Chapter 1: ETHICS AND HUMAN INTERFACE
Introduction to Judgments
- Factual Judgments: These are facts which can't be
questioned. They are not concerned with morality. e.g: Sun
rises from the east.
- Aesthetic judgments: These are concerned with color and
taste. They differ for different individuals but can't be
- Moral judgments: These are a person's perceptions about
things. These are concerned with good / bad / right or
- It was believed that factual judgments are also
aesthetic and hence moral. This is like saying what is
true is beautiful and hence good. However this doesn't
apply to all situations. It was believed that the King can
do no wrong and hence is above judgment. However there is
no basis to this argument.
Introduction to Ethics
Meta Ethics: Meta means beyond. Hence the study of ethics
itself is called meta-ethics. e.g: What is "good"?
Applied Ethics: Application of ethics to specific fields like
environment, education etc.
Normative and descriptive ethics: Normative or prescriptive
ethics deals with "What ought to be done?" i.e. once
information is presented to you what would you do with it. Can
you use it for benefit or harm.
Descriptive ethics is concerned with "What is
happening" i.e. it gives us information or description of
events but doesn't handle giving any suggestions on it.
Legality and Morality
Morality is the subject matter whose study is called
Ethics. What one may consider moral or immoral may differ
from persons to regions and cultures. Legality is however
uniform and common for all living in a region. Not all
immoral things can be considered as illegal. Lying is
immoral but not illegal and gay marriage is illegal but
depending on people and culture can be considered as moral
Ethicality of Situations
- There are certain pre-conditions to decide whether a
question can be debated on ethical grounds or not.
- Free will: The action must be performed by free will
i.e. the entity must have multiple choices and freedom to
- Knowledge: The free will isn't enough to decide whether
an action is debatable or not. The entity must also have
the knowledge of the consequences of these actions.
- Voluntary action: The entity must be doing his actions
without fear or coercion.
- Apart from these there are other factors that can
challenge the ethical - unethical debate like habit /
temperament [A person might be taught not to question his
parents which might not be the same for other people],
Pathological status i.e. Mental illness and Passion.
Theories of Ethics
- Virtue ethics: Judging the action by the persons virtue
and not his conduct. Different philosophers have their own
views like Plato gave the four virtues of a Good man like
wisdom, courage, temperance and justice. Buddhist
philosophy and Aristotle propose the "Middle path" i.e
avoid both extremes like altruism [happiness to others but
nothing for oneself] or hedonism [maximum for oneself
nothing for others].
- Conduct ethics: Judging the conduct of the person on the
basis of the means or the ends. The Consequentialism
philosophy believes that ends are important and means are
justified for them. e.g: Obtaining independence through
violence. The Non consequentialism philosophy of ethics
feels that means are not justified by the ends. Such
philosophy is suitable when the gols are uncertain or far
- Right based ethics: Judging the action by seeing whether
the rights of an entity were violated by the action or
Utilitarian theory of ethics
This theory states that if maximum people benefit by an
action then it is justifiable and ethical. This principle is
used to justify compulsory land consolidation of fragmented
land holdings of peasants. Thus if a ceiling of people agree
to consolidation then the minority too have to accept. This
is also used to approve re-development of housing societies
and cluster re-development.
However here too the Action is important e.g. if a large
number of people lynch a person then by theory this action
is ethical but a consequence of this would mean allowing
future law and order problems for a majority. Hence this
would then become unethical.
Thus utilitarian principle of happiness has demerits as it
doesn't value the opinion of minority or allows domination
of majority over them. The democratic system of government
depends on this theory but even such theories have problems
as means become justified to achieve happiness for maximum
people. However to ensure equity and social justice
utilitarian theory can be used to debate on ethical nature
of the question.
Hedonism theory of ethics
Maximize own pleasure without considering other is this
line of thinking. The advocates of this philosophy believe
that Pleasure is the only truth in life and one must strive
Absence of pain is the greatest goal. This means freedom
from fear and bodily injury. This preaches ways to obtain
pleasure by knowledge, friendship and modest life.
