Situation Ethics is a teleological theory which takes a relativist approach by doing the most loving thing according to the situation and the predicted consequence regardless of laws and rules. The theory also focuses on which action will be most loving for the most people. Joseph Fletcher introduced this theory in 1966 when he released his book “Situation Ethics: The New Morality.” He expresses that he wanted to create a middle ground between legalism and antinomianism as he felt people were becoming secular. He wanted to bring Christians back to the Church.
Situation Ethics (SE) has many strengths, firstly it’s very flexible it allows you to consider the different aspects to the situation unlike many other deontological theories that have a much more legalistic approach. For example, Christians believe that murder is wrong in any context or situation however a SE approach would accept the choice of abortion if the person who is pregnant had been raped as it could be considered as the lesser of two evils as the mother didn’t want a child and may not want to be constantly reminded of the traumatic event.
Another strength is it follows the teaching of Jesus in the sense that it’s main focus is agape love which is a core belief in Christianity. It’s important that SE was influenced by Jesus as Fletcher introduced it with intentions to bring Christians back to the Church because people were becoming secular. Jesus demonstrated SE on many occasions, one being when he healed one of his followers a man on the Sabbath day as he knew that would be the most loving thing to do. Knowing Jesus had followed the same Ethic is an important aspect for Christians who follow SE as it is reassuring for them that the Ethic has a religious root.
A further strength is the fact that it gave people a sense of freedom. Due to the introduction of contraception and the civil rights movement, people were warming to the fact of thinking for themselves especially considering that the Church’s rigid rules were becoming an issue to those who wanted to move forward with the social changes despite the Church refusing to change for society. SE allows a modern take on religion in the sense that it has Christian morals but isn’t so legalistic as Robinson stated it was for “man come of age” meaning it was for those moving ahead with the times. For example, if a criminal asked you if you were aware of his next victims whereabouts, a Christian would be honest as lying is a sin however someone using a SE approach would lie to protect that person as it would be the most loving thing for that person and would have the most positive result.
Adding on to the point of freedom, people were beginning to drift away from the Church due the introduction of the contraceptive pill giving more women freedom and power over their decisions. Also, the Vietnam war forced women to take on the roles of the men and become more independant. All these things lead to a lack of faith in Christianity as people were beginning to realise they don’t need set rules in order to make the right decisions as they have become familiar with relying on themselves which meant Situation Ethics was very convenient and accepted at the time.
However there are many weaknesses to SE. One being that it focuses on the end result, it assumes a sense omniscience in predicting what the end result would be which of course is impossible as a consequentialist theory isn’t very effective as humans can’t predict the future. You can never be sure your action will have the intended result and could turn out to have a negative impact which may suggest that human do need structure and rules in order to make decisions. For example if someone is having trouble with school work and you insist on helping them but they end up getting in trouble as it was an independent task although you had good intentions, the result that you had