Ethics comes from Greek word “ethos” meaning “relating to one’s character”.
• Ethics as a branch of philosophy, involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behaviour.
• Ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime.
• Its subject consists of the fundamental issues of practical decision making, and its major concerns include the nature of ultimate value and the standards by which human actions can be judged right or wrong.
• Ethics provides us with a moral map, a framework that we can use to find our way through difficult issues.
• Ethics covers the following dilemmas:
➢ How to live a good life
➢ Our rights and responsibilities
➢ The language of right and wrong
➢ Moral decisions – what is good and bad?
Some definitions of ethics
• Ethics is a set of concepts and principles that guide us in determining what behaviour helps or harms sentient creatures
• Ethics is defined as a moral philosophy or code of morals practiced by a person or group of people.
• Ethics is the study of questions of morality, the search to understand what is right, wrong, good, and bad.
• Ethics is a system of moral principles and perceptions about right versus wrong. • Ethics serve as a guide to moral daily living and helps us judge whether our behaviour can be justified.
• Ethics refers to society’s sense of the right way of living our daily lives. It does this by establishing rules, principles, and values on which we can base our conduct. Being ethical is not the same as following the law. Although ethical people always try to be law-abiding, there may be instances where their sense of ethics tells them it is best not to follow the law. These situations are rare and should be based on sound ethical reasons. Did Edward Snowden act from a purely ethical point of view even though he knew he was breaking the law? Was he motivated to disclose sensitive information “for the greater good?”
Origin of Ethics
According to philosophers ethics originated from-
➢ God and religion
➢ Human conscience and intuition,
➢ A rational moral cost•benefit analysis of actions and their effects
➢ The example of good human beings
➢ A desire for the best for people in each unique situation
➢ Political power
• Human beings often behave irrationally
• they follow their ‘gut instinct’ even when their head suggests a different course of action. However, ethics does provide good tools for thinking about moral issues.
• Ethics can provide a moral map – Most moral issues get us pretty worked up
• think of abortion and euthanasia for starters. Because these are such emotional issues we often let our hearts do the arguing while our brains just go with the flow. But there’s another way of tackling these issues, and that’s where philosophers can come in
• they offer us ethical rules and principles that enable us to take a cooler view of moral problems.
• Ethics can pinpoint a disagreement – Using the framework of ethics, two people who are arguing a moral issue can often find that what they disagree about is just one particular part of the issue and that they broadly agree on everything else. That can take a lot of heat out of the argument, and sometimes even hint at a way for them to resolve their problem.
• Ethics is about the ‘other’ – At the heart of ethics is a concern about something or someone other than ourselves and our own desires and self
• interest. Ethics is concerned with other people’s interests, with the interests of society, with God’s interests, with “ultimate goods”, and so on. So when a person ‘thinks ethically’ they are giving at least some thought to something beyond themselves.
• Ethics as a source of group strength – One problem with ethics is the way it’s often used as a weapon. If a group believes that a particular activity is “wrong” it can then use morality as the justification for attacking those who practice that activity. When people do this, they often see those who they regard as immoral as in some way less human or deserving of respect than themselves; sometimes with tragic consequences.
• Good people as well as good actions – Ethics is not only about the morality of particular courses of action, but it’s also about the goodness of individuals and what it means to live a good life. Virtue Ethics is particularly concerned with the moral character of human beings.
• Searching for the source of right and wrong – At times in the past some people thought that ethical problems could be solved in one of two ways: by discovering what God wanted people to do, by thinking rigorously about moral principles and problems. If a person did this properly they would be led to the right conclusion.