situation ethics

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everything needed to know for situation ethics

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situation ethics
1 what type of theory is it?
1.1 situation ethics is a relativistic, consequentialist and teleological theory
1.1.1 relativistic+ this means there are no universal moral norms or rules and that each situation has to be looked at independently because each situation is different.
1.1.2 consequential+ this means that moal jusdgements should be based on the outcome or the consequence of an action
1.1.3 teleological+ means that it is ciincerned with the end purpose or goal of an action- n this case the goal should always be self sacrificing love.
1.2 in 1966 Joseph fletcher published his book situation ethics: the new morality. his theory was based on one guiding principle- agape. thsi is the chirstian principle of selfless love. it is the word used to describe gods love for humanity and the love that christians should show towards god and other poeple.
2 key figures
2.1 joseph fletcher
2.1.1 was an american professor who formalised the theory known as situation ehtics in his book. he was a leasing academic involved in topics ranging from abortion to cloniing. he was ordained as a priest, but later identified himslef as an athiest. he stated that we should always use the principle of love or agape and apply it to each uniwue situation.
3 why did fletcher reject other types of ethical approaches?
3.1 fletcher claimed that most moral theories adopted either an antinomian or a leagalistics pproach to ethics. he argued that neither of these approaches works.
3.2 anitmoniaism and why fletcher rejected it antinomiansim literally means against law. a situationist attitude based on the idea that people are under no obligation to obey the laws of ethics or morality as presented by religious authorities. the situation will provide the solution which can be found through intuition/ use of a persons conscience. fletcher rejected this a she said with no guiding principles there could well be moral choas
3.3 leagalism and why fletcher rejected it? leagalism is an attitude that exalts laws above all other considerations, e.g. natural law. Fletcher rejected this approach as he said it gave people no choice but to follow
3.4 Fletcher referred to situation ethics as the middle way between both these approaches. it has no rules, but only one guiding principle the application of agape- the love which Jesus commanded in the new testament.
4 agape and the four working and six fundamental principles of situation ethics
4.1 the four working principles
4.1.1 pragmatism- the proposed cource of action must work and be motivated by love.
4.1.2 positivism- agape provides justification not proof for an ethical decision. people must accept that acting in the most loving way is the right thing to do.
4.1.3 personalism- the desire to put poeple, not laws, first. the christian is committed to love people, not rules or laws
4.1.4 relativism- the right response will depend upon each uniqu situation. poeple must respond with agape love to each situation. a supporter of istuation ethics avoids words like never or always as they believe that curcumstances can always throw up excepetions.
4.2 six fundamental principles of situation ethics
4.2.1 'the ruling norm of any christian decision is love, nothing else- as st Paul said in 1 corinthians 13, love is the basis of christian decision making.
4.2.2 'only one thing is intrinsically good; namely, love:nothing else at all.'- nothing is good in and of itself except for love. intrinsicaly means 'belonging naturally to or essential to.'
4.2.3 'love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, noothing else' justice is love at work in the community.
4.2.4 ''love wills the good of others, regardless of feelings.' people should show love to all, even their enemies, as agape is selfless love.
4.2.5 'love's decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively.' people have autonomy- the freedom to make their own decisions, but they must use this freedom responsibily and apply love to ech situation.
4.2.6 'a living end justifies the means.' one must achieve a loving end and one can perfrorm any action in order to achieve this.
5 an example of the application of situation ethics
5.1 scenario: two conjoined twins have been born by caesarean section. they are joined at the head and if they remain joined then they have approximately only 25% chance of survival.
5.2 a follower of situation ethics might assess the situation as follows:
5.2.1 working principle: pragmatism- it is practically possible to separate the twins and there is likely to be a loving outcome because when the operation has ended at least one of them will have a greater chance of survivial.
5.2.2 working principle: relativism- the course of action taken is dependent on the situation as conjoined twins are not always joined at the head. each case would be assessed differently. a situationist would not say you should always or never separate conjoined twins.
5.2.3 working principle: personalism- the medical teams desire to save the children is person- centered. Fletcher would have argued that they should performm this operation even if it breaks the law as it is the most loving thing to do.
5.2.4 fundamental principle: love and justice are the same, for justice is love distrubuted, nothing else- by attempting to save both the children, even if one child dies, they have acted out of love and therefore fairly ensured justice has been served.
5.2.5 fundalmental principle: a loving end justifies the means- by achieving a loving outcome and saving at least one of he children then the act of performing the operation and risking both their lives will have been justifiable.
5.2.6 fundamental principle: love wills the good of others, regardless of feelings- even if the father of the children is the person who murdered the surgeons mother, the surgeon should still act in a loving way towards the children and their father. as fletcher said we should show love to all, even our enemies. christian love is unconditional. love wills the good of others.
6 biblical evidence used to support situation ethics
6.1 john 15:13 in which jesus states, 'no one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.' this appears to support the concept of agape love.
6.2 gslstisnd 5:14 'for the whole law is fulfilled in one word, you shall love your neighbour as yourself.' this appears to support one of fletchers six fundamental principles ' the ruling norm of any chirstian decision is love, nothing else.'
6.3 mark 2:27 'the sabath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.; - some claim that jesus adopted a relaticistic approach to ethics,' for example he attacked the pharisees' insistence on following the torah or jewish law. this links to fletchers four wokring principles- relaticism
