Three kinds of ethical theories

  • Created by: Charlie.R
  • Created on: 15-03-19 15:52

Legalistic Ethics

  • Legalistic Ethics has a set of prefabricated moral laws. Judaism and Christianity have legalistic ethical traditions.
  • Fletcher argues this is not effecient when the complexities of life require additional laws.
  • For example, if you prohobit murder you then must clarify the rules on killing in self-defence, killing in war, mercy killings, abortion and so on.
  • The legalist must either create new additional laws for every new circumstance or include each complexity in the original law which is inefficient and creates a confusing web of laws.
  • This is like textbook morality where you turn to a book to discover what is right or wrong- life's complexities cannot be entirely reduced to a rigid set of laws.
  • Fletcher rejects legalistic ethics.
  • NML is a legalistic theory.
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Antinomian Ethics

  • Antinomian ethics is the reverse of legalistic ethics The term 'antinomian' means 'against law'
  • A person using antinomianism doesn't really use an ethical system. They enter a situatuation and respond entirely uniquely. Moral decisions are made with spontaneity.
  • "It is literally unprincipled, purely ad hoc and casual. They follow no forecastable course from one situation to another. They are, exactly, anarchic- i.e. without a rule" (Fletcher, 1963, p. 23)
  • Fletcher is equally critical of both legalistic and antinomian approaches to ethics as antinomianism is as unprincipled as legalism is rigid/inefficient.
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Situational Ethics

  • Situation ethics agrees that reason is the instrument of moral judgements.
  • The situationist approaches the dilemma with the ethics, rules and principles of their community or tradition but is prepared to disregard those rules in that situation if more love is served by doing so.
  • "The situationist follows a moral law or violates it according to love's need" (Fletcher, p. 26)
  • All moral decisions are hypothetical, they depend on what best serves love. The situationist never says "X is good" they say "X is good if..."
  • "What acts are right may depend on the circumstances" (Temple, 1923, p.27)
  • It has roots in the New Testament, St Paul writes 'Christ Jesus...abolished the law with its commandments and legal claims' (Ephesians 2;13-15)
  • Situation Ethics uses principles to illuminate the situation, not direct the action.
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