An Introduction to Ethics.
WHAT IS ETHICS?
At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles. These principles affect how people make decisions and lead their lives. Ethics is also concerned with what is ‘good for individuals and society’ and is also described as a moral philosophy. The term is derived from the Greek word ‘ethos’ which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition. Thus, ethics could be said to cover the following dilemmas:
ETHICAL PRINCIPLES THAT SEEM TO APPLY OBJECTIVELY TO ALL OF US
ETHICS : ITS MEANING IN INDIAN TRADITION
The Indian term for morality and ethics is ‘dharma’. Dharma comes from the root `dhr ‘, which means to hold together. And thus the function of dharma is to hold the human society together for its stability and growth. Right conduct is essential if the human society is to survive. The dharma in Hinduism is coextensive with morality. Dharma in the Vedas refers to the highest truth and power and it is very much understood as the performance of Vedic sacrifices and other rituals in the Vedas and Dharmasastras. So Dharma is understood in Vedas as duty par-excellence. Dharma is also generally understood as the duties of humans according to one’s own caste and stage of life (Varnasrama Dharma).
And thus many Hindu thinkers say if one does his duty; he will achieve either heaven or a better birth in the next life or even prosperity here and now. Thus the Hindu concept of dharma has been recognized by its very close association with ritualistic and caste-oriented duties. And the purely moral sense of duty is overshadowed. But yet the Hindu thinkers advocate and recommend the practice of moral virtues and moral norms, which make a man as man. These moral virtues are called Sadharana Dharma or universal duties. Hence the term dharma in Hinduism has two connotations ) performance of ritual sacrifices and duties according to one’s own caste and the second is the practice of moral virtues and norms. So when we speak of dharma as morality, it includes all the duties one ought to perform and all the virtues he ought to practice to attain moksa or liberation.
ETHICS AND MORALITY
The words “ethics” and “morality” have Greek and Latin origins, respectively. Traditionally they referred to customary values and rules of conduct (as in “cultural ethos” and “social mores”), as well as insights about what counts as human excellence and flourishing. “Ethics” and “morality” are often used interchangeably by us today. But ethics also refers to moral philosophy, i.e., a discipline of critical analysis of the meaning and justification of moral beliefs.
Ethics and morality–along with law and etiquette–are essentially normative, that is, they prescribe human behavior as obligatory, prohibited, or permissible. There’s considerable overlap between ethics and law, and ethics and etiquette. Much of the law embodies ethical principles: respect for basic rights to life, property, and the right of citizens to participate in political life. It’s usually unethical to break the law. A breach of etiquette can also be unethical if it is done intentionally to offend someone simply for one’s own amusement.
Ethics goes beyond etiquette, though, to include matters that nearly every human society considers significant: actions such as lying, breaking a promise or killing someone are more serious than social faux pas. Ethics also has to do with human character and motivation, which in many cases are irrelevant to etiquette and law. And law and etiquette can sometimes be criticized on moral grounds: consider U.S. laws and customs that historically treated African Americans and women as less than full citizens.
PRINCIPLES FOR MANAGING ETHICS IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE
ETHICS and VALUES
Values and ethics represent what most of us put into practice through our actions every day. They describe the way we strive to work with our fellow employees, our partners and our clients. They explain the spirit that enables us to do our jobs. Our values, what seems desirable to us, what is important to us, what we esteem and seek to achieve, are thus reflected in what we do every day.
That is why it is important to understand that values and ethics provide a framework for decision-making and leadership.
IMPORTANCE OF ETHICS
Ethics is the philosophical treatise which studies human behaviour and tries to determine–what is right or wrong. It is also called moral philosophy (from the Greek ‘ethos’ and the Latin ‘mores’ which mean ‘custom’, ‘ways of behaviour’, ‘human character’). The importance of ethics is obvious. From as far back in history as we can tell, man has always sought to know how to lead a good life and to draw up rules of conduct. Thinkers of all cultures tried to explain in what this ‘good’ life consisted and, especially, why precisely it was ‘good’. It is not so much that traditional moral values are questioned (e.g. the just’ war, inviolability of life in cases of the hopelessly suffering and of unwanted pregnancies, sexual intercourse only between the legally married, indissolubility of marriage, etc.), but more radically still, that-the very ‘meaningfulness’ of an unchanging and universally valid morality is brought into question. The causes of this modem questioning are hard to pin down. Certainly the spread of education, advances in science and technology, problems arising from modern way of living like the ever-increasing urbanization, easier communication media, faster means of travel whereby people of one culture come in closer contact with people of another culture, etc. are some of the causes.
But moral thinking is intimately linked with philosophical thinking in general, it might very well be that these causes, whatever they might–be, are to be sought for on a deeper human level. Human person, perhaps, is not so much asking about the morality of this or that human act but, more deeply still, about himself: the meaning of his life, the direction of human history, the significance of the human world he lives in, the ambit of his knowledge and the possibility of his ever getting an answer to the questions he asks. Ethics, of course, cannot dream of suggesting answers to such radical questions. But it might well prove to be a ‘way of approach’ to questions which lie beyond its own field of enquiry.
PROBITY IN GOVERNANCE
Source:-RAU’S IAS STUDY CIRCLE