AS Religious Studies Revision

Cards with definitions of keywords and outlining key point

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  • Created by: Courtney
  • Created on: 15-12-11 16:31

Religion & Morality


Autonomous- Morality not influenced by outside authority (Church) but is decided by the individual- possibly using conscience, reason or intuition.

Heteronomous- Opposite of Autonomous. Outside authority dictating moral actions.

Theonomous- Morality using revelation through scripture or church and one's own reason. Highly supported by Tillich.

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Divine Command Theory

What is the basic premise of DCT?

Something is considered good because God wills it, or commands us to do it.

What does this mean?

  • That morality originates with God. 
  • Moral 'wrongness' is anything that goes against God's will
  • God is unchanging--> Morality always remains the same
  • Even if we do not agree, we cannot argue with 'good' or 'bad'
  • We need no other justification for actions other than Gods will.


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Divine Command Theory- Weaknesses


  • We are left with a tautology- defining one term in terms of another: we're no closer to defining either 'good' or 'God's will'
  • Non-believers lead good lives too. Moral goodness must therefore be from an alternative source.
  • Can it be applied to a modern world? Many of what the Bible condones- i.e- the stoning of adulterers- would obviously not be condoned now. Supported by Dawkins who said the the idea of a deontological morality led by religion demeans the idea of 21st century reason.
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The Euthyphro Dilemma

Basic Principle

"Does God will something because it is good, or is something good because it is willed by God?"


Part 1 of dilemma- Suggests good is independent of God.  Undermining claims that God is the origin of everything. Freud added to this- Goodness is independent of God- good is learnt in childhood learning (super-ego)

Part 2 of dilemma- Some claims made by God now appear redundant- I.e Circumcision & sacrifice

Who's God should we follow?

Rachels- someone who acts out of fear of punishment or hope of reward isn't moral. (Dawkins support)

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Situation Ethics

What type of ethical theory?

Teleological (looks at intention and outcomes),

Consequentialist (concerned with outcomes and not the action itself),

Relative (goodness of an action depends on circumstances),  

Religious (based upon life of Jesus and Christian principle of 'love')

Agapeistic (Concept of unconditional love 

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Fletcher Continued...

Fletcher concluded Jesus was a situationist from his showing mercy to a woman caught in adultery instead of stoning her..hence Situation Ethics!

"Love with care, and then what you will, do" Augustine. The christian idea of agape love is not an emotion, but more an unconditional, selfless love- what is best for a certain person.

Fletchers 4 Presumptions:

1.Pragmatism- The outcome of an action-success or failure- is judged on love.

2.Relativism- Rejection of absolutes. Command to act lovingly is relative to the situation

3.Positivism- Love is the ultimate goal

4.Personalism- People should be put first

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6 Fundamental Principles

1. Agape love is the absolute good

2. Agape love is the principle taught by Jesus

3. Justice will automatically come from love

4. Love has no favourites

5. Love must be the final end that people seek

6. The loving thing to do is dependant on the situation.

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Strength of Situation Ethics

What are its strengths?

  • Gives people responsibility for own decision making
  • Provides a way for people to deal with ethical dilemmas (Birth Control)
  • Universalistic to an extent. Although based on Christian ideas- most people like the idea of 'love'
  • Isn't deontological and therefore allows flexibility.
  • Gives an idea of 'greater good'
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What are its weaknesses?

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Utilitarianism Introduction

What type of theory is it?

Teleological: (looks at intention and outcomes),

Consequentialist: (concerned with outcomes and not the action itself),

Relative (goodness of an action depends on circumstances),  

Naturalist: (goodness is defined in terms of natural properties. i.e pleasure)

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Bentham's Utilitarianism

Proposed in his 'The principles of morals and legislation' 1789:

1. 'Good' and 'bad' is the motivation for human action: "Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we shall do, as well as to determine what we should do"

2. Principle of Utility, 'The greatest good for the greatest number': Assessing what course of action will result in the maximisation of pleasure and minimising pain

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Benthams Utilitarianism....


3. Hedonic Calculus, how to 'weigh-up' how much pain/pleasure an action will create. Its has several factors;

a. Intensity

b. Duration

c. Certainty

d. Nearness

e. Consequences

f.  Purity

g. Extent

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Weaknessess of Bentham's Utilitarianism


If ten rapists were to **** the same woman, according to the hedonic calculus, their pleasure would outweigh the woman's pain and can thus be justified. This is called swine ethic.

Although it tries to be scientific in its approach (hedonic calculus) things such as 'consequence' cannot be accurately measured.

There is no protection for minorities- they always lose out!

