Explain the approach of Situation Ethics to moral decision making.

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Explain the approach of Situation Ethics to moral decision making. [35]

Situation Ethics is a teleological approach to decision making, meaning that it is concerned with the ethical implications of the end result of an action as opposed to the fundamental correctness of the action itself. In 1962 an American Protestant Christian Theologian called Professor Joseph Fletcher wrote a book called ‘Situation Ethics’. Traditionally Christianity had been dominated by Natural Law thinking and in particular the view that certain actions were absolutely and always right or wrong, and Situation Ethics arose out of that background. Situationists claim that Jesus came to do away with a legalistic approach to religion. Situation Ethics is the name Fletcher gave to his system of moral thinking. Fletcher argued that it was pointless to try to look for moral laws which would cover every situation you could think of in life - life was far too complicated for that.

The only absolute rule is that of love. It is not literally a ‘rule’ but an attitude or motive to help inform our moral choices. In any situation, a person must ask themselves what does love require them to do. A person must always do the most loving thing. Agape is a term used for the principle that applies love to every situation – morality based on love. In this context, according to Thompson, love means, “Love in the sense that it is used here, involves the rational as well as the emotional. It is recognition of the value of the love object in and for itself.” Situation Ethics has often been linked to existentialism, a philosophy that emphasises individual existence, freedom and choice. It is the view that humans define their own meaning in life, and try to make rational decisions despite existing in an irrational universe.
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Fletcher accepted that there should be moral rules and guidelines. Moral rules can inform choice but they are secondary to the primary aim of love. Rules cannot always dictate what is right or wrong as there are always exceptional circumstances – each individual situation must be judged by what love requires. If a moral rule is broken in the process, it is morally right to do so. Biblical support can be found for this theory through the teaching of Jesus: 1 John 3v23 – “Believe in the name of his son Jesus, and love one another as he ...

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