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What is ethics?

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  1. What is ethics? Be aware of key words moral philosophy, deontological, teleological, normative ethics, applied ethics, absolute and relative morality.

  2. How Many Shades of Grey? • Look at the cards you have been given. • All of these could be considered to be ‘wrong’ by some people. • Create your own ‘Diamond 9’ (well Diamond 18) • Each person should take it in turns to add and/or move a card on the chart. • Placing a card near the top of the chart means it is more likely to be always (or nearly always) wrong. • Placing a card near the bottom of the chart means it is less likely to be always (or nearly always) wrong. • Continue going around until all cards are on the chart and a consensus of opinion has been reached about the order. • Look at the top three. Justify their position at the top of the chart.

  3. Ethics • The philosophical study (often called Moral Philosophy) of good bad, right and wrong.

  4. TWO DIFFERENT TYPES OF ETHICS 1) Normative ethics (ethical theories) • Utilitarianism • Kantian ethics • Christian Ethics (including Situation Ethics) • Natural Law • Within Normative ethics, there are two different ideas: • Deontological ethics (the act itself determines the rightness of an action) eg: Ten Commandments • Teleological ethics (the morally right or wrong thing to do is dependent on the consequences)

  5. TWO DIFFERENT TYPES OF ETHICS • Applied Ethics • Abortion • Euthanasia • War • Medical Ethics

  6. Based on the picture, decide whether the girl’s actions are right or wrong. • The girl is shoplifting. • The Girl is called Becky, she is 17 and has a five month old baby called Josh. Her boyfriend and her parents don’t want anything to do with the her or the child. • Josh is desperately hungry and his mother has had no money for some days now • The supermarket Becky stole from made £16m profit last year. Is morality absolute or relative?

  7. Absolutism & Relativism To make any moral judgement we must have some sort of moral code that depicts right and wrong. The big question is... Are there shades of grey or absolutes? Right Right Just consider Becky’s situation for a moment and weigh up her ‘crime’ against how much the supermarket makes each year. She could have saved her baby’s life, surely that’s worth £3.18 isn’t it? Sure, Becky’s story is sad, however, stealing is just wrong, there’re no two ways about it. From an early age we are taught you just cannot go out and take what is not yours, what does or does not belong to you. ‘Do not steal’ is both a religious and secular principle. Wrong Wrong

  8. Homework Philosophy.hku.hk/think/value/quiz.php Or google: Quiz are you a moral relativist? 2) Read and make notes from Understanding Religious Ethics up to page 25 by NEXT LESSON.

  9. Exploring Relativism • This lesson will be successful if you can evaluate the first of 2 types of relativism • Cultural Relativism & Normative Relativism

  10. Morality…is a convenient term for socially approved habits. (Benedict, 1934) • Evaluate this statement – do you agree?

  11. Starter • In your groups – make a list of all the key words and definitions that we covered last lesson.

  12. 2 types of relative theory • Cultural Relativity • Spartan culture: the end, or telos of Spartan culture was to create a strong warrior race. • Infanticide – weak children were left to die • Children’s education was taken over by the state at the age of 7 when boys were forced into the wilderness to fend for themselves • Slavery – Macedonian people had no rights. To prove yourself as a Spartan warrior you killed a Macedonian in cold blood. • Watch 300 – what can you make out about the morality of Spartan Culture? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmOH5f1J1Uc

  13. Diversity Thesis • Even today it is easy to see clashes of moral codes. To us it seems barbaric to cut of a mans hand as punishment for theft yet to many Muslims, this is just the required punishment and they on their part will condemn what they see as excessive liberalism and immorality of western societies

  14. Diversity Thesis • In pairs, make a list of different things that cultures clash over either today, or in history

  15. Diversity Thesis • Child labour • Sex outside marriage • Monogamy • Arranged marriages • Elderly in homes • Funeral practices • Dietary laws • Women in society • Fox hunting

  16. Strengths & Weaknesses of Relativism • Make a list of strengths and weaknesses.

  17. Strengths & Weaknesses of Relativism • Strengths • Allows for diversity • A greater understanding of other cultures • It understands that life is not black and white • Cultures may believe that their practices are more justifiable than others, but by using a relativist approach, this will allow for acceptance between different people

  18. Strengths & Weaknesses of Relativism • Weaknesses • It implies there can be no real evaluation or criticism of practices such as burning witches, slavery, the Holocaust or torture of innocents • It does not allow societies to progress – (the realisation that slavery was unacceptable was slow to develop – but no one would doubt that we have made some progress • Relativism seems to give little reason for behaving morally except to be socially acceptable • Some statements ARE true absolutely. There must be some objective good.

  19. Plenary • What accepted practices today do you think that people will look back at in horror in the future?

  20. Starter • Write down 3 examples of cultural relativity.

  21. Normative Relativism: Situation Ethics • Teleological ethical theory • In a nutshell: method of making ethical decisions that states you must consider ‘noble love’ (agape) in decision making. A moral decision is correct if it is the most loving thing to do.

