Situation Ethics

Summary of Situation Ethics

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'The law of love is the ultimate law because it is the negation of law'. (Tillich)

' "Love thy neighbour as thyself" is the ultimate duty.' (Bultmann)

Ethics is either legalistic, antinomian or situational

The situationist enters into the moral dilemma with the ethics, rules and principles of his or her community or tradition. However the situationist is prepared to set aside those rules in the situation if love seems better served by doing so

'The situationist follows a moral rule or violates it according to love's need.' (Fletcher)

Moral decisions are guided by what best serves love

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Four working principles and conscience

Pragmatism - which is a practical or success posture

Relativism - situation ethics is relativistic: 'The situationist avoids words like "never" and "perfert" and "always" and "complete" as he avoids the plague as he avoids "absolutely"'

Positivism - situation ethics depends on Christians freely choosing faith that god is love, so giving first place to Christian love

Personalism - the legalist puts the law first, but the situationist puts people first

'Conscience' describes the weighing up of the possible action before it is taken

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Six Fundamental Principles

First proposition:

'Only one thing is intrinsically good; namely love: nothing else at all.' (Fletcher)

Second proposition:

'The ruling norm of Christian decision is love: nothing else.' (Fletcher)

Third Proposition

'Love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing else.' (Fletcher)

Fourth proposition

'Love wills the neighbour's good, whether we like him or not.' (Fletcher)

Fifth proposition

'Only the end justifies the means, nothing else.' (Fletcher)

Sixth proposition

'Love's decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively.' (Fletcher)

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Evaluating Situation Ethics

Situation ethics provides an alternative Christian ethic that is consistent with the Gospel representation of Jesus

Situation ethics is flexible and practical. It takes into account the complexities of human life anf can make tough decisions where, from a legalistic perspective, all actions seem wrong.

In 1952, Pope Pius XII called situation ethics 'an individualistic and subjective appeal to the concrete circumstances of actions to justify decisions in oppostition to the natural law or god's revealed will'.

Situation ethics is subjective because decisions must be made from within the situation as it is perceived to be

Situation ethics is individualistic, because humans see things from their own perspective. There is a danger of selfish human tendency polluting agape love

What is believed to be a loving end could justify actions that many people regard as simply wrong.

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