Key features of Situation Ethics

Encompasses the key features concerning the theory of situation ethics.

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Foundations Paper: Situational Ethics
Joseph Francis Fletcher became an American professor whom later founded the theory of situation
ethics. He was a reigning academic involved in the topics of
abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, eugenics, and cloning. He was formerly ordained a priest, but became
disenchanted with the clergy and proclaimed himself an atheist. Fletcher (1905 ­ 1991) was born in
Newark, New Jersey. During his lifetime he would of experienced the 1960's - colloquially preferred to
the `'Hippies movement'' (1964 et prorsum). He witnessed excessive promiscuous activity,
recreational drug use, and unique morals and religion exuberating from large amounts of the American
population. Hippies made no effort to confine themselves within the law, or pre-existing social
consensus of etiquette. This resulted in Fletcher orchestrating an ethical conduct that can be versatile
suffice for the present social reform, as with the law. As he succinctly describes in his book Situation
Ethics: The New Morality (1996),
In brief, situation ethics is a relative theory that assesses a particular situation, deciding whether or not
to perform a certain resolution based on what will produce the most love; this theory is relative because
it does not constrict ways of attaining the most love in every situation, only that it achieves so. Making
it a consequentialist theory of ethics because it is concerned in the latter rather the former. Therefore
makes it a teleological theory as it is decides moral quality on the consequences. Fletcher
disambiguates the concept of love, distinguishing it from the common use of the word featured in
everyday life. He notes that the hyperbolic or misconception that have led to the weakening of the
word. So situation ethics adopt the Latin vernacular; agape love - unconditional, absolute, disinterested
and universal love that involves doing what is best for other people. Fletcher believed that by basing
his theory on this he was following Jesus' teaching of `love thy neighbour.' He said that agape love in
the only absolute law and so all other laws are just guidelines that can be broken if another action
would cause more love.
Fletcher redefines the construct of conscience as he uses it in a special sense in Situation Ethics. He
rebukes the idea that conscience is intuition, a channel for divine guidance, the internalised values of
the individual's culture, or the part of reason that makes value judgements, because all of these treat
conscience as an entity - as though a noun. Which Fletcher believes is a mistake. Rather, for him,
conscience is appropriate in a verbal tense rather than a noun ­ it is something you do when you make
decisions, as he puts it, `creatively'.
Fletcher addressed the three approaches to ethics that, they included.
Legalistic Ethics: It is an absolute theory where the rules can never be broken. It is an ethical
system that contains rules for every situation. In Judaism a fence around the law was created because
people were apprehensive about the breach of the rules. This made killing, stealing, lying verboten:
Including the prohibition of killing is in self-defence, war, abortion. This produces a web of laws needed
constant reciting/referring the provider of the norms to verify what is correct moral conduct. (Such as
the Torah, Koran, and bible etc.). Legalistic Ethics encounters problems when life's complexities
require additional laws. People's morals are dictated by the rules that follow.
Antinomian Ethics: Antinomianism is a way of life where there are no moral principles or rules at
all. Hence, the word `'anti'' `'nomian'' literally means `against law' there is no connective tissue
between one situation and another, no basis for generalising principles. A person using antinomianism
Exemplar Response

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Foundations Paper: Situational Ethics
doesn't really use an ethical system at all. He or she enters decision making as if each occasion was
unique. Meaning that a moral decision is spontaneity, there is no rational basis to it and so its results
are unpredictable with no firm rational basis. It has potential to produce unprincipled and immoral
outcomes within the same situation encountered in a different context.…read more


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