • Law, chruch and judgement is to the indivudals disgression
        • Rise of universities
          • Paternalism and legalistic views begun to be questioned
          • Catholicism, natural law and roman catholics challenged for being too legalistic, the revolution lead by antinomianism
      • Judaism
        • Roots in Judaism. Shemah: "Hear O Israel, love the lord God with all your mind, all your soul and all your strength"
        • Love is fundemental in Judaism
          • Jesus said the most important commandment is to love God, love thy neighbor
    • Agape
      • "A compassionate but disinterested concern for human beings"
      • No personal gain, alturistic, philanthropic may involve self sacrifice
        • Vicarious suffering (e.g. the Cruxificion)
      • Non preferential and non reciprocal (expects nothing in return)
        • Philanthropy (e.g. Bill Gates)
      • Attitudinal, non emotions involved
      • "Agape is distinguished from philia and eros, both of which are selective and exclusive. Erotic and philic love are both emotional but Christian love is will disposition, it is an attitude not a feeling."
        • A viamedium between antinomianism and legalism, following the most loving thing to do.
    • The 6 Principles
      • Nothing is good in and of itself except agape.
      • Jesus and St Paul replacced the Torah with agape, "I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fufill them." (Jesus, Matthew 5:17-19) "We love because he first loved us" St Paul
      • Love and justice are compatible. Fletcher argues that agape means standing up for justice, representing those who are oppressed.
        • The prophet Amos denounces those who take advantage of the poor by paying low wages.
        • In South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated the evils of the Apartheid.
          • Tutu expressed the importance of justice to uphold the lvoe of the people who were oppressed.
      • Love wills the good of the neighbor: as agape is a selfless love and one is called to love other people without the desire for reward (dissociated love). "You have heard of old. love thy neighbor, but I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
      • Love is the end that is sought, agape is a consequential, not deontological ethic
      • Love's decisions are made in the context of particular situations. Such a principle relates to the relativism of Situation Ethics.
    • The 4 Characteristics
      • Pragmatism
        • Professor Harvey Cox: "Reason must be used to work out the most loving thing to do"
        • Descartes 17th Century: "I think therefore I am" is too theoretical post Enlightenment
        • John Dewey (Educational Psychologist): "The more interactions we ascertain the more we know about the object in question
        • 1950's American theologists said ethics needed to work in practice in conjunction with empirical evidence
      • Relativism
        • No absolute, morally binding laws that should be followed, only love
        • "Love relativises the absolute, it does not absolutise the relative" ( Joseph Fletcher)
          • You apply love in the correct way to the correct situation
        • "The absolutism of love is its power to go into concrete situations to discover what is demanded by the predicament." (Paul Tillich)
      • Personalism
        • Human beings were made imago dei, therefore people are ethics first concern
        • Draws similarities to Kant, humans are rational and use their reason a priori so are ethics first concern
        • "S.E.: The fruit of the rejection of the doctrinaire and the dogmaatic" Joseph Fletcher
      • Theological Positivism
        • "God is love" (1 John 4:8) therefore we should lead a life of agape
        • Paul Tillich: "Love is an ontological (fundemental) dimension of the universe", love is an intrinsic part of the human being
        • Jesus lived a life of love, love is intrinsic in the biblical Golden Rule (Deuteronomy 6:5) "And thou shalt love thy God with all thine heart, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
        • According to Joseph Fletcher, if you listen to God toy always do the right thing through love. "Faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6)


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