Objectives in this unit • To have an understanding how situation ethics differs from traditional approaches to moral decision – making • To be able to explain both the assumptions underpinning situation ethics and the principles by which the approach is applied • To have explored the application of situation ethics to moral dilemmas • To be able to identify key weaknesses and strengths in the theory and application of situation ethics Key philosopher: Joseph Fletcher The morality of an action depends on the situation • American Professor • 1905 – 1991 • Founder of theory of situation ethics • ‘Situation Ethics, the New Morality’ 1966 Which of the following are not associated with the 1960s? Peace Love Excess Abstinence Social Revolution Anti-War Swinging Conforming The Beatles Flamboyant Permissive Rebelling Exciting Restrictive Experimental Freedom Monogamous Rock’n’Roll Sex Subversive Drugs Elvis Dull ? ? Key questions Is moral behaviour about following rules or working things out for ourselves? Are there unbreakable laws to govern moral behaviour, or should we make our own moral decisions? What should I do? Key questions • Are there ever situations when you should ignore established moral rules? • When deciding what is right, how much weight should be given to the actual people involved and the consequences the moral judgement brings them? Joseph Fletcher & his taxi cab anecdote… • Presidential campaign • Cab Driver: ‘I and my father and grandfather before me and their fathers, have always been straightticket Republicans’ • JF’s friend: ‘I’m a republican too, I take it that means you will vote for Senator So-and-So’ • Cab Driver: ‘No, there are times when a man has to push his principles aside and do the right thing’ A radical Christian ethical approach THE KEY IDEA… There is only one ultimate and invariable duty, and its formula is ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ How to do this is another question but this is the whole of moral duty. Temple, 1923, p206 The law of love is the ultimate law because it is the negation of law; it is absolute because it concerns everything concrete… The absolutism of love is its power to go into the concrete situation, to discover what is demanded by the predicament of the concrete to which it turns. Therefore, love can never become fanatical in a fight for the absolute, or cynical under the impact of the relative. Tillich, 1951, p152 Joseph Fletcher ‘Situation Ethics’ ‘there is no one ethical system that can claim to be Christian’ Bishop Robinson Rudolph Bultmann who argued that Jesus had no ethics apart from ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ the ultimate duty ‘Christian ethics’ 1. Old Testament ethics New Testament ethics 2. Roman Catholic Tradition based on Aquinas’natural law ethics 3. The Protestant tradition, which includes situation ethics Indecent Proposal (1993) 1. Is it wrong to have sex for money: a. To survive? b. For luxury purchases? c. To fund a life-saving operation for a friend or relative? 2. Why might your answers for a, b and c differ? • ethics • Antinomian ethics • Situation ethics 3 kinds of ethical theory Legalistic Ethics Antinomian ethics Extrinsic Not part of the essential nature of someone or something; coming or operating from outside The view that there are no moral principles or rules at all An ethical system that contains rules for every situation and/or the association of doing good with simply following those rules Time has gone for today… • Write one thing you have learned today… • This could be a concept you are now familiar with. • Or, a new key term in your vocabulary. • A theory that you are more confident in understanding. • Developed an academic/exam skill. • If nothing, be honest. But say why you feel nothing.