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Assess Critically the Claim that Situation Ethics Provides a Better Method of Solving Moral Problems than Any Set of Moral Rules.

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Introduction

Hayley Thomas 12CR Assess Critically the Claim that Situation Ethics Provides a Better Method of Solving Moral Problems than Any Set of Moral Rules. In 1966 an Anglican theologian, Joseph Fletcher, developed Situation Ethics, challenging original methods that submit a rule or principle that should be applied in every situation. He tried to show that it is the individual and the particular situation that it is of paramount importance. He argued that the only moral principle that could be applied to all situations is to do whatever is the most loving thing. By using an agapeic calculus, one can calculate what would be the most loving thing to do. There is only one duty and that is to love 'thy neighbour as thyself'. Basically, Situation Ethics encompasses the following six ideas; first, as Joseph Fletcher stated: "only one thing is intrinsically good; namely, love: nothing else at all." Secondly, the overriding principle of decision making is love (agape) and nothing else. Thirdly, "love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing else", in other words, Fletcher believed that justice is simply love at work in the community. ...read more.

Middle

Fletcher held that every ethical system requires a faith commitment, rather than Kant's fixation with deriving principles from reason alone. Fletcher's opinion that love is the only norm would also fit into a Christian's beliefs, rather than a theory that states you should act out of a personal sense of what you believe to be right. Situation Ethics also displays areas that appear to be more successful at tackling moral issues than a teleological approach. The main downfall with utilitarianism, a teleological theory, is similar to the deontological's, namely, its ability to neglect individualism. Although its simple rule "the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people" is similar to that of Situation Ethics, it still undervalues the impact of the individual. In the worst case, it can warrant and even encourage the maltreatment of minority groups, whereas, in theory, the situationist would always take the situation into account and so such things would not be permitted. Furthermore, analysing the elementary rule ' the greatest happiness . . .' you are able to recognise the difficulty of calculating 'happiness'. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although there are problems with utilitarianism's motive of 'happiness' alone, there are also problems with Situation Ethics love theory. In the same way that people argue 'how can the utilitarian be assured that they are acting sensitively and perceptively', what criteria does the situationist have to know that they are acting in a moral fashion; there are some actions that do not necessarily become good just because they are done from a loving motive. In conclusion, I believe that there are many instances where Situation Ethics would prove itself to be the fairest and most loving way of approaching ethical issues, however, I also understand that this would only be in certain circumstances. In my opinion, Situation Ethics would only be appropriate for solving personal moral decisions. In the case of society and law, there is a necessity for rules, to avoid chaos amongst the wider population, so therefore, I would hold that a deontological approach would be more suitable for a wider scale. I n response to the original question then, I would have to reply that Situation ethics is not always the best method of solving moral problems, but it can be the most loving on a smaller scale. 4 1 ...read more.

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