Talk:Situational ethics

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untitled comments[edit]

This article strikes me as a very NPOV article -- I am sure there is a debate among philosophers about moral relativism and moral absolutism. But to call "situational ethics" an oxymoron is to claim that "ethics" can only be absolute. If there are "situational ethicists," that claim must be wrong, right? Can anyone who knows philosophy or 20th century European intellectual history sort this out? Slrubenstein

The nature of ethics is the same as the nature of any philosophy. The philosophy is not the same thing as what someone claims about the philosophy. Philosophy can't be tested using scientific method so those who pursue its study should prepare themselves for a long journey. Oddly, the same statement applies to discussion of religion. In fact, preceding "ethics" with "Situational" is valid, in the same way preceding "ethics" with "religion" is valid. "Ethics" isn't so much about ideas as it is about the principles that guide behavior. To put it another way, to fit the definition of an "ethic" that isn't situational (aka personal), what is the guide that determines "ethical"? As the definition quoted by RLent explains, the guide is the governing entity of interest. (Group, community -- religion, etc).
The article will likely always appear to lack NPOV if it contains philosophical discussion. Opinion presented as truth (at least in this article) is actually philosophical discussion for the reason explained in the definition RLent posted. This can (should be) corrected. To do this, write the article's content in the third person. When writing, refer to what another person thinks, then provide a verifiable citation that identifies how you know what this other person believes.
This article might differ from an article that isn't about Philosophy. The best way to explain this is probably by defining what "Philosophy" means. However, in this one case, I prefer the joke someone told me. Question: "What is the difference between a Philosopher and a Mathematician?" Answer: "A trash can". The answer (explained) is "All a philosopher needs is paper and pencil. A mathematician needs paper, pencil and a trash can."
+ Kernel.package [1] (please see comment entitled, "Article lacks NPOV -- which means it lacks verifiable citations".) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:00, 15 January 2012 (UTC)

situational ethics[edit]

This article strikes me as a very NPOV article

What is NPOV??

-- I am sure there is a debate among philosophers about moral relativism and moral absolutism.

No comment.

But to call "situational ethics" an oxymoron is to claim that "ethics" can only be absolute.

That is what the article says: that opponents to this notion are absolutists; that is exactly what they claim.

If there are "situational ethicists," that claim must be wrong, right?

Not necessarily. If I'm an atheist and claim that God does not exist, it doesn't make it true.

Can anyone who knows philosophy or 20th century European intellectual history sort this out? Slrubenstein

Is this topic only related to Christianity? —Preceding unsigned comment added by CyLMH (talkcontribs) 13:07, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

change the point of view of the article[edit]

maybe i'll do this, but perhaps the term should be referenced by the person who coined it with a discussion of what their philosophy entails. as it stands the discussion of moral relatavism and moral absolutism is sophomoric.

Situation, situation, situation[edit]

My understanding is that situational ethics means you have to include the situation.

It is not relativism.

A feather falls, but it falls slowly. But everything is supposed to accelerate at g! But there are absolute laws of gravity. We just have to take into account situation.

untitled comment[edit]

Hi all

I note that it has been suggested that the article on situation ethics should be combined with the article on situational ethics. After having read the two articles it would seem to me that the two terms describe almost exactly the same thing. However, I could be wrong, I don't know; neither article is clear on the matter and it would be nice if there was an Is one a secular version of the other?

Also, the suggestion (in the situation ethics article)that the theory was influenced by 1960s hippy ideals and the Beatles' songs is a tad disengenous. The quotes are from a book published in 1963 - at least 3 years before the 'love' generation become prominent. In 1963 the Beatles were writing songs about romantic love ("Love Me Do", "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" etc), hardly original or world changing stuff. Also, I can only think of a handful of songs that address universal love ("All You Need is Love", "The Word", "Mother Nature's Son"...that's about it, I reckon.) The Beatles wrote songs about many different topics including anger, hate, jelousy, dishonesty, lonliness and absurdity etc.

I think the paragraph gives the false view that the Beatles were 'All You Need is Love' and little else.

I appreciate why the author of the article (or paragraph) has sought to draw a connection between the theory and the 'atmosphere of universal love' (or whatever) that seemed to be around in the 1960s, but I think that the paragraph is misleading on a number of levels and should be removed. I was going to suggest changing it but now I'm not so sure; maybe the article could just point out that the theory was promulgated in the 1960's and link it to an article on the 1960s?

