Situation ethics - Hodder Education

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Transcript Situation ethics - Hodder Education

Situation ethics:
Joseph Fletcher’s four
Situation ethics
Joseph Fletcher
In Fletcher’s situation ethics there are four working
presumptions, six fundamental principles and four
Situation ethics
The four working presumptions
1. Pragmatism — the action proposed must work in practice.
2. Relativism — there are no fixed rules, but all decisions must
be based on agape. ‘Love relativises the absolute, it does
not absolutise the relative.’ (Joseph Fletcher)
3. Positivism — using the principles of Christian love, a value
judgement has to be made.
4. Personalism — people are the first concern, not laws.
Situation ethics
The six fundamental principles
1. Agape — love is the only absolute, it is always good and
right. ‘The ruling norm of Christian decision is love: nothing
else.’ (Fletcher)
2. This love is self-giving and overrides all laws. This may, for
example, give permission to kill if it is the most loving
action. ‘Love and justice are the same, for love is justice
distributed, nothing else.’ (Fletcher).
3. Justice follows from love and love put into practice can only
result in justice. ‘Love wills the neighbour's good, whether
we like him or not.’ (Fletcher)
Situation ethics
The six fundamental principles
4. Love has no favourites and therefore does not give
preferential treatment to particular people. ‘Agape is giving
love — non-reciprocal, neighbour regarding.’ (Fletcher).
5. Love must be the end not a means to an end. ‘Love’s
decisions are made situationally, not
6. The loving thing to do depends on the situation, therefore
what is right in one situation may be wrong in another.
Situation ethics
Fletcher’s four examples
Although most textbooks mention the fact that Fletcher gave
four examples of the possible application of situation ethics,
they seldom if ever cite the examples:
• Himself Might his Quietus Make
• Special Bombing Mission No. 13
• Christian Cloak and Dagger
• Sacrificial Adultery (Mrs Bergmeier)
The following slides provide summaries of the four examples.
Research Fletcher’s work to find the full versions.
Situation ethics
Himself Might his Quietus Make
A terminally ill patient has 6 months to live. His doctors can
prescribe pills that will keep him alive for 3 years.
However, his life insurance policy expires the following October.
If he takes the pills and lives past October, his policy will not be
renewed and his family will be left with nothing when he dies.
Should he not take the pills, in order that his family are left
with some security?
Situation ethics
Special Bombing Mission No. 13
‘When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the plane crew were silent.
Captain Lewis uttered six words, “My God, what have we done?” Three days later
another one fell on Nagasaki. About 152,000 were killed, many times more were
wounded and burned, to die later. The next day Japan sued for peace.’
In order to decide whether to use nuclear weapons, the US president appointed a
•the military advisors favoured using them
•top-level scientists said they could find no acceptable alternative to using them
•other, equally able, scientists opposed their use
The committee decided that the lives saved by ending the war swiftly by using this
weapon outweighed the lives destroyed by using it.
Situation ethics
Christian Cloak and Dagger
While reading Biblical Faith and Social Ethics on a plane,
a man is approached by a young woman, who asks him
to help her solve a problem.
Her government had asked her to seduce and sleep with
an enemy spy in order to blackmail him. This went
against her morals, but if the plan was successful it could
bring the war to an end. Were the thousands of lives that
would be saved worth breaking her moral standards for?
Situation ethics
Sacrificial Adultery (Mrs Bergmeir)
During the Second World War, a married German woman with
three children was captured by a Soviet patrol and taken to a
prisoner-of-war camp in the Ukraine.
Once the war ended, she learned that her family were trying to
stay together and find her. According to the rules, she could only
be released from the camp if she was pregnant. After
considering her options, she asked a Volga German camp guard
to impregnate her. She was sent back to Germany and her
family welcomed her, even when she told them how she had
done it. They loved the child because of what he had done for
them. After the christening, they discussed the morality of the
situation with their pastor.
Situation ethics
Although Fletcher gives examples, they are very
individual and exceptional.
In some examples Fletcher appears to reinterpret
Jesus’ actions in order to defend his own theory.