ETHICS-What ought to be aspect of philosophy


Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A. (Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D.

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

Mrs Sudha Rani Maheshwari, M.Sc (Zoology), B.Ed.

Former Principal, A.K.P.I.College, Roorkee, India

A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.
Albert Camus

What are the important values which are to be desired in living? Are these values rooted in reality? And how can they be realized in our experience? The branch  of philosophy dealing with such questions are these is named AXIOLOGY . Axiology, then  is the subject area which tries to answer  these Ethics is a general term for what is often described as the “science (study) of morality”. It is concerned with questions on morality and values and how they apply to various situations. It can be divided into the branches of meta-ethics, normative and applied ethics. Ethics seeks to understand the basis of morals, how they develop and how they are and should be followed

In philosophy, ethical behaviour is that which is “good” or “right.” The Western tradition of ethics is sometimes called moral philosophy. It is concerned with questions on morality and values and how they apply to various situations. It can be divided into the branches of meta-ethics, normative and applied ethics. Ethics seeks to understand the basis of morals, how they develop and how they are and should be followed. The study of values in human behaviour or the study of moral problems: e.g.,

(1) The rightness and wrongness of actions,

(2) The kinds of things which are good or desirable,

(3) Whether actions are blameworthy or praiseworthy, the nature of good and evil. The problems of conduct and ultimate objectives of life.

The field of ethics (or moral philosophy) involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behaviour


Just as man tends towards knowledge, so he tends towards the moral life. And, just as knowledge is attained through reason, so the moral life is the life consonant wit reason. The good act is the act controlled by man’s rationality. But man does not always act in terms of his rationality; hi is sometimes controlled by his will, which bay err, or his desires. The good man is one whose will is habituated to and subservient to the intellect. The ecclesiastical perennialists hold that where sin exists (the will acting in opposition to the intellect), forgiveness may be attained if the sinner can show his intentions were good. By the same token, if a man dose not know his is wrong, he cannot be held responsible for his acts.


Pragmatism is essentially a humanistic philosophy, maintaining that man creates his own values in the course of activity that reality is still in the making and awaits its part of completion from the future, that to an unascertainable extent our truths are manmade products.;  Ross, James, S.,

Ethical values are a product of the transactional functioning of man and society. The good is that which resolves indeterminate situations in the best way possible. Thus, the use of the intellect in the solving of problems is considered good by the pragmatists while total avoidance of human problems or unthinking reliance on some “higher” authority would be considered bad. Values emerge from the process of reflective deliberation and the accepted only after reflective deliberation. In each generation must create new values and new solutions to deal with new problems. The values of the crossbow, the pragmatists would say, are no longer necessarily applicable or relevant to the day of the hydrogen bomb.

The question still remains, though, how are we to know what is the best solution to a problem? Dewey finds growth the basis of all ethics. That which contributes to growth is good. That which would stunt, deflect, or retard it is bad. But, since man is not completely independent unto himself, what may appear good in the private sense must also be explored in the public sense. We must ask two questions then about an act or decision. First, what are the individual consequences? And second, what are the public consequences? We must also consider whether these consequences will contribute to or retard, growth.

Morals are personal because they spring from personal insight, judgment, and choice. Such facts as these, however, are wholly consistent with the fact that what men think and believe is affected by common factors, and that the thought and choice of one individual spread to others. They do not militate against the fact that men have to at together, and that their conjoint action is embodied institutions and laws……The material of personal reflection and of choice comes to each of us from the customs, traditions, institutions, policies, and plans of these large collective wholes.

Ultimately, for the pragmatists, morality demands the use of the experimental method. If we do not, the pragmatists argue, have a morality which emerges out of the observance of and reflection on a variety of situations we accept the alternative course which is commitment to a dogmatic morality.


The analysists, like the positivists before them, stress that religion and logical deduction can not under write moral or aesthetic values. This can only be done by experience. Such concepts as beauty and goodness are urgently in need of reformulation. Values are not necessarily subjective, but they need to be brought into the sphere of the observable. Some of the concepts upon which moral judgments traditionally have depended, such as that of free will, are debunked as murdy. The analysis’s holds that the study of ethics is reducible to psychology and should act; C.L.Stevenson held that ethical terms have only emotive meanings. “Stealing is wrong” means, “The idea of stealing fills me with horror” ethics can only state that certain action usually have certain consequences one like these consequences or doesn’t.


Marxists have been somewhat ambivalent in their acceptance or rejection of traditional beliefs. In the areas of curriculum and methodology, they have reinstated much from pre-revolutionary times In the realm of values, Marxism holds many of the ancient beliefs such as patriotism, love and respect for parents and elders, honesty, and distributive justice.