I know this might seem like a petty criticism in an article about ethics, but I am new to Wiki and I am testing the waters before I launch into full scale flame wars! :)

Thanks alot 20:47, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

I think you make a good point about the timing of the theory of situation ethics and the "love generation." Saying that the agape theory of situational ethics was a natural outgrowth of the free love ideas of the 1960's puts the cart before the horse. I also agree that this article and the article on situation ethics should be merged.Aramink 02:15, 23 October 2006 (UTC)

Given the recent content of this talk page, the following might actually be appropriate:
(1) To whatever extent that recent US military-industrial commercials (see, e.g., this link) may be accurate in asserting that is the goal of the AF to have control of cyberspace too, there is, at the least, a statistically documentable contradiction in the assertions of so many of the "Christian" war-mongers who seek to use the methods of radical Islam rather than that of peace/martyr-based Christianity to achieve their aims.
(2) As to situational ethics, the "love generation" obviously was quite stupid. Obviously better to fight other humanbeings for a long-dead "god" than to actually follow the martyr's example, most of us would likely admit in honesty, if one is to take the assertions of [User:] to their obvious conclusion.
(3) As to the recent edits to this article, by way of military apologetics, God will somehow get all that is "important" done in the end, but the conclusion may not be exactly consistent with many of the views of the various religious personalities so widely displayed on TV screens of late, nor even of the various more humble religious apologists. ... Kenosis 05:03, 16 November 2006 (UTC)


Did anyone else notice that the article says, "Fletcher took a big crap of situationism to claim that: the morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed".

I assume that this should be "Fletcher took a big leap", but that doesn't seem to make perfect sense with the rest of the sentance. Perhaps this is intended to say that "Fletcher took a big leap from situationism" but I'm not sure.


I strongly agree that the two articles should be merged - the two ethical theories are one and the same.

Agreed. I noticed the merge banner in the situation ethics page but not the situational page. The Situation Ethics article is much more extensive and established. The Situational article should be merged into the Situation Ethics article or disappear entirely.

I agree as well. The Situational page specifically cites Fletcher, and therefore appears to be the same as this more in-depth discussion.Aramink 02:19, 23 October 2006 (UTC)

I know this has already happened, and quite some time ago, but this makes no sense to me! Surely Situation ethics is a type of Situational ethics. Fletcher devised Situation ethics not Situational. Situation Ethics is about agape and always doing the most loving action while observing fletchers ten principles. Situational ethics is more like relativism where ethics change depening on the circumstances.

Situation Ethics[edit]

According to a recent dictionary, The New World Dictionary of American English, situation ethics is:

“a system of ethics according to which moral rules are not absolutely binding but may be modified in the light of specific situations.”

Ethics refers to:

“the system or code of morals of a particular person, religion, group, profession, etc.”

A code of morals not absolutely binding which may be modified in the light of specific situations raises three questions. First, who has the authority to determine if the situation warrants modification of the rules? Second, to what extent may the rules be modified? Third, is such a system even viable; situation ethics is primarily a code of exceptions. Since a system or code of morals is first of all a guide to decision making, what would be required to make situation ethics functional in the decision making process? A population of only 300,000,000 demonstrates the major flaw of trying to establish this ethics of exceptions.

The moral code of situation ethics by its own definition must take into account each situation. Since no two people are identical, and no two situations are identical, each day the system must provide, a standard of exceptions for right and wrong numbering 900,000,000,000,000,000(quadrillion). If the mathematical set of subjects finds themselves in more than one situation a day, the 900 quadrillion increase. If we ignore the personhood of all the subjects and can demonstrate 99.9999999999% of the situations were redundant the list of exceptions remains at a staggering 899,968.

Human capability, does not allow the assimilation and recall of 899,968 exceptions to any system. Some computer modeling programs require a mere 80,000(thousand) commands. The engineers running them demand six figure incomes. Remember, for the engineers using the computer commands, it is fulltime job. These highly trained individuals could be expected to master less than 9% of the required number of exceptions to make situation ethics viable. Most of us cannot even recite all the relatively few exceptions to the spelling and grammar rules of American English.

Situation ethics remains both un-teachable and un-learnable. How then can it guide anyone in the decision making process?

The second question of how far a rule may be modified is not clear either. If there are only ten degrees of modification accepted, the number of exceptions jumps to over 8,999,000. Even super computers would be challenged to sift through eight million exceptions three hundred million times a day, to provide each person in 300 million one ethical answer a day.

And the first question raised by the definition of situation ethics demonstrates to the objective mind its most basic scientific flaw. Who has the authority to determine if the situation warrants modification of the rules? If moral rules are not absolutely binding, then no one has that authority. Sociological Survival of the Fittest becomes the rule of right and wrong. Whoever can dominate a given situation establishes right and wrong at their own whim. Further, there is no higher moral code for the powerful to test their own conduct against. The society is face with a default code of ethics:

Those who dominate can do no wrong.

