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Explain Fletcher's theory of Situation Ethics (13) and Assess the strengths and weaknesses of his view (12)

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Hannah Dollimore Situation Ethics a.) Explain Fletcher's theory of Situation Ethics (13) Joseph Fletcher provoked a great debate amongst Christians. He is quite clear in the approach he advocates and in no way wants to be confused with antinomianism, (The belief that through 'grace' a Christian has no need to obey any moral rules/ laws. In Fletcher's Situation Ethics; no act is in itself either good or evil. He likes to speak in terms of principles, (Guiding decision making): and he stressed particularly the cardinal principle of love. Augustine had spoken of love in his celebrated remark, "Love God and do what you want". For Fletcher, love for people is to guide decision-making. Fletcher sets out four prepositions, which apply to all ethical systems. Firstly, one has to ask the question whether a particular strategy actually works (Pragmatism). Secondly, Fletcher says that the method must be relativistic. This is to avoid any absolutes. ...read more.


to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Fourthly, it should be clear that this agapeic love is not at all the same as liking, it isn't affection. It has its theological roots in the way God is believed to extend his love to all. This love is also supposed to be directed towards the self. Love of yourself is preferred where its advantages outweigh love for your neighbour. Fletcher's fifth proposition is that love justifies its means. Situation Ethics, according to Fletcher, regards any of these as right or wrong according to a situation. Sixth, love decides there and then. Fletcher sees it as a psychological weakness that people should wish to make their decisions by reference to a pre- existing code of laws. They see freedom as a curse with which they dare not cope. b.) Assess the strengths and weaknesses of his view (12) Situation Ethics has been criticised by both Catholic writers and Protestants of different theological standpoints. ...read more.


Fletcher may be too optimistic about people's capacity to calculate how love might be directed in the way he envisages also. If you accept the idea that human beings are limited in some sense, then you accept that some people may deceive themselves in the judgements they make. Some say that Fletcher overestimates human rationality. Oliver O'Donovan attempted to refine the issue of freedom. He argues that the situation ethicists are right to point to the freedom from bondage to the Law of Moses, which the coming of Christ has brought. There is danger of misinterpreting this freedom. Man cannot close his eyes to the universe as it already is. The spirit "forms and brings to expression the appropriate pattern of free response to objective reality". O' Donovan classified Fletcher as a conservative in ethics. His position is that knowledge of the past cannot be simply transformed into knowledge of the present. Ethical decisions faced in the future can't be resolved by resorting to guidelines from the past. Fletcher seems inconsistent with his own declaration that no actions should be predetermined by any moral rule. ...read more.

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