Situation Ethics: The New Morality

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Westminster John Knox Press, Jan 1, 1997 - Philosophy - 176 pages

Igniting a firestorm of controversy upon its publication in 1966, Joseph Fletcher's Situation Ethics was hailed by many as a much-needed reformation of morality--and as an invitation to anarchy by others. Proposing an ethic of loving concern, Fletcher suggests that certain acts--such as lying, premarital sex, adultery, or even murder--might be morally right, depending on the circumstances. Hotly debated on television, in magazines and newspapers, in churches, and in the classroom, Fletcher's provocative thesis remains a powerful force in contemporary discussions of morality.

The Library of Theological Ethics series focuses on what it means to think theologically and ethically. It presents a selection of important and otherwise unavailable texts in easily accessible form. Volumes in this series will enable sustained dialogue with predecessors though reflection on classic works in the field.


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The point of situation ethics, as I understand it, is that we have simple opportunities as Christians, who put our understanding of Christ first to decide between two courses of action, where one stands out as right and the other wrong. Many times, though Christ and his agape love demand that we choose between better and best. Some cases offer no right or wrong. Bohoffer was a co conspirator in a plot to assasinate Adolf Hitler breaking the LAW, "THOU SHALT DO NO MURDER". Later he broke the same law offering his own body for death, and participating in what many today would call "euthenasia." The best example on the moral and social level was the deployment of the atomic bomb at Heroshima and Nagasaki. 


Introduction by James F Childress
Three Approaches
Some Presuppositions
Love Only Is Always Good
Love Is the Only Norm
Love and Justice Are the Same
Love Is Not Liking
Love Justifies Its Means
Love Decides There and Then
Two Other Corruptions and Four Cases

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About the author (1997)

Joseph Fletcher taught at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He was the author of many books, including Morals and Medicine and The Ethics of Genetic Control: Ending Reproductive Roulette.

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