Ethics and Theology


Situation Ethics

Cosmological Argument

Telelogical Argument

The Problem of Evil

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  • Created by: Bali
  • Created on: 14-01-13 19:10

Strengths of Utilitarianism

(act) Single Principle. Principle very attractive

Logical. Can be empirically verified

(act) Relative. Lesser of two evils can be chosen

Provides a decision procedure

   -(act) the hedonic calculus

   -(rule) rules to abide by

Secular, democratic and eglatarian

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Weaknesses of Utilitarianism

(act) no rest objection

(act) absurd implications

consequentialist; unreliable

can justify terrible actions 

   - (act) sadistic prision guards

   - (rule) slavery

Principle of Utiliity has two variables; happiness and number

Hedonist... is pain always bad?

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teleological, relative, consequentialist, secular, hedonist and naturilist

Principle of Utility

Hedonic Calculus; purity, remoteness, intensity, certainty, extent, duration and fecundity

Jeremy Bentham: 18th century

    - child prodigy

    - early advocate for gay marriage and animal rights

John Stuart Mill: 19th century

    - adapted Bentham's utilitarianism

    - higher and lower pleasures

    - 'following rules the tend to lead to the greater good will have better consequences overall then allowig exceptions'

    - Integirty and social element

R. M. Hare: Two level utilitarianism



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Situation Ethics

Situation Ethics; consequentialist, relative; telelogical; agapeistic; religious and naturalist

Jeremy Fletcher: 1960s

-radical departure from tradition christian ethics; natural moral law

-divergence catalysed by rising movements of feminisim and sexual liberty

-legalist (too prescriptive) and antinomian (anarchy)

-'A New Morality' noted words of Rudolf Bultmann that 'Jesus had no ethics apart from love thy neighbour as thyself'

- Jesus Mark 2: picking grain on the sabbath day

-'For Fletcher a situationist should enter a moral dillema with the ethics, rules and principles of his or her community. However, if the situation demands it or love would be better served by doing so, they should be prepared to set aside these rules and use their reason'

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4 Working Principles and 6 Fundamental Principles

4 Working Principles





6 Fundamental Principles

-only one thing is intrinsically good: love

-ruling norm of christian decision is love

-love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed

-only the ends justify the means

-love wills thy neighbour good, whether we like him or not

-love's decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively

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Strengths of Situation Ethics

-Single principle. Principle is very attractive: love

-Relative. Can choose the lesser of two evils

-Avoids conflict of duties... common in deontological theories e.g. NML

-Presents an ethical Christian message that is consistent with the Gospel

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Weaknesses of Situation Ethics

- Terrible actions can be justified in the name of love

- Love  is subjective

- Only applies to christians, unlike utilitarianism... open to all

- Many christians and roman catholics do not accept consequnetialist ethical theories as valid. 

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Cosmological Argument

Cosmological argument: cosmos 'umbrella term' for all arguments for the existence of God that begin with an observation about the universe.

A posteriori and inductive

St Thomas Aquinas: Dominican priest, philosopher and theologian in the 13th century

-5 proofs; quinque viae in his summa theologica... three of which are comsological

-Unmoved Mover, Uncaused Causer and Argument from Contingency

Gottfreid Leibniz: sufficient reason argument

F. C. Coppleston: hybrid of Leibniz and Aquinas's 3rd Way presented in a radio interveiw with Bertrand Russell

(everything = contingent. contingent things cannot provide sufficient reason for their existence...)

Kalam Argument: Plato- Prime Mover, Aristotle 'series must start with something, since nothing comes from nothing' and Al Kindi 

(cause.. cause must transcend universe)

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Strengths of Cosmological Argument

indisputatble first premise

offers a solution for the existence of the universe

fits in with the God of classical theism (all powerful). Avoids Paley's anthromorphomism of God.

agrees with scientific belief that the universe has a beginning

cumulatively present a strong argument for the existence of a God

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Weaknesses of Cosmological Argument

Aquinas's 1st and 2nd Ways

-arguments contradict themselves....(style of argument 'reductio ad absurdum'

-possibility of an infinite regress; Hick and Stephen Hawkings turtle analogy... (John Mackie infinite railway train analogy)

-plurality of prime movers and uncaused causers

3rd Way

conceivable that their could be a series of overalapping contingent things, never was nothing

Leibniz and Coppleston

universe does not need a reason for its existence... (Russell mother analogy)


Quantum Physics, electrons come in and out of existence for no reason

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Design Argument

teleological argument: telos- purpose

Any argument that infers the existence of God from the presence of order and regularity within the universe.

