• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Describe and explain the distinctive features of 'natural law' and 'situation ethics'.

Extracts from this document...


Describe and explain the distinctive features of 'natural law' and 'situation ethics'. The theories of natural law and situation ethics are far from concrete, and the impact of the contemporary 'new natural law,' led by the American philosopher Germain Grisez, appears to be a great one. Yet despite modern modifications, the two concepts are essentially deep-routed within human thinking. However, they were formulated at opposite ends of the second millennium: St. Thomas Aquinas' 13th century Summa Theologica developed Aristotle and Cicero's ideas of 'natural law', and the explicit conclusions of 'situation ethics' were created by Joseph Fletcher in the early 1960s. Both deal with the human need to astutely with every day dilemmas. Natural law takes the view that the absolute principle of love should be a consideration of every decision made, whilst situation ethics discredits any absolute idea other than that of human happiness. First Aristotle (384-322 BCE) and then Cicero (106-43 BCE) introduced the idea of a natural law "which everywhere is equally valid" (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics). Aristotle believed that "that which is natural is unchangeable, and has the same power everywhere." ...read more.


Following these precepts is seen as a way as reaching the 'end' of God. For example, protected or homosexual intercourse is seen as morally wrong because it prevents the fulfilment of God's first intention: reproduction. Aquinas rejected the idea of 'original sin,' preferring to believe that humans never intentionally pursuit evil; rather, evil is "sought indirectly, namely because it is the consequence of some good." Any sin committed whilst not in the quest for moral perfection were seen as simply a 'falling short' within the human consciousness. To 'sinners,' the act they perpetrate is an apparent good, but can easily be avoided by looking beyond 'unnatural' desires and into one's 'natural' conscience in order to find the right thing to do. Aquinas acknowledges that this can be a difficult task, and asserts that if people do not take care to look into the ideas of right and wrong, habitual immorality can develop. He stressed that this immortality is present in both the intention and carrying out of an act, and that to act in a good way for the wrong reason is to perform a good exterior act but a bad interior one. ...read more.


Situation ethics is an moral belief-system placed between these two extremes; it approaches moral dilemmas with the principles of the person's particular tradition. However, the 'situationist' is prepared to compromise these principles if love would be better served by doing so; he "follows a moral law or violates it according to love's need." Fletcher believed all situationists should enter moral decisions with the backbone principles of pragmatism, relativism, positivism and personalism. Situationists' pragmatism should ensure that the action taken works towards the end result of love; they should "relativize the absolute"; they should see that God is love, and thus follow the ethics with positivism; and they should put people first: personalism. These 'backbone' principles lead onto six main ones. First, that "only one thing is intrinsically good; namely love," secondly that "The ruling norm of Christian decision is love," thirdly that "Love and Justice are the same," fourthly that "love wills the neighbour's good," fifthly that "Only the end justifies the means," and sixth, "Love's decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively." These principles break away from traditional Christian beliefs as they see all actions as neither intrinsically 'good' nor intrinsically 'bad.' The moral correctness or any act "depends on whether love is fully served." 3/2/2005 Luke Bullen MLW ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Practical Questions section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Practical Questions essays

  1. RE euthanasia for and against

    potentially diminishes societies that permit it as a solution for social problems are reinforced, in the BMA's published view, by practical concerns".21 If the doctors who are the ones that will be carrying out the act of euthanasia are not willing to do it, we cannot pass this law.

  2. Essay on Law vs. Justice

    The design of the Ford Pinto was poor and they knew it even after they conducted several crash tests, but the decision managers made was to go ahead with production. The Ford Pinto case shows how they ignored justice, and rights.

  1. To what extent would a follower of Natural Law allow euthanasia?

    Someone terminally ill may lose the defining characteristics of personhood and as a result, some people may see them as a human without personhood. In this instance, Aquinas may have viewed some terminally ill people who did not possess these characteristics as having a vegetative soul due to his belief

  2. Religious Studies - Ethics: Natural Moral Law

    Aquinas believed that humans could use their reasoning to work out what the final causes of there existence were, and by acting in accordance with them would be a good action whilst seeking to frustrate them would be considered a bad action.

  1. Analyse the important features of Natural Moral Law

    Therefore Antigone buried her brother regardless of breaking the law. It was concluded that Natural Law is considered a law of right reason. St Thomas Aquinas developed Natural Law further and described it as ?a moral code existing within the purpose of nature created by God?.

  2. Identify the distinctive characteristics of situation ethics. ii.) Consider the view that situation ...

    Fletcher rejects legalistic ethics, he says the error made by Catholics is their adherence and devotion to natural law, and by Protestants the strict obedience of religious principles. Therefore, situation ethics is more concerned with people and love rather than rules.

  1. The Main Features of Justice, Law and Punishment

    Both Mills and Colson agree that punishment should be proportional, humane and respectful to the equality and dignity of all human beings. There are many forms of punishment; deterrence is about preventing or discouraging a person from doing a particular action.

  2. Explain what is meant by a Natural Law approach to ethics

    A main figure influencing Aquinas?s was Stoics who argues that human nature is fixed and unchanging. Aquinas also developed secondary precepts, these we more detailed rules of Natural law which derived from the primary precepts through further use of reason.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work