Situation Ethics summary (essay intro...)
Situation Ethics is a teleological ethical theory, which is based on agape love and doing the thing which results in the most loving outcome. It was devised by Joseph Fletcher who rejected legalism and antinomianism, Situation Ethics is considered to be midway between these two extremes. The three key aspects to Sitaution Ethics are: agape love, the four presumptions and the six fundamnetal principles.
Agape is the Greek word for love but often translated as 'pure love' or 'unconditional love'. It is the kind of love that is talked about in the scripture, to 'love your neighbour as yourself'.
Fletcher argued that in order to make a meaningful ethical decision, the situation needs to be considered for each individual moral decision and action. This decision depends on the practical application of Christian (agape) love.
Four Presumptions (working principles)
Fletcher suggested that the effectiveness of Situation Ethics could be tested by his four working principles:
- Pragmatism: The solution to any ethical dilemma has to be practical. Fletcher wrote, "All are agreed: the good is what works, what is expedient, what gives satisfaction."
- Relativism: Agape love should be applied in a way that is relative to each situation. Fletcher wrote, "The situationist avoids words such as 'never'... as he avoids the plague, as he avoids 'absolutely'."
- Positivism: Agape is accepted voluntarily through faith, and reason is then used to work out the practical iapplication of that faith.
- Personalism: Ethics concerns itself with people rather than things (relates to agent-centred Virtue Ethics) rather than things. The command is to love people and not laws or principles.
Six Fundamental Principles
Flethcer identifies six statements to serve as basic propositions for the practical application of his ethical theroy:
1. Only love is intrinsically good. "Only love is objectively valid, only love is universal."
2.The ruling norm of Christian decisions is love: nothing else. Laws are mere reflections of love in practice: "the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath".
3. Love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing else.
4. Love wills the neigbour's good whether we like him or not. Jesus urged everyone to 'love your enemies', meaning, for Fletcher, the radical obligation of showing "indiscriminate love, love for Tom, Dick and Harry." Pure love does not discriminate in its application.
5. Only the end justifies the means, nothing else. To follow absolutes is impossible. For example, to follow the principle 'do not kill' is not practical and at some point the 'inflexible maxims' are compromised, eg: war, abortion, self-defense etc...
6. Love's decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively. For real decision making, freedom is required.