• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Situation ethics

Extracts from this document...


Situation Ethics, is a Christian ethical theory that was developed by Joseph Fletcher. It basically says that sometimes other moral principles can be overruled in some situations if love is the final consequence of an action. "Love is the ultimate law"1. Situation ethics underlines the importance of the individual in making moral decisions. The general understanding towards situation ethics has been taken up by the likes of Tillich, Fletcher and Bultman. Bultman believed that jesus didn't work to any ethical theory and that he had no ethics. Tillich wrote that 'the law is the ultimate law because it is the negation of law' meaning that the moral principle is based on christian love and that it should be applied to real life situations. Joseph Fletcher developed the idea of making a moral decision for a particular situation. He wrote the book 'Situation Ethics' in 1996 explaining his theory. He stated that it was better that a person made a decision on what moral course of action they should follow rather than follow a set of unwritten rules they hardly know anything about. He believed that God doesn't want us to follow and conform to rules like robots as we are given the decision ...read more.


Finally, "loves decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively." Fletcher believes that the action isn't wrong unless it hurts someone in the process or in the final outcome. Situation ethics can however have several problems. If someone were to say that it was against the law to steal, a person could say that this is a false statement as if the person was homeless and with two starving children and she stole a loaf of bread, that this would be morally correct as it produces the most love. From this example, it is shown that Situation Ethics can be potentially problematic. People have different views of what love is and there may be times where moral reason demands that something may be done which goes against ones immediate feelings. It is subjective so how do we decide what is the most loving action out of all the possible outcomes. It is also individualistic so Agape (unconditional love) will be destroyed by our selfish desires. It also seems prepared to accept any action if it fits the fact that love was the outcome so that it is regarded as a loving end and could justify actions that many people regard as simply wrong for example, cheating ...read more.


'A man can live his own life, but when he begins deliberately to alter the lives of others, then a real problem arises, on which we cannot simply turn our backs, and in which there is a place for law an the encourager of morality.' 19. Overall it is clear that situation ethics has its advantages especially for individuals as it allows decisions to be made with compassionate and allows judgements to be made with emotions without feeling guilty. Flexibility allows this system to be used for all types of complicated situations and seeks the well-being of others. Also situation ethics make an attempt to propose an ethic modelled on the teaching of Jesus and could be considered as a proper Christian ethic. Even after these criticisms Fletcher's moral approach to decision making is still around and applied to decisions. Moreover people everyday people strive daily for freedom to make choices whether or not it is within the border of agape however perhaps the reality that situation ethics paints that moral judgements should be for situations but it is only what could be wish for. 1 Paul Tillich 2 Joseph Fletcher 3 Ethical Theory By Mel Thompson 4 Ethical Theory By Mel Thompson ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

3 star(s)


This first essay is clearly expressed and, at first, gets the main points about situation ethics mostly correct. It is to be credited for showing knowledge of various thinkers sympathetic to situation ethics.

Attempt is made to evaluate situation ethics at significant length. These evaluations are mostly lucidly expressed, though the confusion of the thoughts makes them difficult to understand sometimes. Unfortunately the evaluations of situation ethics are almost all hopelessly mistaken and undermine the sense that the student really understands the theory.

The second question is less inaccurate than the previous one, because it relies heavily on quoted material from other critics. Thus it also lacks individual evaluation from the student. This is ironic as the first question would have been more suited to mere quotes and little exposition, whereas this answer requires more evaluation. There is an attempt to offer original views in the conclusion, though these points are largely detached (indeed, at odds with) the claims made in the rest of the argument. Unfortunately, the evaluation that is offered in this conclusion is pretty much nonsense- either irrelevant or internally contradictory.

Marked by teacher David Moss 31/03/2012

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Philosophy essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Give an account of Kant's ethics

    3 star(s)

    The categorical imperative s split into three sub-sections, the universal law, humans as ends and not as means and the kingdom of ends which refers to one acting in a way that assumes that everyone else will act in the correct way.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Give an account of Kants Ethical Theory

    3 star(s)

    Kant believed in right and wrong based on reason, he relies on intuitions or facts. For Kant, practical reason looks at the evidence and the argument, he says it cannot depend on external facts. For freedom, Kant says you must be capable of exercising freedom or autonomy of will.

  1. Explain how belief in the Sanctity of Life may influence ethical approaches to Abortion.

    The Sanctity of Life works on the basis that human life is sacred from the moment of conception and immediately we can see problems conflicting with the ideas of abortion. The Sanctity of Life considers that abortion is the destruction of a human being.

  2. Explain the strengths of natural law

    To what extent could a believer in Natural Law justify embryo research? [10] Embryo research is defined as 'the scientific study of an animal in the early stages of development'. There are some different types of embryo research, such as stem cell research, cloning and research on the foetal tissue.

  1. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the teleological, deontological and hybrid systems of ethics ...

    system to the situation because any action is good as long as it is loving, thus taking away the complexities of the decision and benefiting the majority in the end, as clearly the most loving decision would be to make sure the majoirty of people are benefitted.

  2. Describe the main strengths and weaknesses of the cosmological argument for the existence of ...

    It could be that God is beyond our understanding but that does not necessarily mean that he is. The cosmological argument seems to be saying that there cannot be an infinite series of causes; that the buck, so to speak, stops somewhere.

  1. Evaluate the claim that corporate religious experience is no more than an illusion

    At these rallies, when the pastor touches a member of the flock (although touching isn?t always necessary), the person collapses, seems to have a seizure and sometimes speaks in tongues. However, it may be argued that these actions are the result of peer pressure, since some may fear that if

  2. How far must a religious view of life be fatalistic

    This means that God already knows those who will grow up worshipping him, so those are the people who will be rewarded by being with him after death. To sum up, under predestination we are not free to reach eternal salvation by choice; it is more so that God has preselected those who will and those who won?t.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work