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Examine the key features of situation ethics, and the main criticisms of it, and how far these lead to the rejection of the theory.

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Introduction

Examine the key features of situation ethics. Then outline the main weaknesses of situation ethics. How far do these lead to a rejection of the theory? Despite the view of Kant, and many Christian people, that it is not ethical to only act after assessing the implications of a moral action, since the 1960's a view that situation ethics is an effective way to judge an action and its consequences has emerged in the secular community. However, it is also necessary to acknowledge the Christian ethos in order to fully make a decision on the ethical viability of something in such an ephemeral world. Situation ethics is a theory most commonly associated with the work of Joseph Fletcher, an American professor and one of the key pioneers in bioethics, and J.A.T. Robinson, a New Testament scholar, author and a former Anglican bishop of Woolwich. Fletcher wrote a book called Situation Ethics, which was published in 1966, a time when the ephemeral nature of the country was highly accentuated by political matters; Women were more commonly going to work, following the suffrage movement before the war and their valued contribution to the war effort during it, President John F. Kennedy of the United States had been assassinated and there was a large amount of shock and horror surrounding the brutal Vietnam war. Furthermore, Martin Luther King had left his legacy at this time, even though it would be many years before the divisive pre-civil rights attitudes and laws were truly shaken off, and the sexual revolution that occurred in the 1960's, where the invention of 'the pill' came about, and sexual promiscuity was finally accepted. ...read more.

Middle

He thought it was time for humans to seek liberty from such supernaturalism thinking, and be ready to leave behind the restrictions of the old moral law if love was best served by so doing. Fletcher and Robinson identified agape love, a term used to distinguish the different types of love known as agape, philia, storge and eros, as the only intrinsically good thing, and it was defined by William Barclay as "unconquerable good will; it is the determination to seek the other man's highest good, no matter what he does to you. Insult, injury, indifference - it does not matter; nothing but good will. It has been defined as purpose, not passion. It is an attitude to the other person." This kind of love is highly demanding or, as Barclay suggested, 'a highly intelligent thing'. It is not random, fatalistic, romantic love that cannot be demanded. Rather, agape love is required of one human being to another, and demands that the whole personality be involved in a deliberate directing the will, heart and mind. To employ agape, it is conceivable that laws must be put aside, although this may leave many legalists and supernaturalisms without a reliable foundation on which to maintain their position of moral superiority. Fletcher wrote "If the emotional and spiritual welfare of both parents and children in a particular family can be served best by a divorce, wrong and cheapjack as divorce commonly is, then love requires it." ...read more.

Conclusion

A. T. Robinson came into publication, Susan Howatch composed a novel named Scandalous Risks in which a number of characters face moral dilemmas, and attempt to examine each of these while conceptually following situation ethics. In one scene we see a character called Venetia seeking the help of another called Father Darrow in an attempt to understand the way in which her romantic friend rationalises and conducts their relationship along the lines of situation ethics. The, so to speak, moral, of this story is that situation ethics is idealistic and cannot work, despite its obvious theoretical benefits. Rarely do our real-life situations conform to the neat solutions that would apparently be available to us if we applied the principles of ethical theory. An overall conclusion must be drawn from both parts a) and b) of this essay collectively. It seems that the argument is relatively balanced debating the validity of Robinson's and Fletcher's approach to moral-decision making. It is commonplace to strive for the freedom to make choices situationally, whether or not it be within the framework of agape, although this is constrained by not only the law, but also by the moral judgment of others. In this age, when we might suppose that secularism and liberalism would have a stronger hold on religions than previously, organizations such as Silver Ring Thing and True Love Waits are encouraging young people to take a vow of celibacy, which infers a return to traditional sexual ethics. Perhaps, instead of offering a realistic answer to morally-challenging situations, situation ethics offers a 'tantalising' alternative to structured and relatively inflexible law-based morality. Page ...read more.

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