6.4 john 5:1-16 jesus putpoeple first, he broke sabbath laws to heal on the sabbath- he healed the paralysed man on the sabbath. this links to fletchers four working principles- personalism
6.5 matthew 22@37-39 'love your neighbour as yourself.' -jesus stated that love is the highest principle above the law. one of fletchers six fundamental principles states ;the ruling norm of any chirstian decision is loe, nothing else.'
6.6 luke 6:27 jesus stated that you should 'love your enemies, do good to thos who hate you.' one of fletchers six fundamental principles states 'loe wills the good of others regardless of others.'
7 to what extent is situation ethics compatible with the traditional teachin of one major world religon?
7.1 situation ethics IS compatible with christian ethics
7.1.1 it is modelled on the teachings of jesus e.g.'love one another as i have loved you.' (john 13v34-5)
7.1.2 the idea of putting people first (personalism) is in keeping with the actions of Jesus as recorded in the bible. Jesus put people first, he broke Sabbath laws to heal on the Sabbath- he healed the paralysed man on sabbath according to john chapter 5.
7.1.3 one of the six findamental principles of situation ethics is only the principle of love provides a reasonable base by which to make judgements of right and wrong.' Jesus said and st Paul taught love as the highest principle above the law. ; for the whole law is fulfilled in one word, love your neighbour as yourself.'( st paul, galatains 5v14)
7.1.4 another of the six fundamental principles is 'love wills the good of others, regardless of feelings.' jesus used the parable of the hood samaritan to emphasise his point. (luke 10)
7.1.5 some chirstians argue that the fundamental principle 'love's decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively' reflects the christian belied in free-will/ autonomy.
7.1.6 some claim that jesus adopted a relativistic approach to ethics for example he attacked the pharisees' insitence on foollowing the torah, or jewish law - 'the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sababth.' (mark 2v27)
7.2 situation ethics IS NOT compatible with christian ethics
7.2.1 situation ethics rejects aboslute moral laws like the ten commandments, but st Pau said that love is the fulfulling of the law.(romans 13v10)
7.2.2 situation ethics fails to consider relgious tradition or the teachings of church leaders. for example, the bible states that sec should only take place iwthin marriage, but this theory allows sex before marriage if it is based on agape.
7.2.3 situation ethics fails to consider religious tradition or the teachings of church leaders. for example, the bible states that sex should only take place within marriage, but this theory allows sex before marriage if it is based on agape.
7.2.4 St Paul stated that 'love is not the only desirable quality'.... the fruit of spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, .....' (Galatains 5v22-23)
7.2.5 religious leaders, such as the pope , have rejected the rlativistic approach of situation ethics. he said in april 2005, 'we are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognise anything as for certain and which has a sits highest goal one's own ego and ones own desires.... being an 'adult' means having faith which does not follow the wwaves fo today's fashions or the latest novelties.'
7.2.6 situation ethics removes god as the source of ultimate authority in the universe and substitutes an in his place.
8 what are the strengths and weaknesses with situation ethics?
8.1 strengths
8.1.1 situation ethics as a relativistic theory is flexible and practical. it takes into account the situation a person is faced with and can help make decisions in siutation where, from a legalistic view all options are wrong. for example, to lie in a particular situation inorder to save a life. as Mel thomason states in his book an introduction to philosophy and ethics, ' it allows individuals to make up their own minds about what is right or wrong in particaular situation.'
8.1.2 situation ethics allows people the individual freedom to make decisions for themselves. which many people nowawdays prefer to the prescriptive/ legalistic approach. as Mel thompson states in his book an introfution to philosophy and ethics. it allows individuals to makeup their own minds about what is rights or wrong in any particular situation.
8.1.3 agape involves selfless love- putting others first which should ensure fairness and justice. as sarah k. tyler and gordon reid state in their book advanced religious studies, 'love seeks the well-being of others, even if the course of action is not one of preference.'
8.1.4 due to fletchers use of the fundamental principle 'a loving end justifies the mean', people would have to consider the likely consequences of their actions before they take them and it is only the consequences that have a real effect on human well-being.
8.1.5 the idea of putting people before rules 'personalism' appears to be in keeping with the actions of jesus as recorded in the bible- healling the paralysed man, john chapter 5.
8.2 weaknesses
8.2.1 many people argue we need rules to avoid issues such as moral chaos.as J.Macqarrie states in a dictionary of chirstian ethics. ' ... it seems to be assumes that somehow one intuits what is right in a situation rom the situation itself. even if some people have this remarkabel gift or insight, there are stages one the way to moral maturity, and a great many poeple need the guidance of rues and generalisations which the community has built up from experience.'
8.2.2 situation ethics gives so much freedom to the individual it is difficult to decide what action to take. as Bowie states in his book ethical studies, how can individuals safely decife what is the most loving action?' this is because love is a subjective concept.
8.2.3 agape is too subjective a concept to be used practically, as humans are prone to making mistakes or being influenced by selfishness rather that love as edwin williams wrote in an article entitles situation ethic: the new morality, 'love ledt to itself can easily tun into the licence of permissiveness.' in others words people could claim to perform any act out of love when really they are doing as they please.
8.2.4 people cannot accurately predict the consequences of their actions. as peter vardy and paul grasch state in the puzzle of ethics ' it is not easy to determine the consequences of actions and this the situationist need to do.' a person might think it loving in the short term to allow their pregnant teenage daughter to have an abortion; however, you cannot be sure that in the long term this will not cause her great distress and ultimately lead to unloving consequeneces.

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