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moral relativism and situation ethics

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Introduction

What is meant by moral relativism? [33] Moral relativism holds that morals are subjective, in that they depend on the culture, religion, place and time in which they occur. Situation ethics is an example of this and it is a theory of acting and decision making, which is centred around love. The importance of this is that love is a response to a real, unique individual existing at a particular point in history. Since each person is an individual, no moral law can specify what the person should do in his or her situation exactly. A situationist, like the founder, Joseph Fletcher, believes that an action should be tailored to fit the situation and should not be done to fit preconceived moral rules. In this view, moral laws are seen to inform but not to command a judgement. As Fletcher said in his sixth proposition of his fundamental principles: 'Love's decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively'. And therefore do not tell people what they must do. Fletcher formed ten principles, six of which were the six fundamental principles (as mentioned above) ...read more.

Middle

It is non-reciprocal and non-preferential. Christian love as agape means that we can love a person we do not like. This form of love is not a reaction of the heart, but an attitude of the mind, will and whole personality. And so, for Christians the words of Jesus: "you shall love your neighbour as yourself" should be the main guidelines in any situation, therefore in Christianity love is always morally prior to every other principle and must be the determining factor in all moral decisions. Situationism looks to the example of Jesus, where he breaks traditional laws to do 'good' in a particular situation. An example of acting accordingly on a situation with the aid of love, is the legitimacy of contraception. A situationist would look upon the situation in which the couple finds themselves, ask what love demands in the situation and act accordingly. They would not necessarily favour unlimited use of contraceptives, but they would see circumstances, in which their use was what love demanded in a particular situation. ...read more.

Conclusion

Situationists would say that this is the most loving act, for the couple, at that time, however in the future; problems could arise with the biological mother of the child etc. But, this is not considered in the decision-making. Some critics have also pointed out that the 'loving thing to do' may involve lying, cheating and other immoral actions, since again people have different views on what is 'loving' and instead of being self-emptying, be selfish. Finally, Paul Tillich says that to get rid of moral rules in preference of a moral principle, would make life hard to lead, as each person would have to decide what to do in any given scenario. Nowadays, people are indecisive and want to follow guidelines, as they don't want to worry themselves about making choices. In conclusion, some may say that Situation Ethics is too vague, in that it does offer no absolute guidelines and also that since it only takes into account the current situation it can give bad consequences in the future. However, others will appreciate the freedom of being able to make their own decisions on a situation. Elle Graham Situation Ethics 12MWd ...read more.

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