From: Adrian Teo (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Oct 22 2002 - 01:38:26 EDT
From: John W Burgeson [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Mon 10/21/2002 6:43 PM
To: Adrian Teo
Subject: Re: Traditional Xtianity teaches
>>AT: What puzzles me here is how does one not fall into
if what is very likely to be a wrong can be mitigated by
your view, are there absolute wrongs? For example, the taking of an
obviously innocent life (at whatever point where it would be reasonable
to conclude that the entity is a human life)? >>
Situation ethics is not necessarily an evil. Let me expand on that.
There are three types of ethical foundations:
1. Deontological. Follow the rules
2. Consequential. Strive for the best outcomes
3. Virtue. Look for the action which best defines who you are -- your
An example. How much should I give of my income to my church and other
1. Deontological. The rules says 10% and that's what I'll do. I will
calculate the 10% to give the most favorable outcome (ie the least
2. Consequential. The church really needs a new roof. I'll fund it.
3. Virtue. I give in a way that if someone finds out how much
I will have
no reason to be embarrassed.
In practice, of course, all three ways often work together.
Another example. It is 1937 and the gestapo is at your door. In your
basement are hiding your Jewish neighbors. The gestapo asks "Are there
any Jews in your house?"
1. The rule is, don't lie. You answer "yes."
2. You answer "no" to try to achieve the best outcome for those in the
3. You answer "no," because that's how you view yourself.
I reread Fletcher's book every few years. It makes a lot of sense.
AT: In all honesty, I fail to see an argument here, and don't
see how the above statements demonstrate that situational ethics is
not necessarily an evil. You seem to be appealing to sentiment,
rather than reason.
Are there "absolute" wrongs? I try to stay away from the words "always"
and "never." But I can think of some wrongs for which I can identify
nothing that would make them less than absolute. Child abuse involving
deliberate torture comes to mind.
You conclude by saying: "For example, the taking of an
life (at whatever point where it would be reasonable to
conclude that the
entity is a human life)? "
This cannot be an absolute, for I can specify a situation where taking
the innocent life is the ethical and moral thing to do. There are many
examples of this in the literature. Try this one.
You stand at a railway switch. Just ahead of you on the right
track is a
new born lovely baby girl. Just ahead of you on the left
track are twenty
people, including your loved ones, President Bush, Mother Teresa, Billy
Graham, several small children, etc. You get the drift.
AT: One could also set up similar scenarios with the child
abuse as one of two options. What all these have in common is that
they have no relation to real life. In any case, one is in fact able
to make an ethical decision in your given scenario - choose the
lesser of the two evils without intending either consequence. A
decision is not immoral if one does not intend for either of the
consequences, but is forced to choose nevertheless.
Have you looked at the six testimonies on my web site yet? I'd be
interested in your comments.
AT: Yes, I have, and they are all very touching and painful
stories. But in order to think objectively about ethics, one has to
rise above the emotions and seek truth. In several of the
testimonies, the termination of life was chosen over the threat to
the mothers' fertility. These clearly reveal the underlying mindset,
which is that of this culture in America as well. How many women (and
their doctors) would choose to end their OWN life rather than lose
their fertility? Why then, is it more justifiable to end another
person's life for the sake of preserving fertility? I think these
testimonies reveal the depth of the confusion in this culture over
the making of ethical decisions. Consequentialism has taken over as
the dominant voice of ethics. Can you imagine the apostles and
martyrs saying, "Better that I not confess my faith now and be
killed, so that I can live on and witness to many more people."
That's the "beauty" of consequentialism - one can use it to justify
Blessings to you,
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