I’ve recently been studying and reading about Proportionalism for a student’s PhD, the balancing act between the two normative ethical theories of Aquinas’ Natural Moral Law and Josheph Fletcher’s Situation Ethics. I’ve found this to be an interesting Catholic approach as it seems to not only rely on absolute principles, but it also appeals to conscience theology that scholars such as Cardinal Newman proposed to do with following one’s conscience over the Pope or other principles. (Our ex-pope Cardinal Ratzinger actually took this standpoint before he was Pope)
Have people heard of Proportionalism? If so, what do you think?
Not sure if we’re talking about the same “Proportionalism” here . However, Blessed Pope John Paul II, discussed propotionalism in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor (VS)
Proportionalism is a teleological ethical system that says that the morality of a human act is based upon the ends of the agent and the values intended by him. The goal is to maximize the premoral goods of the act and to minimize the premoral evils (VS 74). The main problem with proportionalism is the lack of objective standards for the morality of the act itself. Under this system, even acts such as a direct abortion could be seen as being permissible, if one could argue that the goods that result from the abortion outweighed the evils accompanying the abortion itself.
In addition to the lack of objective stands for the act, there are a few problems with trying to determine whether the goods outweigh the evils. First, how does one weigh the various goods? How does one say that a good name has more good than money? It is not possible to weigh their relative worth objectively.
The second problem with weighing the goods is wishful, subjective thinking. One could convince oneself that this set of goods is better because that is what I want regardless of an objective view of the situation or the view of a different person.
A third problem is that we cannot imagine all of the possible outcomes to a given choice. There may be goods or evils that we cannot conceive of that would result from the act and would make the results of the act either more or less good. (VS 77)