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outline situation ethics

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1.) Outline and explain Situation Ethics as an ethical theory? Situation ethics is an alternative ethical theory, particularly influential in Protestant Christianity, similar to utilitarianism, in that it is a way a deciding upon the correct action that is to be taken in a given situation, but where happiness has been substituted for love. It does however take an individualistic approach, with the emphasis being upon each person, rather than on looking after the majority, as is the case in utilitarianism. The theory is based on love, and revolves around doing the most loving thing for the greatest number of people. It is teleological which means that is consequential and not based on rules. St. Augustine of Hippo Regius was one of the first to articulate this theory, "love and do what you will"", however it is more closely associated with Joseph Fletcher. An American professor of ethics, Fletcher developed Situation ethics as a result of his critique of Legalism and Antinomianism. Fletcher disliked like the way in which so many ethical theories, such as utilitarianism, were based upon and around a basic set of rules; that is to say, that they take a legalistic approach. He believed that this was too rigid, and that it did not allow for exceptions. He also firmly disapproved of antinomian approaches where there are not fixed moral principles and where one should act spontaneously, because it "Rejects the idea that there are any authoritative laws, rules or regulations that you ought to obey in a decision-making situation." ...read more.


Value is only added to something when it is useful to love (working for the sake of persons). In addition to these, Fletcher proposed six fundamental principles: 1.) "Only one thing is intrinsically good; namely love: nothing else at all." Love is the only thing that is good in itself, and is good in all situations. In other words, an action is good if it expresses love for others, and bad if it doesn't. 2.) "The ruling norm of Christian decision is love: nothing else." You are only required to follow laws, rules and regulations if they serve love, therefore it replaces, and cannot be equalled by, any other law. Good actions should not be done for reward, but for their own sake. 3.) "Love and Justice are the same, for justice is love distributed nothing else." Love and justice cannot be serperated from each other, as justice is love at work for the whole community. 4.) "[L]ove wills the neighbour's good, whether we like him or not." Love is not sentimental or erotic, but driven simply out of desire for the good of the other person. 5.) "Only the end justifies the means, nothing else." To ensure that the end is the most loving result by weighing up the consequences of moral actions, we are sure to make the most moral decision. ...read more.


Some argue that this renders Situation ethics unpractical as an ethical theory. Another devastating attack on Situation ethics is the argument that love is subjective; that it means something different to every individual. What this means, is that in a given situation one person may calculate the most loving thing to do by using Situation ethics, yet another person may perform the same calculations, using exactly the same guidelines and principles, and arrive at a different result. We can also enter into this the actuality that people's emotions and feelings change daily, so the morals that we hold one day may have changed by the next. The undeniable fact that love does not mean the same thing to everybody calls into question the supposed universality of the theory. In addition to this, Situation ethics can in theory allow acts such as murder, lying, cheating and stealing, for if they were done in the name of love and produced the most love for the community, then by Situation ethics they would be announced morally just. For example, it is generally considered wrong to steal a gun, but if by stealing that gun you prevented the murder of numerous people then your action would be justified, as you had acted in order to serve love. Your theft is non-accountable, as in fact the only accountability in Situation Ethics is whether your actions will result in the highest possible expression on love for others. ...read more.

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