Main Features of Situation Ethics
According to deontology, religious rules or commands that have been instituted by God are followed with no exceptions by believers. Moral rules are regarded as intrinsically good, and must be obeyed regardless of the end result. Because these commands come from God, they have ultimate authority and are accepted by believers as absolutes, unbending and certain.
At times, when these rules are applied systematically, they can be quite harsh and cause suffering, especially when there is no flexibility. Perhaps this is what the Episcopalian Dr Joseph Fletcher had in mind when he developed an alternate approach, known as situation ethics. It is a manifesto of individual freedom and responsibility, based on the ethic of brotherly love, which Fletcher says should free modern man from rigid, archaic rules and codes like the Ten Commandments. Joseph Fletcher pioneered the law of love. With love as the only guide, abortion, premarital sex, divorce and other ‘conventional wrongs’ become morally acceptable.
Situation ethics emerged in the 1960’s, also known as ‘the swinging sixties’ a time when society was undergoing a revolution – socially, culturally and morally. Women were occupying a much more prominent place in the workforce than previously, initially because of the absence of men from the home front, who had been drafted to serve in the army.
Attitudes towards sex and morality were also changing, as the generation after the war began to express their individuality and their freedom in ways that their grandparents and their parents had been unable to. The New Morality was taking hold. Society reckoned that it would be happier being liberated from the prudish notions about sexual morality. One of the early proponents of the New Morality, England’s Bishop of Woolwich claimed that “nothing can of itself always be labelled as ‘wrong’.” Joseph Fletcher himself was noted as saying: “There is nothing against extra-marital sex as...