Proportionalism

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Proportionalism

  1. 1. RS: A2: Ethics: Natural Moral Law ProportionalismProportionalism is associated particularly with Bernard Hoose and RichardMcCormick. It responds to natural law by working within its framework, butwithout insisting on a fixed, inflexible and absolutist interpretation if a greatergood is served by laying it aside. It allows for ontic goods- qualities such asdignity, integrity and justice- which are in themselves non-moral, but aredesirable to take into account when making a moral decision. Aquinas’teaching allows for some degree of proportionalism. For example he allowedthat if a man were starving it would be acceptable to steal rather than let himdie of hunger. However, a proportionalist may argue that natural law fails torecognise the holistic nature of human beings because it makes a distinctionbetween body and soul, rather than recognising that humans are apsychophysical unity that combines reason and nature.A proportionalist may argue that the best we can aim for is a theology ofcompromise that recognises that, since we live in a fallen world (affected byoriginal sin) the best that human beings can strive towards is a moralcompromise not moral perfection. Proportionalism may be seen to be morecompassionate than a strict application of natural law in so far as it allows anindividual’s circumstances to be taken into account. It does not permit humansuffering simply in the cause of upholding natural law but acknowledges thatsome non-moral evils have to be permitted to bring about a greater good.What is most important is to bring about a proportionate amount of good andevil. Proportionalism recognises that natural law must be allowed to changeand that it is almost impossible to identify laws that are eternally valid withoutadaptation. However it could be said to allow too much freedom to decidewhat is proportionately good and permits the rejection of authoritarian moralcodes such as those laid down by the Roman Catholic Church. Furtherproportionalism may be thought of as utilitarianism in a different form, since ittakes into account the outcome of an action rather than its intrinsic worth.

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