From: John W Burgeson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue Oct 22 2002 - 14:29:40 EDT
Adrian posted (in part): "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."
I think the shoe belongs on the other foot, to show situational ethics is
necessarily an evil. Of course situational ethics can (and often is)
misused. And I have no interest in defending Fletcher's book.
" 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
All such scenarios are devised to illustrate a point -- nothing more. Did
the second one actually happen in real life? Did a householder ever lie
to the gestapo to save a life?
As for your last sentence, I did not say that either decision in the
railway car case was "immoral," only that sometimes a decision between
two terrible outcomes must be chosen. So we do not disagree here.
"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 just about
Well, first of all a lot of early Xtians did just that, and on the same
general basis of reasoning.
Secondly, you speak above that "termination of life was chosen over the
threat to the mothers' fertility." I just reread the six (actually seven)
testimonies. In every case, the fetus was going to, if born, suffer
greatly and die quickly. Some had no brain at all; one had a brain
growing outside the skull. The seventh testimony, by the husband of the
sixth lady, Claudia Crown, said "The procedure under assault in H.R.
I833/S.939 protected my wife's health and possibly saved her life. It
allowed my son's suffering to end. It allowed us to look forward to a
growing family. It was the safest medical procedure available to us."
Similar statements are all over the testimonies. Yes, it is
consequentialist ethics. And the decisions are tough ones. And putting
the government police presence into any one of those six situations,
which the bill would have done, is a moral wrong.
Thirdly, thanks for at least reading those testimonies. What they say to
me is that late term abortion laws are morally wrong; what they say to
you is that late term abortion laws ought not consider "emotional" issues
but only the unborn fetus. I see also that you prefer to construct your
personal ethics solely on deontological grounds and never on
consequentialist or character (virtue) grounds. Am I correct in this?
If so, we can agree that our ethical reasoning is simply different and
close the discussion. But you appear to claim more -- that
consequentialist grounds for an ethical decision are invalid. I don't
know as that position can be maintained in all situations.
John Burgeson (Burgy)
(an eclectic site about science/theology, quantum mechanics,
ethics, baseball, humor, cars, philosophy, etc.)
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