In spite of the many statement that Marxists have no concern for values (especially moral values) a perusal of Communist technical and educational literature reveals that more attention it paid to the moral behavior of the “faithful Communist” than any other aspect of life. The school, for example, is given the major responsibility for developing “ethical character” in pupils so that they will be law-abiding, productive citizens of the communities in which they live. Only by living the good life can they contribute to the ultimate triumph of Marxism. It is true that the leaders of Marxism rejected the traditional foundation of morality and subordinated all value theory to the interests of the working class in its struggle against the oppressors.

A person with proper moral training is one who subordinates all his actions, interests, and desires to the service of the Communist state and the “People.” In order to achieve this perfect moral state, the child must learn to hate all that is contrary to the principles. Furthermore, the morally perfect Communist must be willing to sacrifice everything, including his life, to defend the doctrines of Communism.

One of the first moral principles children must learn is the respect for public property. Teachers should inculcate this principle by using stories from history but, above all, by example. If neither of these approaches succeeds in convincing the pupil, the teacher must use force to convince him of his error. The child should not be allowed to harm others by his lack of conformity to rules demanding respect for public property.

Respect for authority is another moral principle which children must learn early in life. This respect is not to be based upon fear of punishment  for, as Anton Makarenko says, cruelty begets cruelty in children. Rather, the child should learn to respect the authority of the teacher and others because these people have been helpful, understanding, fair, and firm. “True authority is founded on the making of reasonable demands on the child, combined with respect for his personality, devotion to his interests, ability to help him, clarity, firmness of educational purposes, and worthiness of personal example.”


Humanism is a philosophy for the here and now. Humanists regard human values as making sense only in the context of human life rather than in the promise of a supposed life after death.Humanism is a philosophy of compassion. Humanist ethics is solely concerned with meeting human needs and answering human problems–for both the individual and society–and devotes no attention to the satisfaction of the desires of supposed theological entities.

Humans evolved as social animals, which is the only reason humanity has developed culture and civilization, and now in fact depends on them. Therefore the pursuit of human happiness requires the pursuit of a healthy society so people can live in it, interact with it, and benefit from it.

Humanism is in tune with today’s enlightened social thought. Humanists are committed to civil liberties, human rights, church-state separation, the extension of participatory democracy not only in government but in the workplace and education, an expansion of global consciousness and exchange of products and ideas internationally, and an open-ended approach to solving social problems, an approach that allows for the testing of new alternatives.

Humanism is, in sum, a philosophy for those in love with life. Humanists take responsibility for their own lives and relish the adventure of being part of new discoveries, seeking new knowledge, exploring new options. Instead of finding solace in prefabricated answers to the great questions of life, Humanists enjoy the open-endedness of a quest and the freedom of discovery that this entails.

The Humanist Manifesto goes on to state, “we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.”

And humanism has a firm position on ethics. “Moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational.” In other words, morals are not derived from absolutes given by God, but are determined by the individual from situation to situation. By and large, the humanists deplore any reference to them as being “religious.”.


Kierkegaard reacted to this way of thinking by saying that it was up to the individual to find his or her own moral perfection and his or her own way there. “I must find the truth that is the truth for me . . . the idea for which I can live or die” he wrote.

Existentialists have a special connotation of the Authentic man According to the existentialists, becoming authentic allows one to determine how things are to count towards one’s situation and how one is to act in relation to them.

Generally the existentialists consider authentic individuals to take responsibility for determining and choosing possibilities and not to simply become a determined product of a cultural moment. One can choose one’s own identity and possibilities rather than have these dictated by the crowd.

According to existential ethics the highest good for humans is “becoming an individual or “authenticity” = psychological coherence + integrity = not merely being alive but having a real life by being true to yourself

The very essence of good is choosing.It seems them, that man never chooses evil. A man “becomes a man” when he makes choice. When he makes choices he creates his own values. When he creates his own values, he creates his own being or essence.


The realist believes in natural laws. Man can know natural law and live the good life by obeying it. All man’s experience is rooted in the regularities of the universe or this natural law. In the realm of ethics this natural law is usually referred to as the moral law. These moral laws have the same existential status as the law of gravity in the physical sciences or the economic laws which are supposed to operate in the free market. Every individual has some knowledge of the moral and natural law, but this knowledge may be minimal.

Among realists, there are at least two general theories of value: (1) that values are simple indefinable elements, which are experienced for what they are when we experience them, and  that values are dependent upon the attitudes of the sentient beings experiencing them.

