Situation Ethics

  • Created by: Tori
  • Created on: 15-01-20 12:19


Created by Joseph Fletched in 1965

Based on Jesus characterization in the bible as putting love first, ocasionally meaning breaking rules (Love thy neighbour).

Based on Agape love (Christian unconditional love that God has for us).

Middle path between legalism (always follow rules) and Antinomisnism (no rules at all).

Teleological theory.

Love is the only thing that is intrinsically good.

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Putting Into Practice

States that rules should be set aside if a more loving action can result from breaking them. 

Each situation is different, so the guidelines (working and fundamental principles) should be followed to reach the most loving outcome. 

"Love thy Neighbour" is what decision making should be based around, what is best for the whole. 

Love is the only thing that is intrinsically good (from God), not any actions - actions are instrinsically neutral. 

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Four Working Principles

Pragmatism - Morality is about facts/actions and what maximises love in the situation.

Relativism - Morality is relative to the situation (every situation is different), so we avoid words like 'always' or 'never', there are no absolute rules.

Positivism - Affirms the belief that we should love one another as love is from God (only intrinsically good thing).

Personalism - People come before laws (if love is better served, breaking rules is acceptable).

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Six Fundamental Principles

"Only one thing is intrinsically good: Love" - Love replaces law. No action has intrinsic value, so no laws are absolute, hence follow love.

"Love is the only norm" - The only rule of Christian decision making is Agape love.

"Love and justice are the same, because justice is love distributed" - Justice is love calculating it's duties and obligations. When justice is served, so is love.

"Love wills the neighbour's good, whether we like him or not" - Love is not an emotion, it is an action. Even if they are your enemie, you still must show them love ('Love thy Neighbour').

"Only the end justifies the means and nothing else" - Anything can be done if it brings about the most loving outcome. Actions are intrinsically neutral, so only the consequence has meaning/value.

"Love's decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively" - Each situation is different, so only love can be the rule that we follow to make the best decisions. If we follow love in every situation (not some absolute rules), we will come out better.

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- Following love makes sence as it is a huge part of Jesus' ethos / biblical foundation

- It's common sense to put people before rules. 

- People are empowered to make choices by learning reason.

- Robinson said that SE was "the only ethics for the man come of age", refering to the responsibility.


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- Love is subjective (different for everyone).

-Barclay says "if all men were saints, then SE would be the perfect ethic... but man has not yet come of age".

- SE is based on extreem examples, hence it's difficult to apply to everyday situations.

- Edwin Williams argued that "love is too ambiguous for solving moral problems" (doesn't help decide what to do when uncertain).

- 'Drowning' in moral freedom, following rules allows for comfort.

Inconsistant results.

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- Stealing bread to stop someone from starving 

- Hiroshima bomb saved more lives in the long run.

- Jesus did miracles on the Sabbath (against sabbath law).

- A spy sleeping with an enemy to get information for blackmail to end a war, even though sleeping with them would be against their morals.

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