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Clarify and explain the key concepts of situational ethics

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Clarify and explain the key concepts of situational ethics. The situational ethics theory was brought about by Joseph Fletcher. It refers to a particular view of ethics that states: the morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed. The founding idea is that the only thing of built-in value is love. From there, Fletcher advocated a number of controversial courses of action. There are 3 kinds of ethical theories, and these are essentially three different ways of making moral decisions. There are the legalistic ethics, the antinomian ethics and the situational ethics. The legalistic ethics have a set of moral rules and regulations. Both Christianity and Judaism also have legalistic ethical traditions. Different religions have different approaches to how to dealing with decisions, and where to look for guidance. For example, Judaism has a law-based approach to life, and Christianity looks for guidance either in the commandments of the bible or natural law. But Fletcher believes that these traditions fail when life's problems require additional laws. The legalist must either include all of the complex alternatives in the law or create a whole new law altogether. ...read more.


A situationist will avoid words such as 'never', 'perfect', 'always' and 'complete'. They refrain from making anything of absolute value. There are no fixed rules that must be obeyed. But Fletcher also believes that all decisions must link with Christian love. Situation ethics 'relativizes the absolute, it does not absolute the relative' - Fletcher. Positivism: With natural positivism reason understands faith from human experiences. Nature provides the evidence and reason grabs hold of it. Reason isn't the basis for faith, but it works within faith. Situation ethics depends purely on the Christian choosing that God is love, so therefore giving first place to Christian love. Personalism: A legalist would put the law first and a situationist would put people first. Fletcher asks what's best to do to benefit humans: 'There are no "values" in the sense of inherent goods - value is what happens to something when it happens to be useful to love working for the sake of persons.' Conscience isn't a pile of rules and regulations that tells you what to do, it in no way guides humans in what action to take. ...read more.


Fletcher believes that rule-based morality is wrong, and something is wrong or right depending on the situation. If an action will bring about an end that serves love most, then that decision is most appropriate. Another idea and theory of situational ethics, is Deontology. (Greek: Deon meaning obligation or duty) Deontological ethics is a theory holding that decisions should be made solely or primarily by considering one's duties and the rights of others. One of the most important implications of deontology is that a person's behavior can be wrong even if it results in the best possible consequences. In contrast to consequentialism, a philosophy infamous for its claim that the ends justify the means, deontology insists that how people accomplish their goals is usually (or always) more important than what people accomplish. Situation ethics provides an alternative Christian ethic. It is flexible and practical and takes into account the problems and complexities of life. But from a legalistic point of view, all actions seem wrong. Fletcher's theory is subjective as decisions must be made from within the situation as it's perceived to be. It is individualistic as humans can see things from their own perspective. What is believed to be a loving end could justify actions that many people believe as simply wrong. Kate McGill, 12C ...read more.

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