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[ INSTA Ethics! ] : Essence determinants and consequences of ethics



The essence of Ethics: It means an essential part and unchanging nature of a thing or person, a vital part of some idea or immaterial entity, or the predominant qualities or central meaning of someone or something. Some of the important essence of ethics are:

  • It is socially oriented and varies according to various societies. Ex: Emphasis on community or individualism-based living, right to bear Arms, Socialism or capitalism etc.
  • It is time-dependent. Ex: Caste system, slavery, Homosexuality etc.
  • Ethics tells ‘What one ought to do?’. Ex: Aristotle’s virtue ethics, Kant’s deontological ethics, Mill’s Consequentialism (Utilitarianism) and the Bhagvad Gita’s Nishkam Karmayoga
  • They may or may not be legally binding. Ex: Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), Right to Information Act etc.
  • Law, culture and an organization can define the nature or characteristics of ethics. Ex: Journalistic ethics, code of conduct, citizen’s charter etc.
  • Ethics can be both subjective and objective as per different philosophers. Ex: Stealing, killing, and lying have been considered wrong in all societies across time and place (Ethical or moral objectivism), contradictory views on capital punishment, abortion rights, wars etc. (Ethical or moral relativism).

Determinants of Ethics: These are the factors that determine or shape the ethical standards in an individual and society. Some of the important determinants of ethics are:

  • Family: Ex: Community-based living in the case of India, the importance of sharing etc.
  • Ex: Respect and tolerance for each other, harmonious living with nature etc.
  • Ex: Living together despite our differences, patriotism, discipline etc.
  • Ex: Importance of team-working, leadership etc.
  • Media- Films, advertisements, newspapers, literature, social media, and videos influence our behaviours. Ex: Films such as Rang De Basanti, Amul cartoons that create awareness on various issues etc.
  • Constitution and legal provisions. Ex: Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), Fundamental duties (FD), Right to Information Act, Central Vigilance Commission etc.
  • Ex: Hinduism (Vasudeva Kutumbakam), Islam (Not to waste wealth for useless purposes), Christianity (Love thy neighbour), Buddhism (Eight-fold path), Jainism (Philosophies like Anekantavada, Syadvada) etc.
  • Experiences in life. Ex: Racism witnessed by Mahatma Gandhi Ji, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, the experience of the Kalinga war in the life of Ashoka.
  • International events. Ex: #Metoo movement, COVID-19 impact,
  • Leaders, philosophers and thinkers. Ex: Rani Lakshmibai (courage), Irom Chanu Sharmila (sacrifice), Armstrong Pame(dedication), Buddha (Middle marga), Aristotle (Virtue theory) etc.

The consequence of Ethics in Human actions

  • Only those actions which satisfy the following parameters could be analyzed from an ethical standpoint (A view by St Thomas Aquinas).
  1. Involvement of knowledge.
  2. Voluntariness
  3. Free will
  • The effects of an action are referred to as consequences. The consequence of ethics is always intended to produce well. However, ‘how’ or ‘what’ is considered as good- this is where we have multiple theories relating to them. Ex: Virtue Ethics, Teleological ethics, deontological ethics, Gandhian ethics etc.