Assess the strengths and weaknesses of Situation E
Introduction to Situation Ethics - Fletcher, freedom, mention the four presumptions and six fundamental principles.
Flexible versus Subjective:
- Flexible - a strength of situation ethics is that it allows a flexible approach to isues and gives the individual greater autonomy in their decisions because following laws will not be effective in creating the most loving outcome. It agrees that rules must be broken when love demands it, and therefore results in the most loving outcome for the situation that following rules would not allow.
- Subjective - however, it can be argued that a weakness of situation ethics is that although it aims for the most loving outcome, all individuals have different definitions of what love is and therefore may judge a particular action to bring about the most loving outcome, whilst another person may not. This subjectivity gives individuals an opportunity to pursue their own selfish interests and justify these actions 'in the name of love' and for this reason, the theory is individualistic. For example, Hitler and the Nazis claimed to be acting in the love of the German people when they persecuted Jews in the Third Reich, yet this action is clearly unjustifiable.
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Practical versus Impractical.
- Practical - it can be argued that a strength of situation ethics is that it can be easily applied to moral situations in order to create the most loving outcome, through the application of the four presumptions and the six fundamental principles. It is also practical in achieving the most loving outcome because individuals have a greater understanding of agape love than they do of moral laws, such as the teachings of the Bible, therefore agape love is more likely to be achieved by the way of situation ethics that it is by other ethical approaches such as legalism.
- Impractical - It can be counter-argued that a weakness of situation ethics is that agape love is not realistically achievable for humans because it is within human nature to act in their own selfish interests even when helping others. For example, by helping an elderly gentleman to cross the road, the individual feels a sense of satisfaction and pleasure in doing so for themselves rather than taking that action solely for the pleasure that the elderly man will experience. If this is the motivation for human actions, surely there is a danger that people will mistake love for their own selfish desires, therefore situation ethics is impractical because agape love is unlikely to be achieved.
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Focus on humans versus the slippery slope argument
- Situation ethics focuses on humans rather than the worship of laws - it can be argued that a strength of situation ethics is that it focuses on humans above the law because, like Fletcher's personalism within his four presumptions, humans are viewed as more important than the worship of laws. This then leads to the most loving outcome for a situation more than the worship of such laws would do.
- Slippery slope argument - however, it can be argued that a weakness of situation ethics is that the theory's subjectivity could justify the legalisation of things that should not be legal. For example, there is a short step between allowing an individual to die by euthanasia because it is the most loving outcome for the individual who is in a great deal of pain, and allowing murder. Therefore, situation ethics may lead to boundaries being over-stepped.
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