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AS Religious Studies Revision: Situation Ethics
AO1 Material: i.e. `what goes in part a)?'
What type of ethical theory is it?
Teleological: it aims to bring about a greater good. It looks at what your
ethical action is aimed at bringing about, rather than deontological ethics
which focuses on the intrinsic rightness or wrongness of actions.
Consequentialist: it looks at the consequences of actions, not the actions
themselves. An action is deemed `good' if it brings about good consequences.
Relative: goodness of actions depend on the circumstances; there are no
fixed moral principles (apart from `do the most loving thing').
Religious: it is based upon the life of Jesus and the Christian principle of love.
Agapéistic: the Christian concept of unconditional love is the guiding principle
of this theory.
How does this ethical theory tell us to act?
Devised by Joseph Fletcher in the 1960s as a radical Christian ethic.
Based upon the life of Jesus and in particular the story of picking grain on the
Sabbath in Mark 2. Jesus made an exception to the laws against work on the
Sabbath in exceptional circumstances.
Argues that agapé is the only guiding principle in morality. This is taken from
the golden rule in Christianity (love your neighbour as yourself). Agapé is
different from other forms of love such as eros and filia: it is unconditional.
Rejects legalistic ethics (where the law comes first) and antinomian ethics
(where there is no law). Ethics should be situational: based on the situation
itself and what it requires at the time.
4 working principles: pragmatism, relativism, positivism, personalism.
6 fundamental principles showing how love is applied to ethical dilemmas.
Situation Ethics and Natural Moral Law are relativist and deontological ethical
theories respectively. A theory that comes half way between them is called
Porportionalism, devised by Bernard Hoose. Proportionalism argues that we
should have fixed moral rules that we have a duty to obey and that apply to
all, unless we have proportionate reason for breaking those rules.
For example, we may have the rules `do not tell a lie' and `do not allow harm
to others.' Someone runs into the shop where you are buying cheese and hides
in the back. Shortly afterwards a man runs in carrying a gun and demands to
know if anyone has just come in. You might have proportionate reason to tell a
lie to prevent harm coming to the person in the back of the shop.
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AO2: Critical evaluation i.e. `what do I put in part b)?'
Remember to read the question first before just regurgitating.
Strengths of situation ethics.
Presents a Christian ethical message that is consistent with the gospel
message. It shows Christians that it is possible to be a situationist and that
biblical laws do not have to be rigidly adhered to.
Situation ethics provides a proportionate reason to break ethical principles:
there are some situations where this may be necessary.…read more