Ethics: An Introduction

Ethics constitute an integral part of the Human society. Any decision that we make has an ethical base. The role of ethics in the human society lies in determining what is desirable or undesirable. Thus, ethics is a philosophical concept that involves systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong. It necessarily involves the moral behaviour of humans. Ethics relate to the concerns of good and bad, right and wrong, virtue and vice and justice and injustice.

However, ethics are driven by a concern towards the good life. If something is contrary to the drive towards achieving the good of mankind, that cannot be seen as ethical. That is why, many philosophers have attributed great value to the conception of good life.

Etymologically, the term ‘ethics’ has been derived from the Latin root word ‘ethos‘ which means character, habit, customs, etc. In this sense, ethics is very close to the ‘moral philosophy’. Thus, ethics can be studied as the systematic study of human actions from the point of view of their rightfulness, as a means to human happiness. Thus, the notion of ethics has necessarily been developed as a means to guide the society, at large, and individual, in particular, towards the path of a justifiable happiness.

As a philosophical discipline, ethics is the study of the values and guidelines by which we live. Ethics provide a moral framework in which humans can legitimately act to pursue their ends. It involves a justification of those values and guidelines. The evaluation and analysis of all values and principles are done in the light of certain universal principles, which are dear to the human society everywhere.

As a moral philosophy, ethics is the philosophical thinking about morality, moral problems, and moral judgments. Ethics is a science, in the sense that, it is a set of a body of reasoned truths organized in a logical order and having a specific material and object. It is a science of what the human beings are ought to be. It becomes a rational science, in the sense, that the principles of ethics are deduced by human reason, and concerns the free will of the individual. Ethics are also a normative and regulative discipline, as it seek to regulate and direct the human actions and provide a correct orientation on the individual.

As a discipline, ethics have a theoretical and practical aspects. Theoretically, ethics provide and deliberate the fundamental principles on the basis of which moral judgment are arrived at. As a Practical discipline, ethics relate to the life of the individual, and are concerned with particular ends, and the means to achieve them.

Importance of Ethics in Present World

Today, mankind is facing a decline in the ethical values. Due to this, there are frequent conflicts and confrontation, that often take bloody form. While our technology and capabilities have improved manifolds, there has been a perceptible decline in the value system of the human society. The cult of hedonism and materialism has maligned the relations between different individuals. At the macro level, this tend to create bloody wars and ugly pictures of the human society.

With great power comes great responsibility. But the responsibility has to be shouldered with great caution. Given the magnitude of human capabilities today, the mistakes in making decisions can affect the life of millions. With technological improvement, man’s capability of harming the world has also enhanced, which has brought man-made calamities to the human world. In this context, ethics come in the picture to guide the human decisions, for good.

Indian Society

India is one of the oldest civilizations, with a rich cultural and ethical heritage. Our Constitution as well as our religions are full of codes and directives on high values and ethics for the state as well as the society. However, there has been a phase of degeneration of values. There has been a perceptible change in the mindset of the people towards achieving materialistic goals, irrespective of the means towards those ends. This increasing inclination towards the materialistic goals has led to neglect of the high values of simplicity, honesty, hard-work and character building.

The present problems of the country, like- corruption, dishonesty and selfishness, are nothing but a reflection of the falling standards of the ethical principles in the society. This calls for a serious introspection and concerted effort towards change in the social mindset.

It should be kept in mind that values are formed through a continuous process of interaction and engagement of the individuals with their environment. The fall in the value system has led to the failure of our social institutions, like home, school and family, in regenerating and inculcating the value system among the individuals.

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