Examine how Situation Ethics may be applied to one ethical issue of your choice.
Situational Ethics: all about love.
This hub features an example A grade answer to an A level (a UK qualification) philosophy question. It was created with A level students in mind but will be of use to anyone studying Philosophy and give insight into the reasoning and structure expected in an essay.
Teachers and assessors are given the following points to keep in mind when marking the essay answers for this question:
- Good understanding of the chosen issue and of the decision-making process
- The situation, people whose interests are involved, options available and likely outcome of each should be considered
- Each of the four principles could be considered here.
- Better questions would show that the decisions may change according to different circumstances
- Only one issue can be credited (writing about two or more issues will be a waste of time)
Answer 1. Starvation
Consider the fact that 80% of the world's population earns less than $10 a day ($3650 a year) whilst 1% of the world's richest owns 90% of wealth and you could argue that the problem of wealth disparity is one of humanity's largest ones. The argument for wealth disparity is not a simple one however, and even if situational ethics is applied the matter does not become simple.
One of the rules of situational ethics (SE) - to distribute to those who need it - applies most to the dynamic of this argument. Under SE, the world's richest would need to hand over the majority of their wealth to those poorer than them because they don't need it as much as the rest of the world - the wealthy have everything they need to live, whilst the poor are not getting far more basic resources like food and shelter. The poorest would benefit greatly and the rich should live with the sacrifice they made because it is the loving thing to do.
On the other hand, it could be argued that SE, which centres itself around agape love, would not take away the money from the rich and give it to the poor. This is because the rich are the ones who work harder, sacrifice more (family, leisure time etc.) and contribute more to the world than the poor. Would it really be loving to reap the efforts of one man and give it to another man because the richer man failed to do what he couldn't?
The counter argument would be that SE would say that yes, we should. If some people are born less lazy and less hardworking than others then we should love them regardless, become love is the only useful thing. We should uphold and pity those that are less fortunate than us, especially since most rich people do not get where they are because they worked hard, but because they were lucky or inherited their wealth. Considering the poor, it should be noted that most people in their position do not have the same opportunities as the rich had, and under SE everyone would have equal opportunities as equality is loving.
From a different standpoint, we must look at the four working principles of SE to suss out the answer. In regard to pragmatism, you could argue that redistributing the wealth, although a great ideal, would simply not work in reality. The reason for this is simply because if everyone knew that whenever they worked harder than someone else their efforts would just be redistributed, they wouldn't work hard at all.
Another answer can be considered: a law should be passed that equalises the wealth in the world, and then that law would be abolished so that everyone starts again from an equal basis. This would mean using personalism (one of the four working principles of SE), using laws to work for the people (through maximising love by giving the poor necessary resources). After that, everyone would still want to work hard because their resources would not be redistributed, solving the problems that communism faced. From then on we will know that it was the people who worked hardest that became richer than the lazy who did not. It would be a fair and loving world.
Once again however, using pragmatism, you could argue that the mass riots, wars and protests that would arise from such a bold and rash law from the richer masses would result in the less loving outcome: deaths and suffering of many. The law would probably never be passed, since the government that tries to pass it would most likely be overthrown before the law would be utilised.
In conclusion, it is clear that situational ethics cannot answer such a complex problem as wealth disparity because what we are dealing with is subjective: love, equality, ideology and other such intricate topics cannot answer each other because their definitions are not clear enough to use. On top of this, we deal with the problem of not knowing how society will act and how the richer humans will manipulate the poorer into thinking differently and wrongly. As always, the issue with maximising love and/or maximising pleasure is that there is no certainty of how the people not using these ethical values would react and affect the situation.