Situation ethics

  • Created by: 3637h2
  • Created on: 10-01-24 12:41


Social and cultural background to situation ethics:

Women in the 
Vietnam War 
Martin Luther King, Jr 
and the Civil Rights 
The contraceptive pill 
Sexual revolution 
Teenager, hippy and 
student culture 
Following WWII, more women entered the workforce instead of being homemakers. 
This changed the family structure and dynamic. It also encouraged feminism and the 
view that men and women were equal. 
The USA's war in Vietnam became very unpopular because of the many American 
young men who were dying for a war many people saw as pointless. The destruction 
and brutality carried out in Vietnam also made people feel ashamed of their 
countrVs action. This caused resentment and frustration against the US government 
and a loss of patriotism (sense of national pride). 
The shooting of President Kennedy caused huge shock, especially as he was a 
popular, young president. This random act of violence made people feel unsafe and 
worried for the future of their country. 
The Civil Rights Movement, led by Martin Luther King, Jr, led to mass protests for 
equal rights for black people. This challenged social attitudes at the time and 
eventually caused great legal and social changes. 
The invention of the contraceptive pill enabled women to control their fertility. This 
meant that women could more easily pursue careers and also helped encourage 
casual sexual relationships and premarital sex as there was less risk of unwanted 
The sexual revolution was a time when attitudes to sexual relationships and 
sexuality transformed. Casual sexual relationships became more socially acceptable 
and sex was increasingly seen as an expression of individualism and freedom. 
There were more liberal and alternative attitudes to fashion, music (e.g. rock 'n' 
roll), politics, religion, morality and drugs. Young people and students were able to 
behave and express themselves in new ways previous generations had not been 
allowed to.


Ethical background:

  • Increasingly liberal values in society were at odds with conservative Christian values. Young people especially beginning to Q. Most obviously issues surrounding sex and relationships.


  • Student protests against the Vietnam war
  • The Beatles 
  • President Kennedy before his assassination 
  • Martin Luther king, jr





J A T Robinson:

  • Theologian 
  • Developed a theory known as a ‘man come of age’. To come of age meaning to developers in maturity from child to adult, therefor society recognises that they are now capable of making their own decisions for themselves and taking responsibility. 
  • Law of love: agape: 

Robinson felt the legalistic approach of divine command (religion) which gave legalistic values (10 commandments, you must always follow them) was no longer necessary (to human society, man has come of age.) and a misconception to Jesus’ values. He argue instead of following strict values, we should make decisions for ourselves (morally) that best promote love and follow Jesus’ values. This is what J meant when he said ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ 


  • This ethical theory is teleological bc it is cornered with the outcome of actions. 





C S Lewis’ the four loves:

Type of Love 
(Ancient Greek) 
(Sexual or 
An affectionate love born of 
familiarity; most commonly seen 
between family members. 
The love of friendship; a non-sexual, 
non-romantic yet powerful emotional 
bond between two people. 
The love between partners in a 
romantic relationship; love with a 
Romantic) Love 
sexual or ****** element. 
An unconditional love, peculiar to 
Christianity in Lewis' thought. 
The love of a sister for her 
At a wedding, the love of the 
best man for the groom. 
The love of the groom for 
the bride. 
The love of the vicar 
performing the marriage 
ceremony for the entire 


  • He considered agape the highest form of love. ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love’- jhon 
  • Jesus’ teachings spore and the importance of loving ones neighbour across the bible. (10 commandments etc)


Biblical support:

Jesus rejects legalism:

  • ‘the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath’ 
  • Heals individuals with leoprasy, despite texts calling them unclean, sinners etc.
  • J saves a woman from being stoned by saying ‘whoever hasn’t sinned should throw the first one’ 



Ethical issue of divorce:

  • Christian’s w legalist values (catholics), made in gods eyes ‘till death due us part’ - cannot get divorced. 
  • Instead should consider the dif sitchs based on agape. 






Situation Ethics:


Situation ethics:

  • Joseph Fletcher 
  • Something is moral if it is the most moral thing to do
  • Situation ethics is a tediologcal theory concerned with moral actions reaching a loving goal. 
  • Influenced by a throwaway comment made by a cab driver: sometimes you’ve just got to put your principles to one side and do the right thing. 
  • Situation ethics is the middle ground of doing good and staying away from bad.



Antinomian ethics (anti law)

    • Gives no consideration to the individual, the situation or the outcome.
    • Purely based on laws. 
    • Catholicism has historically been defined as having legalistic approach, since rules are often developed from scripture. 


    • An individual does not need to comply with religious rules or an established ethical system in order to gain salvation. 
    • Will not consult any moral guideline.




Situation ethics = the middle ground of these two. 

Fletchers view= the right choice/ decision is that which produces the most loving outcome/ consequence in a particular situation.



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