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How useful is Joseph Fletchers Situation Ethics as a guide to human behaviour?

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Introduction

How useful is Joseph Fletchers Situation Ethics as a guide to human behaviour? Situation Ethics (SE) is teleological, as it is dependant on the calculation of consequences and is therefore a subjective approach to ethical decision making. This approach was originally bought about by Joseph Fletcher, whose basic principle of Utility was love. He believed in no absolutes but a situationist approach. "The morality of an action depends on the situation" Like Utilitarianism SE is based on a single principle which enables humans to enter every situation armed with the experience and model of past situations, but willing to lay them aside if the principle of love is better served i.e. euthanasia could be permitted in extreme circumstances, because it would be a loving act to save an old person from an otherwise painful, undignified death in a few hours, or what about killing Hitler before he caused WW2 or the Holocaust? The law would not have allowed this but surely it would have been loving to save millions of lives. So fundamentally SE is all about which course of action best serves love, and therefore gives every being the freedom of decision making, rubbishing all laws, norms, and values of society. "Only one thing is good; namely love; nothing else at all" This quote is SE summed up as the only significant factor to be considered should be love. ...read more.

Middle

in other words Jesus is saying one should be willing to take life if it was for the greater happiness. He has adopted a situationist approach, and therefore the Teachings of Jesus are a very vital strength of SE. Furthermore SE is based on love, as it seeks the well being of others, even if the course of action is not of preference. So many will se it as a good course of action as love is seen to be universally good "The law of love is the ultimate law" thus it demands that people should be put first before all norms and laws of society. This is another strength of SE as each situation has its own uniqueness, complexity and variety in, every situation is judged individually and not according to some democratic law that may not even be applicable to everyone. "The morality of an action depends on the situation" in other words individual cases are judged on their own merits, irrespective of what has been done in similar situations in the past. This is a strong point a situationist would raise. However, opponents of SE would argue that is too individualistic as often situations are very hard for someone to individually judge what is loving, as they are bound to see things from their perspective. ...read more.

Conclusion

A man could easily argue that extra-marital sex is ok with a married woman, because he "loves" her and her husband does not. This doesn't necessarily make the action right. Another strong argument against SE is that it tends to assume that just because an act is well motivated, it is automatically right. This is clearly not the case. Just because you wouldn't blame someone who accidentally killed two kids while trying to save his neighbour's dog, doesn't mean that his action was, with observation, objectively right. What about the mother to whom the two kids belonged to? Does SE take both sides into account or is it simply a one sided affair? So how can SE argue a case in which two people reach different conclusions about an action, yet both claim to be acting in the interests of morality and love? So far the arguments we have looked at provide a hugely contrasting picture, the basic contradictions seem to be Fletchers definition of love, and how it can be different to different people, whereas Fletcher argues if you act in a situation with love in mind it is the right thing. So in conclusion, I believe Joseph Fletchers SE is a good guide to human behavior as actions are always performed through the end goal of love. It always seeks the well being of others and most importantly it always takes the consequences of an action into account unlike absolutist approaches. ...read more.

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