Ethics : Introduction

What is Ethics?

‘Ethics’ is a system of accepted beliefs, mores and values, which influence human behavior. More specifically, it is a system based on morals.Thus, ethics is the study of what is morally right, and what is not.

It means ethics is related to judgment. But do the every judgment fall under domain of ethics?

There are 3 Types of Judgments –

  1. Factual or Epistemological Judgment
  2. Aesthetic Judgment
  3. Moral Judgment
Factual or
  • Earth rotates around Sun. Whether you test or an alien species tests, the fact will remain the same. There are only two outcomes: True / False
  • They’re not morally right or wrong. They’re morally empty, they’re “amoral”.
  • Concept of beauty, taste, color, sensualities.
  • One person may like red color the other person may like blue color.
  • Our sense of good/bad/right/wrong.
  • IN GS paper 4, we are concerned with this.

There are 3 levels of ethics which can be termed as-
So, ethics is about 3rd type of judgment ie. our sense of right or wrong / good or bad.

  1. Normative Ethics
  2. Meta Ethics
  3. Applied Ethics
Normative Ethics
  • It prescribes “what should be done or what ought to be done.”
  • Example: Should we kill animals?
Meta Ethics
  • It tells, What is good?
  • One step ahead of normative ethics. If you begin evaluating the ethics itself, then it’s meta-ethics.
  • Example: If we kill animal, is it “good” thing?
Applied Ethics
  • If we apply theories of normative ethics to a specific field, then it’d become “Applied Ethics” examples,
  • Example: Step cell therapy is good or bad?

Ethical Action

We act based on our judgment.Therefore, we can decide an action ethical or not based on judgment. But there are few elements that need to be present in an action, to be qualify to became ethical or unethical. For example, a child without any knowledge feed poisonous food to a cat, and cat died. Does the action of that child is unethical? May be not. Here are 3 condition, that need to be satisfied in order to decide if it is ethical or unethical action.

1. Free Will
  • If a person has multiple choices, and freedom to pick one within those choices, only then we can debate it on ethical ground.
2. Knowledge
  • A child without any knowledge feed poisonous food to a cat and cat died, then it’s without any knowledge, hence we cannot decide its ethicality.
3. Voluntary Action
  • If someone puts a gun on your head or straps a bomb on your waist and then orders you to commit a crime, then ‘it’s an involuntary action’ by you, hence we can’t judge it on ethical grounds.

Ethics & Morality

What are they?:
The rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc. It defines how thing are according to the rules.
Principles or habits with respect to right or wrong conduct.It defines how things should work according to an individuals’ ideals and principles.
Where do they come from?:
Social system – External
Individual – Internal
Why we do it?:
Because society says it is the right thing to do.
Because we believe in something being right or wrong.
What if we don’t do it?:
We may face peer/societal disapproval, or even be fired from our job.
Doing something against one’s morals and principles can have different effects on different people, they may feel uncomfortable, remorse, depressed etc.
Ethics are dependent on others for definition. They tend to be consistent within a certain context, but can vary between contexts.
Usually consistent, although can change if an individual’s beliefs change.
The “Gray”:
A person strictly following Ethical Principles may not have any Morals at all. Likewise, one could violate Ethical Principles within a given system of rules in order to maintain Moral integrity.
A Moral Person although perhaps bound by a higher covenant, may choose to follow a code of ethics as it would apply to a system. “Make it fit”
Greek word”ethos” meaning”character”
Latin word “mos” meaning “custom”

Source & Further Reading

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy