“How Far Is Situation Ethics’ a Satisfactory Approach to Moral Decision-Making?”

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“How far is Situation Ethics’ a satisfactory approach to moral decision-making?” Joseph Fletcher’s situation ethics states that decision-making should be based upon the circumstances of a particular situation, and not fixated upon law. The principles of situation ethics derive from Jesus’ action of breaking the law when the situation demanded it for reasons of love. Hence Fletcher states, “The situationist follows a moral law or violates it according to love’s need”. Therefore a situationist would be prepared to set aside rules in circumstances that would bring about the most love - like Jesus - usually because a person mattered more than the rule. This means actions that would usually be considered morally wrong by legalists such as lying, would be justified by situation ethics if love is better served by it. For example, an insane murderer who asks you the whereabouts of his next victim should be lied to in order to best serve love. A legalist in this situation on the other hand, would have to tell the truth because lying is wrong. Fletcher therefore rejects any form of moral absolute as he considered each moral dilemma as unique with different circumstances; using rules may not be the most helpful way of ministering people with moral dilemmas that are far too complex. Situation ethics is flexible and practical in terms of taking each moral dilemma on a case by case basis with flexible guidelines rather than absolute rules. Unlike the legalistic approach, situation ethics is able to differentiate between the least bad of two options which is generally commonsensical as human beings tend to weigh up actions – again referring back to the last example, a legalist will always have to tell the truth which puts them in an impossible situation when faced with a murderer seeking his victim, whereas a situationist can set aside the rule of not lying to produce the better outcome of saving a person’s life. In addition situation ethics seems to be favourable to most as...
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