Presentation on theme: "Situation Ethics Situation Ethics"— Presentation transcript:
1 Situation EthicsSituation EthicsSituation Ethics: ‘The idea that people should base moral decisions on what is the most loving thing to do.’“Sometimes you’ve just gotta put your principles to one side and do the right thing”. Joseph Fletcher was a philosopher and ethicist who wrote the book ‘Situation Ethics’ in 1966.Fletcher was influenced by a throw away comment made by a St Louis cab driver who said, “Sometimes you’ve just gotta put your principles to one side and do the right thing”. Rules (either by duty or principles) aren’t the same thing as doing what is right.
2 Situation EthicsSituation Ethics: ‘The idea that people should base moral decisions on what is the most loving thing to do.’Joseph Fletcher was a philosopher and ethicist who wrote the book ‘Situation Ethics’ in 1966.Fletcher was influenced by a throw away comment made by a St Louis cab driver who said, “Sometimes you’ve just gotta put your principles to one side and do the right thing”. Rules (either by duty or principles) aren’t the same thing as doing what is right.
3 2) Relativism: Decisions made do not offer ‘universal guidelines’. Situation EthicsFletcher proposed that moral laws should be taken into consideration only with other, ‘greater rules’, in mind. Fletcher stated:1) Pragmatism: Ethics is about decision making in REAL situations, it must be ‘practical’, it must ‘work’.2) Relativism: Decisions made do not offer ‘universal guidelines’.3) Positivism: Some ‘truths’ should be accepted as self evident.4) Personalism: It is the person who is the centre of concern.
4 Situation EthicsPragmatismOn August 8th 2000 two girls named Jodie and Mary were born in London to a Maltese couple. They were conjoined twins. The Catholic church said they would rather both the girls die than kill one of them to save the other, as this would be considered an evil act.Fletcher would have disagreed. Letting both girls die is not pragmatic. It would be of more practical, to save one girl at the expense of the other.This is not strictly a consequentialist (Teleos) viewpoint - it is love that is the good, not the outcome – it actually makes Fletcher's theory similar to Singer's utilitarianism.
5 Situation EthicsRelativismFletcher said ‘Situation Ethics relativises the absolute, it does not absolutise the relative’. This means that rules (or absolutes) don’t always apply, they depend on the situation. Absolutes like ‘Do not steal’ become relative to love – if love demands stealing food for the hungry, then you steal. However, it doesn’t mean ‘anything goes’. Fletcher doesn’t take a statement like ‘Do whatever the situation demands’ and make it into an absolute (new rule) [read the quote above again to check you understand it].
6 Situation EthicsPositivismKant and Natural Law are based on reason and logic – i.e. reason can uncover the right action. Situation Ethics disagrees, it says you must start with a positive choice i.e. you must want to do good, which then becomes the starting point to find the right action.PersonalismSituation Ethics puts people first. People are more important than rules. “Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath made for man”.
7 Fletcher further stipulated six ‘fundamental Principles’. 1) Love only is ‘good’ nothing else: Only one thing is intrinsically good; love: nothing else at all.2) Love is the only norm (rule) nothing else: The basis of every Christian decision should be love: nothing else.3) Love & justice are the same thing: Justice leads to what is right, injustice to what is wrong.4) Love is not the same as liking: Love wills the neighbours good, whether we like them or not.5) Love justifies the means: The end, if motivated by love, justifies the means.6) Love decides there and then: there are no rules the situations decides, the situation doesn’t create a new rule.
8 “In resolving any situation the primary motive must be love.” Situation EthicsFletcher believed the primary motivation should be love for the individual, and recognition that the most loving way out of a situation should be the ultimate motive.“In resolving any situation the primary motive must be love.”Task: Look at the moral situations on the following pages and answer the following questions for each one:1) What do you think the Christian moral rule would be?2) What do you think Fletcher’s solution would be in this situation?3) What do you think is the best solution to this situation?
9 Situation EthicsDuring WWII if a woman prisoner in Russia was found to be pregnant she would be released to return to her family. Should a woman prisoner of war decide to sleep with a Russian guard in order to become pregnant so that she can be released and return to her husband and family?
10 Situation EthicsA German doctor is asked to carry out 3000 abortions on Jewish women because if they are found to be pregnant they would automatically be killed. Is he justified in killing the babies to save the women?
