Explain Joseph Fletcher’s Approach to Ethics

Fletcher’s Situation Ethics is firstly a consequential ethical theory. It suggests that any action is dependent upon the consequences it produces.

Situation Ethics is also teleological – it is concerned with the end result, regardless of what is done to achieve it. It focuses on what the end goal is, rather than the events involved prior.

As well as this, it is relativistic. Each action is looked at individually with no universal moral laws. Every situation is viewed separately to each other.

Situation Ethics is often summed up as: “The greatest love for the greatest number”, meaning that an action is just or right if it produces the greatest amount of love for the greatest amount of people.

The basic principles of this theory are separated into the Four Working Principles and the Six Fundamental Principles.

4 Working Principles

Pragmatism – The course of action chosen must be practical, it must work. For example, if you were stuck with a dilemma of saving someone from the first or twenty-first floor of a burning building, it is more practical to save the man on the first floor.

Personalism – We must place people above rules. For example, if stealing food would save the lives of starving people, we should disregard the rule to save the people involved.

Positivism – You must accept that acting in the most loving way is the right thing to do – agape (selfless love) provides justification, not proof, for an ethical decision.

Relativism – Each course of action is relative to the situation – no one situation can be treated the same.

6 Fundamental Principles

“Love only is always good”. – The only intrinsically good thing in life is love.

“Love is the only norm”. – Love is the only norm or rule, the only thing we should truly follow.

“Love and Justice are the same”. – Love is justice served. To act lovingly is to act justly.

“Love justifies the means”. – If actions are done lovingly, they are just and so is the outcome.

“Love decides there and then”. – There are no rules to decide from, in each situation it is down to love and what the most loving thing to do is.

“Love is not liking”. -  Agapeistic love is not favouritism. We must love everyone equally, regardless of personal feelings.

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