Situation Ethics

General principles of situation ethics

Fletchers six fundamental principles: understanding of Christian love

Fletcher's four presumptions: pragmatism; relativism; positivism; personalism


Evaluating Situation Ethics

Christianity and Situation Ethics

Practicality and Situation Ethics

Limits of love and Situation Ethics

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  • Created on: 14-05-12 16:56

General principles of situation ethics

Joseph Fletcher three different ways making moral decisions:

Legalism- setsmoral rulesand regulations. Christianity legalistic traditions.  Focuses on natural lawa/bibilical commandments. Runs into problms when complexities require additional laws. EG killing in war/unborn babies. 

Antinomianism- no ethical system. Antinomian 'against law.' Making moral decision mattter of spontaneity. Fletcher 'It's literally unprincipled, purely ad hoc and casual.' 

Situationist- ethics, rules&principles of his/her community/tradition. However situationist prepared to set aside rules in situation if love seems better served doing so. Situation ethics agree reason is instrument of moral judgements, disagrees good is discerned from nature of things. Moral decisions hypothetical. Depend on what bwst serves love. Love is crucial idea for situationist.

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Fletcher's fundamental principles

1) Only one thing intrinsically good namely love: nothing else at all. Love is good in and of itslef. Actions aren't intrinsically good/evil. Good/evil depending whether promote most loving result. Extrinsically food depending on circumstances&consequences.

2) The rulling norm is love: nothing else. Jesus replaced Torah with principle of love. EG decision to heal on Sabbath, rejecting obligations of Sabbath observance. Commandments not absolute. jesus broke when love demanded it. Love replaces law. isn't equalled by any other law.

3) Love and Justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing else. Love and justice can't be seperated from each other. Fletcher: "Calculating its duties, obligations, opportunities, resources.." Justice is love at work in whole community, for the whole community.

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Fletcher's fundamental principles

4) Love wills the neighbour's good, whether we like him or not. Love that Fletcher concerned isn't matter of feeling but attitude of will towards other person. Isn't sentimental/****** but desire for good of other person. New Testament agape love. Neighbour is anybody and agape love goes out to everyone; not just those we like but those we don't as well. Aape love unconditional; nothing required in return.

5) Only the end justifies the means, nothing else. Considering moral actions without reference to ends haphazard approach. Actions acquire moral status as means to end. Fletcher, end must be most loving result. Weighing up situation, one considers desired end means avaliable motive for acting and foreseeable consequences.

6)Love's decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively. Jesus reacted against kind rule-based morality. Jewiish groups lived within rule-based moral systems; Jesus distanced. Where something right/wrong depends on situation. If action bring about end that serves love most, then right. Fletched believed if people do not feel wrong to have sexual relations outside marriage, then isn't unless they hurt themselves, partners or others.

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Fletcher's four presumptions

1)Pragamatism- pratical/success posture. Proposed course action must work and work towards end; love.

2)Relativism- avoids "never/" "perfect/" "always/" "complete." No fixed rules always obeyed. Nor is free for all. Maintains all decisions relative Christian love. "RELATIVIZES THE ABSOLUTE DOES NOT ABSOLUTIZE THE RELATIVE."

3)Positivism- knowledge/belief approached naturally deduces faith from human experience/ natural phenomena. Provided evidence/reasons. Theological faith statements made people act in way which is reasonable. Reason isn't basis for faith but works within. Depends on Christians freely choosing faith God is love giving first place Christian love.

4)Personalism- puts people first. "There's no 'values' in sense of inherent goods- value is what happens to something... love working for sake of persons." Some ethical theories place weight on rules - situationists more interested in people. People more sacred than rules.

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Opposes natural moral law. Natural law states actions intrinsically good/bad according to law of nature, situatinists maintain actions extrinsically good/bad according whether produced most loving result. Natural law = deontological. Situation ethics = teleological. 

Midway between theories. "IT IS NEVER RIGHT TO GO AGAINST A PRINCIPLE UNLESS THERE IS A PROPORTINATE REASON WHICH WOULD JUSTIFY IT." - Bernad Hoose. Isn't new theory - Thomas Aquinas just war theory makes possible for Church that opposed killing justify certain amount of killing in particular circumstances. Basic rule 'Do not kill' usually applies but certain proportinate circumstances when right to overrule moral principle.

May be way forward for Christian morality resolves different approaches adopted. However not clear when acceptable putting moral laws aside/how proportionalism produces consisten ethical theory.

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Evaluation and situation ethics

Flexible and practical. Takes into accound human life complex tough decisons where legalistic perspective actions seem wrong. Gives dynamism free up deadlocked moral dilemmas. Able to take least bad of two bad options legalistic approaches cant. legalist may feel bound to tell truth, when faced with murderer seeking victim legalist in impossible positon. Situationist lay aside rule not lying for better outcome saving one's life.

William Barclay feels freedom situation ethics presents with is terrifying. When faced with situation no "prefabricated judgment; you - just you - have to make the right decision." there is no ready-made decision no easy answer even for most ordinary day-to-day things. Barclay warns freedom become licence, selfishness or cruelty.

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Christian and Situation ethics

Pope Piux XII "an individualistic and subjective appeal to the concrete circumstances of actions to justify decisions in opposition to natural law or God's revealed will." Catholic Church not abandoned Aquina's natural law approach and view situation ethics as subjective and individualistic moral approach.

Religious views based on rules thinking beccause it's believes rules good for us or because God's rules to obey. Relativistic situational way thinking about morality seems long way from traditional ethics.

Situations where 'pastoral reasons' local ministers differentiate how apply laws to particular people in certain situations. Recoginition sometimes heavy rule-based approaches people in complex and diggicult situations may not be most helpful way ministering people.

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Practicality and Situation Ethics

Situation ethics subjective decsions must be made within situation as preceieved to be. Not easy to be certain one's perception of situation correct. How can individuals safely decide which is most loving action? Don't have objective perspectibe bird's eye view morality could justify unlobing actions basis of loving results never emerge. Could prove unworkable because not easy to determine all consequences of action. 

Depends on assumption humans freww to act morally. Fletcher: "NOTHING WE DO IS TRULY MORAL UNLESS FREE TO DO OTHERWISE. MUST BE FREE TO DECIDE WHAT TO DO BEFORE ANY ACTIONS BEING TO BE MMORAL. NO DISCIPLINE BUT SELF DISCIPLINE HAS ANY MORAL SIGNIFICANCE.... MORALITY IS MEANINGLESS APART FROM FREEDOM." However, are we free as Fletcher suggests? Are we not influenced by upbringings, surroundings, traditions etc? 

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Limits of Love and Situation Ethics

Prepared to accept any action if firts required criteria. After century of most horrendous acts of genocide and rise of concern for absolute protection of human rights, common sense that are some thing that are just wrong and can never be right on any grounds. What is believed to be a loving end could justify actions that many people regard simply wrong.

Individualistic because humans see things from own perspectibe. Danger that ideals of unconditional love may pollute selfish human tendency/human bad habits. Agape love extraordinary ideal. Attaining and living out agape love fundamental. How do we judge when love is unconditional and when it isn't? How can we be sure when action comes from agape love, and who is to decide whether the motive is pure?

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