William Paley: In his book 'Natural theology' presented his argument from design

Thomas Aquinas 5th way: 'cannot be purposefullness without a guiding intelligence'... 'in the world their are non intelligent material things that have a purpose'

Swinbourne, Tennant and Taylor: argument to design

-anthropic... cosmologcial constants (Planck's constant, gravity, speed of light)

-probabilty, pack of cards and shooting 

Aesthetic... beauty superflous without humans to appreciate it... why do we appreciate it?

Irreducible Complexity: Micheal Behe

-flagella, motor could not of evolved towards its purpose from lesser parts

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Design Argument Strengths

First premise indisputable

Encourages the study of nature

(Paleys) comprehensive, valid philosophical argumen that coheres with the traditional theistic veiw of God as the creator of the universe.

It gives the universe a purpose

Is compatible with the idea of the Big Bang and evolution

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Design Argument Weaknesses

(Hume vs Paley)

-arguments from analogy are weak, especially when the comparison is weak. Hume thinks the world is more organic than mechanic. 

-we have no experience of world making, furthermore the universe is unique and we can't make assumptions about unique things.

-the argument doesn't even leas to a classical theistic God. Many designers? Flawed designer? Female designer?

Kant argued that the order and regularity we see in the world is a human perception. Are minds are odered and we are rational creatures thus we project order and reason onto the world.

Evolution can explain why their appears to be evidence of design and no designer... Peter Vardy argues why did we evolve to complexity


-circular and the 2nd premise could be false, why cant their be purposefullness without a guiding intelligence?

(Swinbourne, Tennant and Taylor)

-no reason to be suprised that the world is as it is, because we wouldn't be here if it was any different.

-v.arrogant to presume the universe was set up a certain way to promote our survival/existence

-only seems unlikely because we attribute specific weight to certain values

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The Problem of Evil

4 types of Evil: Moral, Natural, Physical and Metaphysical

In the 4th century St Augustine of Hippo in 'Confessions' expressed the problem by writing 'either God cannot abolish evil or he will not; if he cannot he is not all powerful; if he will not, he is not all good.'

Logical Problem of Evil

-Mackie's inconsistent triad

-God's omniscience

-David Hume, deductive argument

Evidential Problem of Evil

-little bit of evil may cultivate desirable characteristics e.g. empathy and appreciation

-too much evil... dysteleological suffering

John Hick asked whether we could reconcile 'the presence of evil in the world... with a God who is unlimited both in goodness and power'

3 options


[Leibniz argued that God couldn't create a logically contradictory world, therefore he created the best possible world. We need an atmosphere to protect us from the sun but unfortunatly this creates hurricanes. We needed free will to be autonomous beings, but this lead to evil in the world]

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Augustine: Strengths

Compatible with the God of classical theism, protects the benevolence of God by arguing that he gave us free will. Free Will Defence. He absolves God of any responsibility for the presence of Evil.

Preserves the idea of God's justice; righteous go to heaven the damned to hell

Explains the presence of natural evil in the world

Based on the bible and follows the scriptures

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Augustine: Weaknesses

His theory is based upon the fall, and if it didn't happen then his theory collapses

It seems unjust of God to punish all humans for the sins of Adam and Eve

Sin cannot be passed down in the way Augustine suggests...(not passed down biologically, but because Adam and Eve allowed evil into the world we are now all tainted with it, people do seem to be inherently naughty)

Free Will contradicts God's omniscience. We cannot be free if God knows everything, and God cannot know everything if we posses free will.

Mackie argues that it is conceivable that an all powerful God could of created a world where people freely chose good. i.e. they could not choose evil (I may choose good 7/10 but my friend could freely choose good 10/10.. why not all be like her?).....However Alvin Platinga argued that the ability to reject God is an important part of meaningful free choice.

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Iranaeus: Strengths

[Iraneaus believed the fall to be the innocent mistake of a Child and the world as it is now is more or less how God intended it to be]

Compatible with the God of classical theism. Iraneaus offers a solution by modifying the benevolence of God. God allows us to suffer as a parent allows their child to make mistakes, becuase it is better for us in the long term. 

Gives suffering a purpose. To bring us closer to God.

Rejects the idea of hell and damnation as Iraneaus believes in universal salvation. Therefore his theodiy provides hope to all.

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Iranaeus: Weaknesses

It assumes the existence of an afterlife

It trivialises evil, parents of James Bulgur would find it hard to see his suffering as being 'part of God's plan'

Still does not really justify dystelelogical suffering, such as the holocaust

Is suffering even neccessary to learn values. Couldn't an all powerful God find another way?

People need to suffer to develop virtues. So what about people lucky enough to live life having suffered no great evil. 

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