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Examine what is meant by situation ethics

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Situation Ethics Examine what is meant by situation ethics (14) "Christianity has traditionally been dominated by natural law thinking and Situation Ethics arose out of this background" (The Puzzle of Ethics, by Peter Vardy and Paul Grosch, page 123). In the 1966 an Anglican theologian, Joseph Fletcher published a book called "Situation Ethics" in which he rejected previous deontological ethical systems. It would be wrong to believe that Fletcher founded the idea of Situation Ethics because, as I have already stated, Situation ethics has its foundations in the natural law thinking of the Christian Church. Fletcher claimed there were three possible approaches to ethics. There was the deontological approach where you have a set of rules that may never be broken, no matter what the circumstances. Fletcher believed this inflexible approach created a poor ethical system because it put the law first and made the law the most important thing. The Ten Commandments is a good example of this. Take "thou shalt not steal", is it right to steal a gun from a man who intends to use it to murder his wife? If you believe that the law is intrinsically good and should be put first then you would not steal the gun. ...read more.


The second is Positivism, reasoning within religious faith. People have to be able to see for themselves why love is paramount and the most important consideration. Situation Ethics is dependent upon people being about to see that love is the most important factor. Personalism is the fourth presumption that people should be put first. Deontological ethical systems put the law first; in these systems the law is the most important factor. With Situation Ethics people are the most important and are put before any other consideration. Supporters of Situation Ethics love people not laws. To take the example of the man with a gun who intends to shoot his wife. The most loving action would be to steal the gun for love of the wife because he intends to kill her, the person is put first. If we were simply following the Ten Commandments then the law would be put first, it would be wrong to steal the gun and so we must allow the man to shoot his wife. As well as the four presumptions that Fletcher highlighted in his book "Situation Ethics", there are the six basic principles. These follow on from and extend the presumptions. The first principle is "Only love is intrinsically good; nothing else", with Situation Ethics the only criteria for something being good is that it brings about love; if something does this then it is good and there are no other factors to take into consideration. ...read more.


The sixth and final principle is that, "Love's decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively.". In Situation Ethics there is no way of knowing whether something is right or wrong because the circumstances of each situation are unique. Moral decisions are only possible when applied to a particular example, generalisation and absolute decisions are not permitted. However, for this to work we have to rely on the assumption that people are able to make decisions themselves. Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor believed that people could not cope with the freedom given to them and wanted to impose laws instead. For Situation Ethics to work the Grand Inquisitor must be wrong and humans must be able to make decisions for themselves. To conclude, Fletcher, although not the original pioneer of the basic principles of Situation Ethics is the authority we look to simply because it was he who developed these basic ideas and published his book "Situation Ethics" in 1966. The foundation of Situation Ethics is the 'Law of Love', the agape form of love is the most important thing and comes before any other consideration. Also, absolute rules are not permitted because Situation Ethics recognises that each situation is unique and should be treated as such. The only absolute statement that cannot be contradicted within this ethical system is that love is the most important thing. ...read more.

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