According to the first of these theories, those qualities of our experience, which we prefer or desire, and to which we attach worth, have something about them which makes them preferable or desirable. But according to the second theory, the key to the evaluation is to be found in the interest.

Montague finds the ethics of John Stuart Mill to be quite acceptable: for him, the moral good can be defined from the vantage point of society as “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.”


Naturalism believes that “A refined moral life is just as much a work of Nature as much a work of Nature as is a coarse and vulgar immortality. You are wrong in implying, first of all, that a natural life is an immoral life. And furthermore; your religious experience that a power from beyond yourself is sustaining you in doing good is a natural phenomenon. Nature is versatile. This experience is no doubt a valid one. You are being sustained in living a good life. For it is in harmony with Nature, when it is inclusively, to do well and avoid evil”

To naturalists, values arise from the human beings’ interaction with the environment .Instincts. Drives and impulses need to be expressed rather than repressed. According to them, there is no absolute good or evil in the world. Values of life are created by the human needs

Ethics of naturalism is hedonistic, as long as this characterization is accompanied by the caution that in the conscious though at least of many naturalists the highest good is the most highly refined and abiding pleasure.

Pleasure is easily discerned as the highest good in the thought of the ancient naturalists. It is not hard to feel what they must have felt when they desired quietude and freedom from struggle, pain and fear as the predominant inner possessions continuing uninterrupted through as many of their experiences as possible. Most of us share their desire for this same peace and happiness, although we may not make it such a supreme value hat we will sacrifice all other possible values for it. The important thing to note about this highest moral good, first of all, is a thing to be enjoyed; it is some thing, more on the feeling side of experience, which the person who possesses it undergoes and enjoys as contentment or satisfaction. To a person so framing his conception of moral values, the pleasure ethics of naturalism may seem weak and selfish, because private enjoyment, even though it may be in no way contrary to convention, is placed prior to all other considerations.

To summarize, we may say then that for naturalism pleasure is the highest good and therefore the basis of marl judgments; but this pleasure is very subtle and highly refined for many naturalists. To the extent that a person is consciously naturalistic in his ethics, he will make his day-by-day moral choices so as to claim for himself the fullest measure of abiding pleasure and satisfaction. The evil which it is hoped will be avoided in this way is purely a product of Nature. It is largely inflicted evil, toward which the attitude of individual man is rightly passive avoidance. Although men in the mass certainly inflict large-scale social evils on other men, it is not necessarily so that individual man unwittingly becomes a cause of evil to his neighbour and to himself.


What is Good (Ethics) – As to ethics, idealism holds that the goodness of man’s individual and social life is the conformity of the human will with the moral administration of the universe. Idealists generally root all values either in a personal God or in a personal spiritual force of nature. They all agree that values are eternal. Theistic Idealists assert that eternal values exist in God. Good and evil, beauty and ugliness are known to the extent that the idea of good and the idea of beauty are consistent with the absolute good and the absolute beauty found in God. Pantheistic Idealists identify God with nature. Values are absolute and unchanging because they are a part of the determined order of nature

In ethics it implies a view of life in which the predominant forces are spiritual and the aim is perfection For the idealist the good life in living in harmony with the universe. If the Absolute is viewed as the final and most ethical of all things and persons, or as God, who is by definition perfect and it thus perfect in morals the idealist’s epitome of ethical conduct and morality will lie in the imitation of Absolute Self. Man is mot moral when his behaviour is in accord with the Ideal and Universal Moral Law which we can and do recognize. Even if we do not recognize it as individuals, there are in not societies those whose special function it is, either as teachers or as ministers, to instruct, clarify, and inform us as to what behaviour is in accord with the Universal Moral Law.


There seems to be adequate evidence for the conclusion that man’s ultimate moral success is by no means guaranteed by his own nature and potentiality. Fundamentally, man is made for fellowship with God, and accordingly, man does not find true equilibrium in stable goodness, either individually or socially, unless he is in relation to God and in harmony with His purpose. There are at least three aspects of this moral tension which can be made more explicit and thereby help to characterize man’s moral condition.

The first of these, and really the heart of the matter, is that the ultimate good and the spiritual fellowship of the divine society are so closely identified that goodness apart from fellowship is a contradiction.

The second aspect of the moral nature of man to be mentioned is that the freedom of man is not only, nor primarily, a freedom in the choice of means to the ultimate good, but it is also, and more especially, a freedom in the choice of the ends.

The third aspect of man’s moral situation, and distinctly of secondary importance in comparison to the first two, is that the end for which man is intended is most difficult of realization.

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.
Potter Stewart


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