11 Situation EthicsA female spy is asked to trade sexual favours with a foreign national in order to gain military intelligence about the manoeuvres of an invading army. Is she justified in doing so?
12 Situation EthicsA ship’s captain orders a number of male passengers to be thrown from an overloaded lifeboat to prevent it from sinking and killing everyone on board. Is he right to do so?
13 Situation EthicsA man in the US has a choice; take an expensive series of medication, financially crippling his family but prolonging his own life; or refuse the medication, thus cutting short his own life but saving his family from the financial burden of medical bills. What should he do?
14 Three Kinds of Ethical Theories Fletcher believed there were three basic kinds of ethical theories.Legalism: At one end of the spectrum Fletcher identified a legalistic approach.Legalism requires a strict adherence to the rules irrespective of the outcome. It gives no consideration to the individual, the situation, or the outcome. It is purely based on laws that a legalist would insist define, intrinsically, what is right or wrong.Within Christianity, Catholicism has traditionally been defined as having a legalistic approach.
15 Three Kinds of Ethical Theories Antinomian: At the other end of the spectrum Fletcher identified an antinomian ethical approach.The term ‘antinomian’ literally means against (anti) the law (nomos).An antinomian believes that an individual does not need to comply with religious rules or an established ethical system in order to gain salvation. An antinomian will question what is the right thing to do, but will not consult any moral guidelines. Fletcher describes their approach as; ‘unprincipled, purely ad hoc and casual. They follow no forecastable approach from one situation to another. They are exactly anarchic – i.e. without a rule.’ i.e. without specific principles.
16 Three Kinds of Ethical Theories Situationism: Fletcher saw his own approach as a balance between the two.One the one hand it is notbogged down by legalismbut on the other it does have a core principle (rule) of ‘Love’. Fletcher believed that the situationist enters a dilemma with the ethics, rules and principles of their community or tradition. However, they are also willing to set aside those principles in a situation if loves is better served by doing so.Situationism agrees that; ‘reason is an instrument of moral judgement’ but would not agree that there is a natural law to suggest the good in every situation.
17 Three Kinds of Ethical Theories To Fletcher, the situationist, ‘...follows a moral law or violates it according to love’s need.’Situation Ethics is sensitive to variety and complexity. It uses moral guidelines to highlight a situation but will not allow them to dictate the course action needed to resolve it, only love can do that.To Fletcher, situation ethics is the perfect balance between legalism and antinomianism.Situation EthicsLegalismAntinomianism
18 Situation EthicsStrengths1) Situation ethics provides an alternative, Christian, approach to ethics which is that is in-line with the Gospels. Jesus was not afraid of breaking the ritual laws (e.g. the Sabbath) if, the situation dictated.2) Situationism is flexible and practical it takes into consideration each person’s situation individually. It is able, where necessary, to take the least bad of two bad situations, which legalism is not able to do.3) The basic principle is the premise of ‘love’. This is totally in keeping with what Jesus said was the key to ethical decision making (after all ‘God is Love’) and keeps the welfare of the individual central to situation.
19 Situation EthicsWeaknesses1) Situationism is subjective and limited to an individual’s perceptions. It isn’t easy to be sure that the ethicist’s perception of the situation and their resulting decision is right. One could end up ‘...justifying unloving actions on the basis of loving results that may never emerge.’2) Fletcher believed the end always justifies the means, this is not true in every situation. There are some actions that are simply wrong under any circumstances, e.g. Genocide. By suggesting certain moral laws are dependant on situations, relegates them to mere ‘suggestions for life’.3) Situation Ethics does not consider what is the most loving thing to do for all, only for the individual. True ethics needs to consider the best result overall.
20 ProportionalismWhilst situation ethics was seen as a middle road between legalism and antinomianism; proportionalism is seen as the midway between situation (teleological) ethics and natural (deontological) law.Bernard Hoose modified both theories and suggested. ‘It is never right to go against a principle unless there is a proportionate reason which would justify it.’This same concept can be found in Aquinas’ ‘Just War Theory’. This idea brings proportionalism in line with rule utilitarianism where the basic rule usually applies, but there are certain proportionate circumstances where it can be right to overule the moral principle.