Situation Ethics

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  • Created by: Haleema
  • Created on: 10-05-14 18:50


Situation Ethics is a Christian ethical system based on love. It was developed by Theologian Joseph Fletcher and expanded further by Bishop by John Robinson. It is primarily based on Christian principles and focuses on the promotion of agape. Situation Ethics judges every action on its consequences depending on how much love is produced at the end of the action. Robinson identified the only true way to be valued would be to take a situational approach rather than your own perspective. As he believed laws were too general and Situation Ethics focused on a person's specific situation.

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In the 1960s, Society was known as the 'age of free love'. Society had began to take a different direction at that time. This was because people didnt want to be told what to do and they believed they should take decisions for themselves. This change in society underlies situation ethics which was a move for people to have greater freedom.

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Joseph Fletcher claimed that there were only three ethical approaches. The situationist approach is seen as the midpoint between the legalistic and antinomian approach. Fletcher said, " a situationalist follows a moral law or violates it according to love's need". People may follow principles but they do not follow laws. The way they deal with a situation can change as the situation changes. An example of this is of the cab driver who put aside his moral laws and focused on the right thing to do. This was an important example for Fletcher because it showed that situations are judged on their own merits and not followed by absolute principles and traditions.

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Fletcher also used agape which is a greek word meaning selfless and unconditional love. Agape love is seen as a particularly Christian virtue because 'God is love', therefore Fletcher proposed the agapestic calculus " do what is the most loving thing to do" which also focuses on the teaching of Jesus of "love thy neighbour" as you would yourself.

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Fletcher created a criteria also known as the four fundamental principles which situation ethics is determined and acted upon. Pragmatism is where Fletcher used the case study of the burning house. In this case ensuring pragmatism, the most practical course of action would be to save the doctor as he will be able to save more people. Another principle was Relativism, which uses absolutes because of the unique situations such as the woman suffocating her child, to save a party from the massacre of Indians, the most loving thing to do here would be to kill the child in order to save the whole group. Positivism is used as another principle where Fletcher gave the example of a military nurse who treated his patients harshly for them to get a fitted leave. Lastly Personalism which focuses on helping people, by putting them first. In cases of **** a situational approach would be to allow abortion.

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Fletcher also used the six propositions. Some of the propositions were "love only is always good", this meant that an action is only good if it brings about agape- sefless and unconditional love. Another propostion Fletcher used was, "Love is the only norm", this means that if a law is in the interest of love it should be obeyed. Another propostition would be, "love decides there and then", which shows that decisions for love are made situationally not perspectively.

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In conclusion, Situation Ethics is seen as greatly practical in everyday situations. It does not rely on rules and laws. It is based on love (agape), giving flexibility for people to have personal freedom to make decisions alone. Situation ethics acknowledges individual cases and the complexity of human life.

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