Dan Bodenstab October 16, 2006

There may indeed be a great many permutations. But we don't need to know every possible situation in advance. It is absolutism that requires knowing everything in advance, not situationalism. You say "Who has the authority to determine if the situation warrants modification of the rules? If moral rules are not absolutely binding, then no one has that authority." The irony is since you reject considering the situation, you would have to say that under absolutism, no one has the authority to consider the situation. You then go on to rant about "survival of the fittest" and domination, which for you have no basis for accusing situationalism. Absolutism is simply unworkable. Absolutism would require that we never lie, not matter what the situation, for example.--RLent (talk) 16:02, 17 September 2010 (UTC)


Is it usual for an encyclopaedia to have a conclusion? I think the information is good but could be distributed elsewhere in the article.

Fletcher's four examples?[edit]

I count five examples. -- (talk) 22:21, 8 October 2009 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

 Done Neil  10:26, 25 September 2007 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

Situation ethicsSituational ethics — more common term, Google results: about 64,300 for "situation ethics"; about 114,000 for "situational ethics" —Ewlyahoocom 01:12, 19 September 2007 (UTC)


Feel free to state your position on the renaming proposal by beginning a new line in this section with *'''Support''' or *'''Oppose''', then sign your comment with ~~~~. Since polling is not a substitute for discussion, please explain your reasons, taking into account Wikipedia's naming conventions.


Any additional comments:

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.


What does this phrase mean? "which Jesus Christ taught in the Gospels of the New Testament"

The Gospels were written some time later, and about Jesus not by him. I know it's pedantic, but the explanation sort of doesn't make sense unless that is clarified. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:36, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

Article lacks NPOV -- which means it lacks verifiable citations[edit]

The article lacks NPOV. Those who don't know what this means should refer to WP articles that explain guidelines for editing. One of the easiest ways to write an article from a neutral perspective is using citations. Since ethics doesn't lend itself well to scientific method, hopefully those who edit don't take changes to their edits, personally.

As written (lower case "e") the phrase isn't a label. Why the "S" is capitalized isn't clear. (Maybe all articles have a capitalized first term).

The "Love" generation -- aka those hitting adulthood in the 1960s and (at least) the early 1970s -- didn't coin the phrase. The phrase offers another view of expressing "The end justifies the means", hence, it makes an "ethical" behavior out of behavior that would be (otherwise) unethical. Justifying "poor" behavior because it results in a good outcome isn't rare. Either it's okay to kill in self-defense, or it is OK to kill, or it isn't. Which of these describes an ethic in terms of the "situation"?

"Situational" ethics isn't a "theory". As used, the term "situational" refers to those conditions at the time that "justify" the behavior in question. Ethics isn't about ideas; its about behavior -- doing the right thing the right way. Scholars of ethical conduct ("theory" if you like) refer to them as absolutes. Any organized society exists because its members share common ethics. By following them, its members have a better chance at surviving when threatened from outside the society, or when an internal faction threatens status quo.

So, the term doesn't have a "magic" meaning -- it doesn't refer to something that can't be defined by modifying the definition of "Ethics" with what defines the "situation".

(I apologize because this browser isn't trusted so I won't sign in. -- Kernel.package) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:26, 15 January 2012 (UTC)

I'm not sure what point exactly you're trying to get across here, but I just double-checked the article and with the exception of some missing quotes on what are clearly meant to be quotations, and some (as is common) uncited criticisms in the criticisms section (now tagged), most of the article appears written in the third person with citations, so I don't see a NPOV problem here at all.
The only places where the "S" (I presume you mean in "Situation" or "Situational") is capitalized is at the beginning of a sentence or the title of the book, which is proper grammar. The "e" (in "ethics") is only capitalized in the title of the book. I'm not sure what you're going on about here.
Unless you have counter-citations that the term "situation[al] ethics" was in circulation before Fletcher's book, I don't know on what grounds you claim he didn't coin it. You seem to exhibit a clear bias toward absolutist ethics yourself, which is a fine opinion to hold but odd to hear in the same context as you're claiming the article is biased.
"Situational ethics" is as much a 'theory' as any other ethical 'theory', which is to say not a 'theory' in the same descriptive sense used by natural science, but still an organized system of thought about what ought or ought not be. I'm not sure what you mean by "scholars of ethical conduct refer to them as absolutes", but if you mean that absolutism is the consensus among practicing ethicists in academia, that's certainly false; there's rarely ever any consensus about anything among philosophers of any sort.
So "situational ethics" makes as much sense as "deontological ethics" or "consequentialist ethics" or "virtue ethics" or "Objectivist ethics" or "proportionalist ethics" or any other class of ethical theory you care to name, and I have no idea what the heck you're trying to complain about. --Pfhorrest (talk) 21:37, 15 January 2012 (UTC)


In view of the above comments, it is good to see an experienced editor is now upgrading the article to something more encyclopedic with a wider perspective. Qexigator (talk) 00:36, 22 March 2014 (UTC)