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Applying Situational Ethics and Utilitarianism to Sexual Ethics.

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1 Applying Situational Ethics and Utilitarianism to Sexual Ethics

2 Adultery – the most loving thing? Greatest happiness for greatest number? A German mother was committed to a Russian concentration camp. Pregnant women were considered a liability and were released. This mother found a friendly guard who sympathized with her situation and willingly impregnated her. She was released and returned to her home and raised the child as part of her reunited family.

3 Her adultery was justified since it served to reunite her with her children and family who needed her Most loving action. Personalism: Puts people first, more important than rules “Do not commit adultery”. “Man was not made for the Sabbath”. Relative values like ‘love’ and ‘happiness’ are difficult to apply. People will disagree about their meaning. Situation Ethics We act out of love for others, trying to do the best to serve their interests. Pragmatism: For a course of action to be right, it has to be practical. It must work. In this case it did. Pragmatism: there were no guarantees that this act of adultery would result in pregnancy If an action causes harm, it is wrong. If good comes of it, it is right. Critics argue that it allows terrible things to happen in an attempt to do the right thing. Christians feel that certain actions simply are wrong, and that our priority should be doing God's will not just making people happy.

4 Utilitarianism The greatest happiness for the greatest number Duration – how long will this last? The child was raised in a happy family and mother reunited with existing children. Long lasting The pain of betrayal was relatively short in comparison. Emotional pain long lasting Extent – how many people it affects. Existing children and father happy. Only the woman during the act was unhappy Purity – how free from pain it is. Certainty – how likely it is to result. She already has children so is able to conceive. But, only a short period when ovulating. Don’t know if guard is fertile. Physical pain not great, but emotional pain is. Richness – to what extent it will lead to other pleasures It will lead to pleasure for years to come as mother reunited with children. Remoteness – how near it is. 3-4 months until signs that she is pregnant and is released Intensity – how powerful it is Powerful in that the power of happiness will be strong

5 ???????????? Obviously it's very difficult to decide which decision would cause the most pleasure and least pain, but in an exam you get marks for pointing things like that out! Don't feel you have to resolve the issue as long as you've done what you've been asked to do. It's a problem with the theory, not with you.

6 Criticisms Unpredictable - You can't know the future, and things rarely turn out as we think they will. It cannot be right to judge an action right or wrong based on outcomes that are down to chance. Incalculable - Even if you knew exactly what would happen, it is impossible to add up all of the pain and pleasure resulting from a course of action. There's simply too much to calculate Immeasurable - A more fundamental flaw. Even with the simplest event - choosing whether to buy a toy or a magazine for a child - it is impossible to decide on a value to give for happiness. Is the joy of reading a magazine more intense than the joy of playing with a toy? Pleasure cannot be measured, so the idea of adding it all up doesn't work.

7 Strengths of Relativism It allows people to find happiness and fulfilment in relationships, without being bound by duties. It is more in tune with the modern world than absolutism. It can appeal to religious and non-religious people alike. It is realistic in its assessment of religious rules, which can be contradictory and confusing.

8 Weaknesses of Relativism Some sexual acts are inherently selfish and wrong (adultery, rape); there have to be at least some fixed moral rules. Relative values like ‘love’ and ‘happiness’ are difficult to apply. People will disagree about their meaning. We are naturally inclined to regard sex as ‘special’; it is wrong to reduce it to merely a pleasure-causing activity.


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