  22. Historical Background • What happened in British society in the 1960s?

  23. Normative Relativism: Situation Ethics • Teleological ethical theory • In a nutshell: method of making ethical decisions that states you must consider ‘noble love’ (agape) in decision making. A moral decision is correct if it is the most loving thing to do.

  24. Normative Relativism: Situation Ethics Legalism Antinomianism Following the churches rules Abandonment of all rules Situation Ethics

  25. Legalistic Ethics • Has a set of moral rules and regulations. • Judaism and Christianity both have legalistic ethical traditions. • Fletcher said this runs into problems – life’s complexities require additional laws. Murder, killing in self defence, killing in war, killing unborn human beings etc. • Becomes complex and like a textbook morality that leaves people simply to check the manual to decide what is right and wrong.

  26. Antinomian Ethics • The reverse of legalistic ethics. • It literally means ‘against law’. • A person using antinomianism doesn’t really use an ethical system at all. • He or she enters decision-making as if each occasion was totally unique. Making a moral decision is a matter of spontaneity. • ‘They are, exactly anarchic – i.e. without a rule’. • Fletcher is also critical of this approach.

  27. Dilemma • A teenager has become pregnant as a result of being raped by a close family member. She’s very poor and very young. How would legalists, antinomians and situationists go about considering what the moral thing to do is?

  28. Situation Ethics • Teleological ethical theory • In a nutshell: method of making ethical decisions that states you must consider ‘noble love’ (agape) in decision making. A moral decision is correct if it is the most loving thing to do.

  29. Situation Ethics • Associated with Joseph Fletcher (who coined the phrase) • Fletcher was an American Christian priest (1905-1991) • He renounced his faith in later life and became an atheist. • His book Situation Ethics was published in 1966.

  30. Mark 2: 23-28 • One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?" •     He answered, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions." •     Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

  31. Points to note… • This took place on the Sabbath • On the Sabbath it was forbidden to… • …work. • To this day certain Orthodox Jews will observe this rule to a very high degree. • The switching on of lights would be forbidden on the Sabbath, for example. • In this story, Jesus’ disciples are criticised for picking corn on the Sabbath as they walk through a field on their way to the synagogue. Technically, this is harvesting.

  32. Points to note… • Jesus’ response to this criticism from the Pharisees is twofold. • First he cites a precedent, King David’s men breaking a religious rule due to hunger. • But the second is more significant for our purposes. Jesus says that "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

  33. Meaning What Exactly? • The commandments are not to be followed slavishly as if life is a game of Simon ( or Jehovah) Says and that heaven is a reward for those who obey. • The commandments are there for the benefit of humankind and that he Jesus has discretion over how they should be interpreted. • What might have been the original intention of the commandment forbidding work on the Sabbath?

  34. So what’s this got to do with Situation Ethics? • In another passage, Jesus says this.. • "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 'The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." • For Fletcher, this has enormous significance. • For Christians all of the commandments are to be seen in the light of love. • When a Christian acts they should follow the course of action that leads to the most love being shown.

  35. So in Situation Ethics… • …the only rule is that you should act in the way that results in the most love being shown. (Love is the law) • …as no two situations are exactly alike this needs to be reconsidered every time. On some occasions you may have to tell the truth, on others you should not. It just depends on the Situation…(hence the name) • …all you need is love (no Fletcher wasn’t a Beatle) but it was the sixties.

  36. Four Working Principles Pragmatic – it must be a practical solution Relativist – situation ethics avoids words like never, perfect, always complete. BUT ALL DECISIONS MUST BE RELATIVE TO CHRISTIAN LOVE Positivism – put’s Christian love first Personalism – puts people first.

  37. Quick test • Write down everything you know about situation ethics

  38. Six Fundamental Principles • Only one thing is intrinsically good, namely love: nothing else at all. • Only love is good in itself. Actions are not intrinsically good or evil. • The ruling norm of Christian decision is love: nothing else. • Rules of the Torah are replaced by Christian love. • Love and Justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing else.

  39. 6 Fundamental Principles • Love wills the neighbour’s good, whether we like him or not. • So, love your neighbour does not just mean people that you like • Only the end justifies the means, nothing else. • It is teleological. Situationists look at the ends, not the means. • Love’s decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively. • You don’t have to follow the rules to the letter.

  40. So, for situation ethicists • Consider the moral dilemmas cards. What would a situation ethicist do?

  41. Strengths and weaknesses • Rejects antinomian and legalistic approaches • Subjective • Individualistic • Allows for differences of opinion in ethical matters • What are the weaknesses?

  42. Let’s evaluate Situation Ethics • Do you think that Fletcher’s ethics are Christian? • Analyse Fletcher’s views that ‘the end of love justifies the means’. • Is Situation ethics a useful guide for everyday ethical decision making? • Are moral rules totally useless n moral decision-making or can you see a role for them?