Egoism: Theory of ethics
Maximize own self interest. This is since it is human
nature to avoid pain and also the idea of altruism isn't
practical as no man would ignore his own self interest.This
theory believes as no action can remain confined it affects
everyone. Everyone shall then strive to achieve maximum self
interest and thus an equilibrium shall be achieved.
Thus if a salesman increases the price of a medicine to
achieve his dream of becoming rich then people shall move
towards other options forcing him to keep a reasonable price
so a win win situation is created.This isn't always true as
if the life saving medicines have no alternative then an
equilibrium wont be achieved.
Rights based theory of ethics
An action is evaluated depending on whether a right of an
individual were violated or not. e.g. Lathi charging
protestors is unethical as this would encroach on their
freedom of association. But at the same time it is the
governments right to ensure law and order. The Essential
service maintenance act prohibits certain groups from
striking work and is violating their rights but at the same
time protecting rights of people.
Three types of rights:
Negative rights: Prohibit state from encroaching rights of
Positive rights: Enable state to facilitate or empower
citizenry to exercise their right.
Environment rights: Group or cultural rights.
Values, Belief and Attitude
Value is an ideal accepted by a person. Belief in a subject
indicates the presence of the value in you. Attitude is a
mental state involving beliefs and values that compel to act
in a certain way.
Attitude affects individual behavior and group behavior. It
is always directed towards an object and determines reaction
towards it.They can be formed from recent events or past
events. Attitude isn't permanent and can be changed by
persuasion. Attitude can be positive or negative.
Components of Attitude:
- Cognitive: It is based on knowledge
and opinions. However if adequate knowledge or misguided
information is provided then it can be dangerous. A person
may evaluate this information to form his opinion.
- Affective: Feelings and emotions rise
in us if that object comes before us.
- Behavioral: The behavior exhibited by
us towards that object.
Along with positive or negative attitude can be neutral or
ambivalent. Neutral attitude means that a person shall have
no view on that matter so it is difficult to change his
behavior. If Attitude is ambivalent means he knows that an
object is bad but still indulges in it. It is possible to
change such ambivalent behavior. If an individual is given
more information then he might change his behavior as
ambivalence can be due to different causes. An ambivalent
person feels dissonance i.e. understands such attitude can
be harmful. But in case he doesn't fully understand the
effect of his attitude he has to be guided i.e. a tax evader
and a corrupt person both cause damage to the country but an
evader might not realize he is as harmful as a corrupt
Functions of Attitude:
- Object appraisal: Approach beneficial
things and avoid harmful things.
- Social adjustment: Helps us identify with people i like.
- Utilitarian: Decides our support towards an issue.
- Ego-defensive: Protects self esteem.
- Value expressive: To express one's central value.
Classes of values:
- Individual value: Self development,
creativity are present in an individual.
- Social value: Cooperation and tolerance indicates
actions in a society.
- Environment values: Indicates beliefs towards
- Organizational values: Drives actions of a society.
- Constitutional values: Prescribes the conscience of the
These are the basic values present in all human beings.
These remain constant and are developed through
socialization process i.e. through interaction through
peers, parents and family. The people in whom such values
are inculcated but they prefer to deviate is also seen. Thus
social control can be used through mechanism of reward and
punishments to control such people.
The role of family and peers is seen as an influence on
human values. The values inculcated are faulty then the
impact will be seen on the persons behavior. Society too has
an important role to play in behavior of an individual.
Society forces an individual to modify his behavior to avoid
becoming a pariah.
Teachers and curriculum too has an impact on the individual
if he looks upon them as role models. The attitude of the
individual towards his teachers is linked with what he
learns from his parents and society. A teacher can shape the
outlook of individual towards his society too. E.g:
Curriculum in Gujarat idolizing Nazi values led to brutal
killings and communal atmosphere there. Pakistan curriculum
also teaches hatred against India.Gandhiji's outlook towards
politics was shaped by his guru G.K.Gokhale. Curriculum
preaching men working and women doing chores created gender
roles amongst children.
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