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Mill's Utilitarianism

Criticised Bentham's focus on pleasure alone. So he replaced 'pleasure' with 'happiness':

"The greatest happiness for the greatest number"

Mill deciphered 'levels' of pleasure- higher and lower. So he might say that a lower is sex and a higher pleasure is listening to classical music!

Funnily enough, he decided these- creating competent judges; people he thought were adequately experienced and qualified to decide higher or lower pleasure"

Mill's utilitarianism is based on qualitative 'data' (Higher/lower pleasures) whilst Bentham's based on quantitative 'data' (Hedonic Calculus)

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Weaknesses of Mill's Utilitarianism


Sidgewick: Points out how its subjectivity is an issue -"In practice it is hard to distinguish between higher and lower pleasures"

Ross: "Single-factor" moral theories don't work. Humans have dedications to human relationships and other things.

Hare: Points out that with this, it would still be possible to justify slavery as the rights of the minority are never pointed out.

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Act & Rule

Act Utilitarianism- based on outcomes alone: closely linked to Bentham's Utilitarianism

Weaknesses: 1) Can't predict outcomes, 2) Can justify any act, 3) Can't define pleasure, 4) No defence for minorities 5) Impractical to calculate (hedonic calculus) each moral choice

Rule Utilitarianism- Rules should be formed based on what is best for the majority of society: closely linked to Mill's utilitarianism

Weaknesses: 1) Difficult to predict consequences, 2) What defines happiness, 3) No defence for minorities 4) Elitist

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Preference Utilitarianism

 A more recent form of utilitarianism

Advocated by Hare, Singer & Brandt

Defines the best outcome in terms of preference i.e what an individual prefers.

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General Strengths & Weaknesses of Utilitarianism


1) Secular: so its universal. 2) Appeals to desire to pursue pleasure. 3) Provides a decision procedure


1) Justifies evil acts so that good may come,

2) Maybe we are not motivated purely by pleasure/happiness, what about spiritual truth or objective moral values?

3) Doesn't account for unavoidable human relationships. I.e more likely to save your Mum than a stranger.

4) Could subvert justice

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Just War Theory- Augustine

First developed by Augustine- he saw that despite many Christians being pacifists there could be just wars.

He saw that in the Bible God had commanded such wars- so there must be able to be wars which were acceptable in Christianity.

He split his theory into two: 

Jus ad bellum- just reasons for going to war

Jus in bello- just practice in war.

His theory was developed by several later philosophers- firstly Aquinas.

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Jus ad bellum- Developed

Key criteria for 'Jus ad bellum'


  • Just Authority- Must be ordered by legitimate authority
  • Just Cause- Must be a reason (Self defence)
  • Just intention- Must be intended to achieve good outcome (Peace)

Suarez & De Vittori

  • Proportionality- Damage must be proportionate to original injustice
  • Last Resort- Other peaceful alternative must be tried first
  • Reasonable chance of success- Must be able to 'win'

Catholic Bishops (1983)

  • Comparative Justice- Interests of both sides to be taken into consideration!
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Jus in bello- Key Ideas

Jus in bello-

Medieval Church tried to regulate the way wars were fought and implemented codes of conduct like chivalry.

Key ideas are discrimination- on killing or capturing active participants and proportionality.

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Strengths & Weaknesses of Just War Theory


1) Fits with commonly accepted views of justice, and has historical value (WWII),  2) It's realistic- recognises need to force may arise.                                                3) Provides important 'checks' on state's use of force


1) Contradicts peace teachings of Jesus                                                                  2) Aquinas contradicts himself. Natural Moral Law says life is sacred and must be preserved                                                                                                                3) The attempt to justify war actually encourages it- says war can be positive         4) Can be manipulated- 1939 Germany faking polish attacks so they could invade.

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Forms of pacifism:

Principle/Philosophical- Absolutist: war is always wrong. Can be supported by the sanctity of life argument: THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS!

Relative- Peaceful solutions should always be first choice without having an absolute objection to war. War might very rarely be allowed. Nationally orchestrated violence is always evil, even if the lesser of two evils.

Pragmatic- Peaceful approaches should be taken because they work better. They argue from historic examples such as Martin Luther King)

Criticisms: 1)Maybe life isn't intrinsically valuable? 2) Unrealistic- wars happen      3) WWII- Hitler & the Nazi's had to be stopped? 4) Use of force sometimes necessary- Kelley uses example of using force to stop and friend committing suicide.

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Christian Realism


Was once a Pacifist, but changed his mind after witnessing the great evils in Germany in WWII.

He believed that "evil is not to be traced back to the individual, but to the collective behaviour of humanity"

Concluded that lawful and legitimate governments would have to use violence to restrain the evil tendencies of some humans.

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