Relativists believe that moral truth varies depending on culture, time, place and religion. Relativists believe that there's no fixed objective morality-or if there is it can't be discovered. J. L Mackie 'there is no objective moral value. 'different culture's ethics are evidence against the existence of moral absolutes, and people participate in different ways of living, or codes. Situation ethics is flexible and practical, therefore it could be considered a relativist theory It takes into account the complexities of human life, and can make tough decisions where, from a legalistic perspective all actions seem wrong.
The situationist enters into the moral dilemma with ethics and rules and principles of his or her community or tradition. However, the situationist is prepared to set aside those rules in the situation if love seems better served by doing so. Situations ethics lets one change their values so it is relative to the situation, this fundamental rule makes Situation Ethics both teleological and relativist. Teleological theories are interested in the 'end'. For a teleological thinker the end justifies the means.
You decide the rightness of an action by the end it produces. A choice that results in a good end is morally better than one that results in a bad end. Joseph Fletcher's view on laws was that there are no absolutist values or laws. The exception being the law of Agape, the law of love. Situation ethics is seen by most ethical scholars to be the middle ground between legalism and antinomian relativism. Fletcher also put forward the idea that Jesus was a situationist, rather than most thought, an absolutist.
Traditional Christian thinkers rejected situation ethics. In 1952, Pope Pius XII called situation ethics 'an individualistic and subjective appeal to the concrete circumstances of actions to justify decisions in opposition to the natural law or God's revealed will'. The Roman Catholic Church teaches St Aquina's natural law approach, and views situation ethics as a subjective and individualistic moral approach. Situation Ethics is subjective, because decisions must be made within the situation as it is perceived to be.
It isn't easy to be certain that one's perception of the situation is correct. How can individuals safely decide which is the most loving action? Situation Ethics and Relativist Ethics differ in the sense that relativist believe that there's no fixed objective morality. Although situation Ethics is not defined by many rules like Catholicism, it still has a definitive moral commandment that we should aim to produce the most love from a situation via an intrinsic duty. 'No Ethical theory is completely relativist.
Discuss I agree that no ethical theory is completely relativist, because in being a theory it is always defined by a core value. In the case of Situation Ethics, the second proposition is that 'The ruling norm of Christian decision is love: nothing else. For example Jesus replaced the Torah with the principle of love. Take for example, his decision to heal(work) on the Sabbath day, rejecting the obligations of the Sabbath observance. This shows that the Commandments are not absolute
Some people argue that situational ethics gives people more freedom to make their own decisions (which could be a good or bad thing, as stated by Bishop Robinson)but in reality , it has just the same amount of freedom as the next ethical theory; it commands that you should take the most loving course of action, showing you the one option you should choose from the many available, which is just the same as many other ethical theories. Although one could argue that situation ethics is relative because it can adapt to the situation.
With Relative ethics, actions are not intrinsically right or wrong, we all possess different opinions and we all do actions for what we think is a good cause. Situation Ethics are able to cope with complex situations, that other ethical theories perhaps are not as well developed or to impractical to cope with (for instance absolutist rules), it also allows us to tolerate the cultures of others. Utilatarianism, at first appears as a relativist ethical theory. Jeremy Bentham devised his Hedonic Calculus, a theory that allowed you to calculate what was right or wrong in any given situation.
Euthanasia might lead to the greatest happiness for one person and yet lead to greater unhappiness in another situation. What is right or wrong is relative to the situation, it is whatever has the best consequences, again this can be viewed as a relativist teleological theory. Although John Stuart Mill, and many since, have adapted Bentham's 'act' utlitarianism, claiming that we need to make laws based on the principle of utility (choose the laws that lead to the greater good) and then follow those laws.
This means I have a duty to, for example, tell the truth because it generally leads to greater happiness, even if in this case it will lead to more unhappiness. This is deontological, because it deals with the duty to follow rules. In this method, utilitarianism can be seen as absolutist because there are no exceptions to the rules. In Virtue ethics some ethicists, such as Martha Nussbaum, describe Aristotle's theory as absolutist. It is teleological, because it is about the ends or purposes of our actions.
However, Aristotle is saying (according to Nussbaum) that certain ends or goals are absolute - it is always good to be honest, kind, courageous etc. Other modern virtue ethicists say that values change, and different societies hold up different virtues as desirable. What is virtuous, according to MacIntyre, is relative to the context - relative to culture, varying throughout history. Virtue ethics is teleological, focussing on the ends or purposes of our actions. These ends or purposes vary from one society to another throughout time, so in this way virtue ethics can be viewed as relativist.