Situation Ethics

Joseph Fletcher, SCM Press 1966,1976

Reviewed by Noel Cheer, SOF NZ Newsletter #21, May 1997 in the section "Books That Made A Difference".

Fletcher takes the position that there are three logically-possible approaches to ethics: Legalism or "prefabricated rules and regulations"; Antinomianism, by which he means ad hoc ethical decision-making without reference to principle or maxims; and Situationism in which: "The situationist enters into every decision-making situation fully armed with the ethical maxims of his community and its heritage, ... he treats them with respect as illuminators of his problems.

Just the same, he is prepared in any situation to compromise them or set them aside in the situation if love seems better served by doing so. (page 26)"

In order to avoid a conflict of principles, Fletcher argues that the Christian (at least) is bound only by the law of love. All duty is concerned with implementing love. All other principles are malleable in the service of love. Although Fletcher argues in a Christian context, any red-blooded syncretist will find inspiration in what he writes!

The chapter-structure of Situation Ethics is such that it would make an excellent group-study book: especially; Love Only Is Always Good; Love Is The Only Norm; Love and Justice Are The Same; Love Is Not [the same as] Liking; Love Justifies Its Means; Love Decides There and Then.