Situational ethics, or situation ethics, is a Christian ethical theory that was principally developed in the 1960s by the then Episcopal priest Joseph Fletcher. It basically states that sometimes other moral principles can be cast aside in certain situations if love is best served; as Paul Tillich once put it: "Love is the ultimate law." The moral principles Fletcher is specifically referring to are the moral codes of Christianity and the type of love he is specifically referring to is 'αγαπη' love. Agapē is a Greek term meaning love (sometimes translated as unconditional love). Fletcher believed that in forming an ethical system based on love, he was best expressing the notion of "love thy neighbor," which Jesus Christ taught in the Gospels of the New Testament of the Bible. Through situational ethics, Fletcher attempted to find a "middle road" between legalistic and antinomian ethics. Fletcher developed situational ethics in his books: The Classic Treatment and Situation Ethics.
Fletcher believed that there are no absolute laws other than the law of Agapē love and all the other laws were laid down in order to achieve the greatest amount of this love. This means that all the other laws are only guidelines to how to achieve this love, and thus they may be broken if the other course of action would result in more love.
Situational ethics is a teleological, or consequential theory, in that it is concerned with the outcome or consequences of an action; the end. In the case of situational ethics, the ends can justify the means or rules can be used to justify the means if a situation is not intrinsically bad.
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“Ethics and religion differ herein; that the one is the system of human duties commencing from man; the other, from God. Religion includes the personality of God; Ethics does not.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)