situation ethics

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  • Created on: 02-11-14 16:45
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Key words
Agape- Greek word for love.
Legalism- set principles are applied as absolutes, regardless of the context.
Antinomianism- the freedom of the individual is paramount, regardless of the rules.
Pragmatism- a moral solution is only good if it is practical.
Relativism- there is no absolute principle. Every decision depends upon the situation or
Positivism- statements of faith precede reason.
Personalism- ethical theory and morality deal with people first over principles.
Joseph fletcher (1905-91): situation ethics, the new morality, 1963
Is an American moral theologian, published a book called situation ethics: the new morality in
1966. He proposed an approach to Christian ethics, called situationism that considered each
situation on its merits before applying the Christian principle of love (agape).
It was the middle way he rejected the two extremes of:
Rigidly applying set principles and following laws as absolutes without consideration
of context (legalism)
Acting without reference to any rules and having total freedom to act as one pleases
It was a theological way of meeting a practical need in light of the radical social changes of
the twentieth century: in particular, changing views on what is seen to be acceptable moral
Paul Lehmann (1906-96): ethics in a Christian context, 1963
He is associated with what is called contextual ethics. His thinking is similar to Fletcher's in
that love is central, and Christian behaviour cannot be generalised. He is, according to R.M
Crook In his 2002 book "introduction to Christian ethics", more concerned with faith in
Christ and the involvement of a Christian community than Fletcher.
Key questions
1. Is moral behaviour about following rules or working things out for ourselves?
2. Are there unbreakable laws to govern moral behaviour, or should we make our own
moral decisions?
3. Are there ever situations when you should ignore established moral rules?
4. When deciding what is right, how much weight should be given to the actual people
involve and the consequences the moral judgement brings them?
Key quotes
"Only one thing is intrinsically good: namely love: nothing else at all." Fletcher, 1963,pg56
"The ruling norm of Christian Decision is love: nothing else."- Fletcher, 1963 p69

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Love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing else."- Fletcher,1963,
"Love wills the neighbour's good, whether we like him or not."- Fletcher,1963,pg103
"Only the end justifies the means, nothing else"- Fletcher,1963, p120
"[L]ove's decision are made situationally, not prescriptively."- Fletcher,1963,p134
Chapter summary
`The law of love is the ultimate law because it is the negation of law'. (Tillich)
"love thy neighbour as thyself" is the ultimate duty'. (Bultmann)
Ethics is either legalistic, antinomian or situational.…read more


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