Situation Ethics is...
- A relativistic theory: It has not absolute moral rules that have to be followed in every circumstance.
- A consequentialist theory: Where the end result is held to be of great improtance.
- A telelogical theory: Claiming that moral truth can be found through nature and purpose.
- Joseph Fletcher: Ethical theories should be flexible enough to deal with varying circumstances. "For the situation there are no rules-none at all."
The features of Situation Ethics
- An ethical theory based on the single principle of love.
- Peopleshould entre every situation prepared to act in the most loving way.
- The right thing to do in any given situation is the most loving thing to do.
Fletcher defined love in the following way:
- Agape Love: God's love for humanity.
- It is always good.
- Love and jusitce are the same, for love is justice distributed.
- It makes a decision which is unique to each individual situation.
- "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." Luke 10:27
4 Working Principles
- Pragmatism: A proposed course of action, done out of love, should be practical and work in real life. The action must also work towards the end which is love.
- Relativism: "The situationist avoids words like 'never' and 'perfect' and 'always' and 'completely' as he avoids the plague as he avoids 'absolutely'."
- Positivism: Decisions should always be made using love as the most important consideration of all.
- Personalism: People should always be put first.
Six Fundamental Principles
1. "Only one thing is intrinsically good; namely love."
2. "The ruling norm of Christian decision making, is love: nothing else." Jesus broke the rules when it best served love.
3. "Love and jusitce are the same, for justice is love distributed."
4. "Love wills the neighbour's good, whether we like him or not." Show agape, unconditional love.
5. "Only the end justifies the means."
6. "Love's decisions are made situationally not prescriptively."
Strengths of Situation Ethics
- It is easy to understand.
- It gives people the freedom to act according to the circumstances,
- It enables people to respond emotionally and/or rationally to the situation, rather than acting according to rules.
- It is based on love.
- Love always seks the well-being of others.
Weaknesses of Situation Ethics
- The absolute law of love is still a law.
- It is ambiguous - no two people may agree on what the most loving thing to do actually is.
- It breaks down the complex moral situation into individual moral decisions. This may not be the best way to resolve the problem.
- It depends too much on an individual's viewpoint.
- It may not be possible to accurately guess the consequence.
- Are only short-term consequences considered? How do we guess long-term consequences?
- The theory could always justify the suffering of others?
- How do we measure love?