- Individual cases are judged on their own merits, irrespective of what has been done in similar situations.
- Individuals are not subject to the rules that bind them. Nothing is intrinsically right or wrong, except the principle of love.
- Love seeks the well being of others even if the course of action is not one of preference.
- It is modelled on the teaching of Jesus, and so it could truly be considered Christian.
- 'Dr Fletcher's approach is the only ethic for a man come of age. To resist his approach in the name of religion will not stop it, it will only ensure the form it takes will be anti-Christian'. - John A T Robinson
- 'It is possible, though not easy, to forgive pro Fletcher for writing his book... It is harder to forgive the SCM press for publishing it' Graham Dunstan.
- Despite Fletcher's attempt to be anti-legalistic, the application of one principle only is, in itself, makes it a legalistic approach. To say no rules apply, and yet to also say the only rule is love, offers something of a contradiction.
- The cases on which situation ethics is based are exceptional cases, in which general rules do not apply. Most ethical dilemmas offer an obvious course of action without resulting to situationism.
- Theory = teleological, dependant on he calculation of consequences, can't be accurate in making such a calculation.
- Theory justifies murder, adultery and even genocide in the interests of love.
- Fletcher is overly optimistic about the capacity of human beings to make morally correct choices, and not be influenced by personal preferences. Need rules to prevent moral chaos.
- William Barclay warns that freedom can become licence, selfishness and cruelty
Christianity and situation ethics...
- Traditional Christian thinkers rejected Situation Ethics.
- Pope Pius XII called situation ethics 'an individualistic and subjective...in opposition to the natural law or God's revealed will'
- The roman catholic church hasn't abandoned St Thomas Aquinas's natural law approach and views situation ethics as a subjective and individualistic moral approach.
- Views of ethics are based on rule-based systems of thinking
- Because they are good for us or they are God's rules to be obeyed
- Situational thinking seems along way from traditional Christian ethics
- However it is also true that Jesus seemed to be prepared to set aside some rules in some cases, usually because a person mattered more than the rule.
- Situation ethics provides an alternative Christian ethic that is consistent with the Gospel representation of Jesus.
- Situation ethics is more consistent with the new testament than natural moral law, providing a corrective to that and other legalistic approaches.
- Situation ethics is subjective, because decisions must be made from within the situation as it's perceived to be.
- It is not easy to be certain that ones' perception of the situation is correct.
- We don't have an objective view of morality
- Could end up justifying unloving actions
- Unworkable, cant determine consequences of every action.
- S.E depends on the assumption that human beings are free to act morally.
- 'Nothing we do is truly moral unless we are free to do otherwise' - Fletcher moral responsibility.
- Are we not influenced by our upbringing, environment (are we free)
- William Barclay asks whether we are influenced by all sorts, and that we need the law to push us in the right direction of what is right.
The limits of love
- - S.E seems to be prepared to accept any action at all if it fits the required criteria.
- - There is a common sense of when things are totally wrong, and can never be accepted.
- - What is believed to be a loving end could justify actions that many ppl believe are wrong.
- - Moreover situation ethics is individualistic because humans see things from there own perspective
- - Danger that ideals of unconditional love may polluted by a selfish human tendancy or human bad habits.
- - Agape love = fundamental to S.E, but how can we judge when love is unconditional and when it isn't
- - How can we be sure when actions come from this? Who is to decide whether motive is pure.
The future of situation ethics...
- These criticisms show why situation ethics has not been adopted in main stream churches.
- Contextual ethics and proportionalism are two directions S.E can follow
- Contextual ethics with is Christian community dimension starts to satisfy some concerns of individualism, without loosing the wariness of legalistic ethics
- Proportionalism tries to come to a midway position but in this case it is with the more legalistically orientated natural law ethics.
- However both of these radical developments are to compromise on one aspect of the radical of situationalist thinking
- Situationalist thinking does seem to have similarities with some more recent moral thinking that is beyond christian.
- Many old morals = over turned, now seem to be living in a much less certain age.
- Zygmunt bauman-critic of legalistic ethics, legalistic cripples our ability to make moral decisions in the moment when we face a moral dilemma on our own
- Undermines our autonomy