Situation ethics

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  • Created on: 27-12-19 09:46


Fletcher disagreed with legalism because it;

  • Has a set of moral rules and regulations
  • Lacks compassion for challenges that people face
  • Puts laws before people
  • Leads to immorality by forcing people to obey laws even when it's clearly harmful
  • Life's complexities require additional laws and guidence that legalism simply doesn't offer e.g. Do not murder, what about in self defence
  • Both Judaism and Christianity have legalistics ethical traditions 

Fletcher preferred this absolutist view to antinomianism due to its set structure and what seems like a stable foundation for morality 

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Fletcher disagreed with antinomianism because;

  • Is random and arbitrary in its approach to moral situations
  • It would lead to chaos and anarchy if used
  • It doesn't protect vulnerable members of society 
  • Antinomianism is inconsistent and unprincipled, so one who uses this approach doesn't really use an ethical system at all

Fletcher said that;

"...they are exactly anarchic, without a rule"

He was very critical of this approach


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Situation ethics 1

Fletcher describes this approach as "the middle-way between 2 extremes"

  • situationism uses the single rule of agape, unconditional and universal love and concern for all
  • he described agape not as a mere emotion that felt, but doing what's best for the other person unconditionally


Fletcher maintained that;

  • Love should be the main goal of every moral action 


  • That society's laws should be stuck to, unless it's more loving to break them.

"a situationist follows a moral law or violates it according to love's need"

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Situation ethics 2

Fletcher agreed with this approach because;

  • It didn't discriminate against anyone in society as it was based upon a universal concept of love
  • It showed compassion to all people equally
  • It is a solid principle, unlike antinomianism 
  • it is flexible, showing love to people in different ways depending on their situation, unlike legalism
  • It was consistent with Jesus' behaviour, so attractive to Christians

Fletcher said that;

"...legalists make an idol of sophia, antinomians repudate it, situationists use it" 


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Fletcher saw conscience as;

  • "..function, not faculty" and a "verb not a noun"
  • valuable in decision-making 
  • a process by which we respond to ethical issues 

Fletcher rejected the 4 traditional views of conscience:

1. it's an in-built faculty intuition

2. it's an inspiration from the outside (holy-spirit)

3. an internalised value system of culture/society

4. reason-making moral judgement 

He concluded by saying:

"... conscience is merely a word for our attempts to make decisions creatively, constructively and fittingly"

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The Good Samaritan: Luke 10:25-37


  • the priest and the levite who walked past followed legalistic ethics
  • the samaritan followed an agapeic type of love, unconditional concern for the levite
  • Jesus told this story to show that legalism may be unconventional in its application
  • here, Jesus elaborates clearly on the meaning of agape and the strategy in which we should love is outlined clearly


- Fletcher used this as the basis of situation ethics, his understanding of the word agape is derived from this parable 

- This types of love is pure and it is unconditional regard for all of humanity with no expectations of repayment 

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The teachings of St Paul 1 Corinthians 13


  • The Corinthians always used the excuse of speaking in tongues to be immoral 
  • This inspired Paul to write this stating that "...if i speak in tongues...but do not have love, I am nothing"

- This heavily impacted Fletcher as Paul targeted this letter to the legalistic Corinthians at the time who used their authority as an exuse to impose immoral laws on the people

- This also impacted other philosopher/ethicists such as Aquinas and Augustine. 

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Moral relativistic theory

Situation ethics can be classed as relativist because;

  • it recognises no absolute universal moral laws or norms 
  • each situation is looked at on an individual level 
  • each individual person is unique
  • it states that all decisions should be made in relation to the extent to which love in that case can be achieved
  • it recognises that where it is harmful to the individual, or where love won't be achieved, the law can be abandoned, unlike the absolutist stance 
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Consequentialist theory

Situationisim is consequentialist because;

  • moral actions are assessed based upon their outcomes, it is focused on the results of an action 
  • so the goodness or badness of an action is based upon if the most love is achieved in the end
  • if the result isn't the most loving, agapeic action, then the action would be considered wrong 
  • the decision making process applies conscience through agape, and in doing so looks toward prosepective application
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Teleological theory

It is a teleological argument because;

  • it focuses upon the act's purpose/end goal, it is goal-focused 
  • situation ethics aims for love in its decision-making process, its goal is love
  • situation ethics is concerned with the telos of any proposed action 
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