Explain Situation Ethics

Explain Situation Ethics

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  • Created on: 02-01-11 17:59
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Outline and explain Situation Ethics ­ 30 marks
Timed ­ 24 minutes
Situation Ethics (S.E) is a theory which was devised by Joseph Fletcher in the 1960's. Fletcher
was disgusted at how religions were being taught and hated those which were legalistic with rules
which could never be broken. I.e he hated absolutist theories. This caused him to create S.E which is
often named as the "Middle Way" as it lies in between Legalism and Antinomianism. It's placed in the
middle because it maintains "Sophia" (rules and traditions of religions, it's also the greek work for
wisdom) but puts love at the centre, and therefore "Sophia" illuminates. Love is in the driving seat
making all the decisions, whereas "Sophia" takes the backseat role. For this reason he calls his ethic a
Christian Ethic which is again emphasised in 1 of his 6 propositions. The theory is based around
agapéic love; a moral act is one which maximises the love for the majority. Fletcher created 4
working principles and 6 propositions which lie at the heart of his ethic.
But before moving onto these, one must define the term "Agapéic love". It stands for four
things;
1. Unconditional ­ the person should expect nothing in return
2. Self-sacrificial ­ this type of love is not easy, it often comes at a cost
3. Pratical ­ this love is not a feeling, but it's an action
4. Divine-like ­ it's the type of love which people show towards God
As mentioned before, Fletcher created 4 working principles which outlined how his theory
works. The first one is "Positivism". This means that one must take a faith statement to believe
whether God directly revealed that Agapé love is the highest good and whether it's the summum
bonum for us. In other words, it depends on faith to put love in the central place. Secondly comes,
"Pragmatism". This means "practicality". This theory always works, because it is only moral if love is
produced... therefore love is produced every time for the majority. Thirdly is "Personalism". This
puts people at the centre stage, ahead of rules (unlike in religions). It's the people which have
intrinsic value, not laws. Finally the fourth principle is "Relativism". This theory works on the idea that
there are no rules and the morality of an act changes with each Kairos. For example, if somebody
steals a gun from a person about to shoot an innocent being then it's moral. Whereas in many (and
most) other cases stealing is wrong.
The first of Fletcher's 6 propositions is "Only love has intrinsic value". This means there is one
absolute, "love". Rules and traditions do not apply in this ethic because it depends on the Kairos.
Fletcher rejects any statements like "Adultery is wrong!" as the circumstances are always different,
and sometimes it may be right for adultery to take place. Furthermore, when asked whether adultery
is wrong, Fletcher replied; "I don't know. Maybe. Give me a case. Describe a real situation."
The second proposition is "The Bible is in agreement." Although his theory is not a religion he
often calls it a "Christian Ethic" as the approach draws from Christianity a lot. For example, Jesus said
that the two greatest commandments are "Love you God with all your heart" and "Love your
neighbour as you love yourself". This shows that love is at the centre of Christianity. Also Jesus shows
that it's possible to break the rules in order to produce love. For example Jesus was criticised for
healing on the Sabbath. He replied to the people "The Sabbath is made for man, not man made for

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Sabbath". Therefore the rules are there to help us, but if it produces more love we are able to break
these rules.
Thirdly, "Love and Justice are the same; for love is justice distributed". This point emphasises
the fact that a moral act is maximising the love for the majority of people affected. Justice is love
coping with situations where distribution is called for. For example the anointing of Jesus.…read more

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In conclusion it's clear that situation ethics has it its good and its bad points. I think that
although it's very useful for it to teleological, this means that one must predict future events and
outcomes. Therefore it's based a lot of assumptions.…read more

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