situation ethics

Thomas Fletcher, situation ethics notes with strengths and weaknesses

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  • Created on: 12-03-12 20:30
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Situation ethics...
This teleological and relativist theory was created by John Fletcher in the
Legalism- excessive faithfulness to a law or formula
Antinomianism- belief that there are no fixed moral principles, down to
Fletcher tries to find the middle ground between these two things with
situation ethics. He says that it is too difficult to know what God wills in every
single situation so agape love is the only moral rule he uses.
Situation ethics
Legalism antinomianism
In every situation it should be agape and the guiding maxims (10
commandments) that should lead you to what to do.
Agape- unconditional, absolute, unchanging 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 gave four examples of how his theory works, one of his examples is;
"I dropped in on a patient at the hospital who explained that he only had a set time to live.
The doctors could give him some pills (that would cost $40 every three days) that would keep him alive for
the next three years, but if he didn't take the pills, he'd be dead within six months. Now he was insured for
$100,000, double indemnity and that was all the insurance he had. But if he took the pills and lived past next
October when the insurance was up for renewal, they were bound to refuse the renewal, and his insurance
would be cancelled. So he told me that he was thinking that if he didn't take the pills, then his family would
get left with some security, and asked my advice on the situation."
Examples to use in an exam-
a young rape victim having an abortion
breaking a window to escape a fire
assaulting a stranger in self defence
driving through a red light to get an injured person to hospital

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The four working principles...
1. pragmatism- what you propose must work in practice
2. Relativism- words such as `never' and `always' are rejected. No fixed
rules, but all decisions have to be relative to agape
3. Positivism- the person has to freely choose agape love with a value
4. Personalism- people are put in first place
The six fundamental principles...
1. Agape is the only absolute- it is the only intrinsically good thing
2. Love is self-giving and the ruling norm of Christianity
3.…read more


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