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. ****** 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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