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Situation ethics

- Relativist
- Teleological
- Consequentialist
- Love
- Joseph Fletcher


What are the three ethical theories?



What is legalistic?

Legalism is a web woven by all major Western traditions.
Rules are lacking in love, and so they use casuistry to inject a little love into the system.
Laws can be sadistic, such as burning at the stake.


What is situationism (middle way)?

The only rule is ‘agape love’.
Rules should be set aside only when love demands.
“the written code kills, but the spirit gives life”


What is Antinomianism?

Fletcher claims who have special knowledge so that they don’t need laws. Example is Gnostics claimed they have special knowledge. Fletcher describes true kind as ‘intellectually irresponsible’.


Describe the role of Jesus ethic of agape in Fletchers approach to ethics?

He rejects any idea that moral law has been revealed by God. Exception of the command to love God bye loving one’s neighbour. Rules are useful but they’re breakable. The only rule is ‘agape love’. All other rules are “only valid if they happen to serve love in any situation”.


Describe Fletchers use of conscience and explain the role it plays in ethical decision making?

Fletcher claims conscience is a verb, not a noun, it is NOT a thing. It’s a word that can be used for our attempts to make decisions constructively based on both situations and moral values.
4 theories about conscience:
1) It is innate
2) Guidance by the Holy Spirit it by an angel.
3) It is internalised values of society
4) Aquinas that conscience is REASON making moral judgements


What are Fletcher’s 6 Propostions?

- Love only is always good
- Love is the only norm
- Love and justice are the same
- Love is neighbour
- Love justifies its means
- Love’s decisions are situational


What does Love only is always good?

One thing is ‘intrinsically good’ namely love.
Only in God does love have real existence.
Love is a principle.


What is Love is the only norm?

Love replaced law.
Love employs laws when it’s worthwhile.
Love has no equal, expects nothing.


What is Love and justice are the same?

Love becomes justice.
Justice is nothing more than love working out its problems.
Agapeic calculus to calculate the amount of love generated by an action.


What is Love of neighbour?

Love your neighbour as yourself.
Agape love is for Gods love.
Love is conative (about the will).


What is Love justifies its means?

Only the end justifies the means.
The end must be the most loving result.
‘You must recognise that anything may be done if it brings about the most loving outcome’


What is Love’s decisions are situational?

Loves decisions are made situationally not prescriptively.
Fletcher complains that politicians sit behind ideologies to protect themselves but Jesus didn’t.


What is agape?

Agape refers to the love people feel for human kind. There is no bodily desire but no less intense than an emotion. The love is closely tied to the idea that we must do a trial for people and not have feelings.


What is eros?

Eros is love tied up with sexual desire. People’s care and desire goes beyond spiritual.


What is Fletchers use of agape in situation ethics?

Jesus appeals in the New Testament when he tells his disciples that they must love God above all things and their neighbours as themselves. E.g. crucifixion


What are Fletcher’s four working principle?

1. Pragmatism
2. Relativism
3. Positivism
4. Personalism


What is pragmatism?

What you propose must work in practice


What is relativism?

No fixed rules, all decisions relative to situation.


What is positivism?

Value judgement needs to be made, based on love.


What is personalism?

People, not rules, come first.


Fletcher 6 propostions & worked examples

Special bombing mission
Christian cloak and dagger
Sacrificial adultery


Example: special bombing mission

Atomic bomb on Hiroshima to end the war by saving millions of people who could have died if the war continued.


What is the Cristian cloak and dagger?

A war going on that her government beloved could be stopped if she slept with an enemy spy. This went against her morals but it brought the war to end to help save thousands.


Example: sacrificial adultery

Had to become pregnant to return back to her family during the world war. So she did and that child was like her own.



The consequences count- it is counter intuitive to have any ethical system that attempts to ignore them. Most of our everyday decisions take the consequences into account and are condemned as harsh and unyielding if they don't.
The theory is flexible enough to go into the grey areas of life and the many difficult circumstances in which people find themselves.
Situation ethics is a person centred- appeals to our modern consciousnesses where people matter more than outdated principles and laws. It demands that we treat each other equally.
In works in society where people follow different religious or none. Love straddles cultures and faiths. It speaks its own language. Whats more agape has always been at the heart of Christianity.



Pure agape is difficult if not possible- our friends and loved ones comes first and it is natural that they should. This theory demands that they shouldn't and expects us to be as loving to a stranger as to a friend.
The Bible depicts Jesus as opposing the harsh morality of legalism. By returning to his system of daring, rule-defying love, we may get closer to what he actually wanted which many feel has been lost among centuries of dogma.
Humans can't always predict the consequences.
Sometimes obeying basic laws leads to greater love not less and as with all consequentialist theories; almost any means can justify an end.