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For what reasons may situation ethics be regarded as a useful ethical theory?

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Introduction

For what reasons may situation ethics be regarded as a useful ethical theory? An Anglican theologian Joseph Fletcher developed situation Ethics. Legalism is the idea that there are fixed moral laws which are to be obeyed at all times. Antinomianism is the idea that there are no fixed moral principles but that one acts morally spontaneously. Fletcher rejects Legalism because it cannot accommodate 'exceptions to the rule'. If you reject one aspect of the law you surely reject it all. He also rejects Antinomianism on the basis of existentialist ethics which argues that reality is composed of singular events and moments in time. In advocating a situationist ethic Fletcher argued that it is not the 'primary precept' which is the bedrock for the 'secondary precept' but quite the reverse. It is in fact the individual and the situation that is the most important thing as it is the application of an ethical principle that makes an action good or evil. Within each context it is not the overriding 'primary precept' that is to be followed, but instead the law of love 'to do whatever is the most loving thing'. ...read more.

Middle

Its advocates would also claim that situation ethics focuses on humans rather than what amounts to a worship of laws and abstract principles. These only have ultimate value to the extent that they help people. The argument is that the only basis for something being morally good can be the resultant feelings of human beings, and situationalists like Joseph Fletcher have argued that because Christianity's God is a personal one, its moral approach should be centred around human beings too. This allows us to make more personal decisions on actions to be taken because you can choose to do the most loving thing in your opinion. Outline the main weaknesses of situation ethics. To what extent do these undermine the theory? Situation Ethics has been criticised in a number of ways. For example, in order to 'do the most loving thing' in every situation one must look to the long-term consequences of one's actions in the present moment. We do not know if our actions will lead to heartache or joy but the promotion of love for the Situationist requires us to do so if we are to avoid acting selfishly as we cannot always tell what the results of our actions shall be e.g. ...read more.

Conclusion

The definition of love can't be too narrow, or else a number of actions, which would properly be described as loving, will not qualify. It is often very hard for someone to individually judge what is "loving", as they are bound to see things from their perspective. A strong argument against is the fact love is de-valued with this argument, situation ethics is fundamentally vague, resting on a very indefinite definition of love, and could in practice be used to justify anything. It takes relativism in the sense of opposing an excess of absolute rules to the extreme of relativism in the sense of 'anything goes, so long as the motive can be described as "loving".' If the basis of right and wrong is the way actions affect human beings - as situation ethics agrees - then surely we should just consider their consequences, and not some conception of how loving the person in question's motives were. I believe that with all these weaknesses it leaves the theory very weak as it can be used to justify anything as it is forcing you to think from quite a selfish point of view. ...read more.

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