The Ethics Of Charity

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Taking the strengths and weaknesses of all three ethical theories that I have analysed thus far; I aim to produce a revised formulation of ethics that negates the weaknesses of the other theories and adheres to what “Good Charity” should entail. That being, communal aid, security and bonds through a focus on helping those in genuine need. This will focus mainly on a revised formulation of Situation ethics, as overall it is the strongest theory to apply to charity because it analyses both the act and outcome concerning the most loving thing to do, whilst targeting a focus on communal welfare. With the previous weaknesses of Fletcher’s ethics in mind, I wish to revive Situation Ethics by making a few adjustments to the propositions by adding strengths found in the previous theoretical ethical methods:

  1. Only one thing is instrumentally good, friendship, and nothing else
  2. The ruling norm for modern tradition should simply make decisions on communal love, or friendship, where all acts of kindness, however small, are never wasted
  3. Friendship, Desire and justice are the same, for justice is Friendship distributed
  4. Individuals should be considered as ends in themselves and never as a means to an end
  5. Acts should be voluntary and intentional acts and outcomes, analysed by taking ourselves outside our own subjective opinion to empathise the view point of an impartial spectator
  6. Ethics should consider a rational analysis of both act and consequences to determine the most-loving thing per situation
  7. The most-loving thing is the negation of the opposite

Many of the theories criticisms focus on how Fletchers emphasis on love lacks clarity. What is love and what should be the most loving thing to do? Here I have replaced “Love” with friendship, rather than a reference to religious connotations of love. I do not mean to say that faith cannot work within the structure, instead I aim to invite all beliefs and faiths to act accordingly to the consequentialist approach I provide above. I persist that we remain to treat people as ends in themselves, as seen in the Kantian method, and review our ethical actions consequentially in order to perform the most good. The rightness of an action is non-prescriptive and depends on numerous factors, where actions should entice an analysis of the “elements of a human act’ –i.e., its totality of end, means, motive, and foreseeable consequences” (Fletcher 1967 P.56). Both act and outcome require the most loving thing. There is no ultimate valuable outcome, nor should outcomes be in competition with one another to create the most value. Providing we strive to create good for everyone and treat others as rational autonomous individuals with an equal amount of respect for one another, friendship (entailing both the love for family and friends) is the most-loving thing. Here, love is not measured, but simply recognised and the negation of what love or friendship is not, which is malice and harm, is unethical.

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Following this, I would like to introduce Aristoteles notion of friendship found in Nichomachean Ethics (Ross 1959). Book VIII and IX on Friendship includes the reciprocal force that friendship has on justice; namely how we learn reciprocity, fairness and political friendship. Friendship holds a tripartite distinction within the text, defined through Utility friendships, Pleasure friendships and Companionship friendship. Friendship itself is a “good” desired in its own right for the end goal of Eudaimonia as it rewards and satisfies the individual and the community. It also enables the practice of certain virtues, such as beneficence and sympathy in the case of Charity, thus enlarging both our consciousness and our happiness. The right kind of friends keep us on track for the pursuit of Eudaimonia, aiding one-another in the process. To be and to have the right kind of friend(s), a mutual involvement and knowledge of goodwill must apply in a Kantian sense, where you should not treat people as a means to an end. I must not use someone to achieve my own Eudaimonia and disregard their path to the same target. Companionship is the highest of the friendships, its duration and shared being results in individuals engaging in projects cooperatively. They care for each other the same way they wish to be treated themselves, as seen in the bible, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt.22 Verses 34-40). This kind of friendship allows the shaping and knowledge of each other to better themselves and the one which should be highlighted within situation ethics.  


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