What is the definition of Ethics?

To define Ethics, “it is the branch of philosophy that involves a systematic study of human actions from the point of view of its rightfulness or wrongfulness.” It studies human behaviour and actions based on moral principles and values. 

The Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude paper was included as a part of the UPSC Mains General Studies-4 paper in 2013 with a specific aim. It intends to test the candidates’ attitude and approach relating to integrity and society-based problem-solving. 

In general terms, ethics meaning is based on a set of principles that imply an individual’s conduct personally, professionally and socially. Candidates preparing for the upcoming IAS Exam must refer to the details discussed further below in this article about the types of ethics, their essence and their importance in human actions.

Essence & Importance of Ethics

The concept behind introducing an Ethics and Attitude paper in the UPSC Syllabus was to evaluate the ethical competence of a candidate and not his/her knowledge of ethics subject matter

Given below is the importance of ethics and how they result in morally desirable human actions, in practice:

  • As a discipline, ethics identify what is good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime or what is our moral duty
  • It includes the study of universal values such as essential qualities of all men and women, human or natural rights, obedience to the law, concern for health and safety and, increasingly, also for the natural environment
  • Ethics is not a law, it is just a manner of conduct that may make one feel guilty for any action
  • Another benefit of ethics is that it provides an inspiration to follow rules. A group of ethical people can make for a better society and environment
  • Being ethical or moral helps a person to attain what is best for him/her as every person desires to be ethically good
  • Many moral issues which may seem to be critical and judgemental can be resolved through ethical thinking. If the principles and morals followed by a person are correct, it can bring an end to solving a moral dilemma
  • Ethics are not just meant for public dealing but also for personal relations. It enables a person to understand how he/she must reflect to act responsibly

On the whole, Ethics is for everyone irrespective of the various cultural, religious and social diversities. As for the civil services exam, it is included in the General Studies paper and candidates can get the detailed syllabus for the same at the UPSC Mains GS-IV Strategy, Syllabus & Structure page.

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Determinants of Ethics

The only reason why human beings are said to be at the top of all living races is that they have the ability to think, gain knowledge, are capable of reasoning, make decisions, reflect and then act. It is the ethical prospects that come into the foreground when dealing with human actions in society. 

There are specific determinants that make a human being act a certain way. Discussed below are the same:

Q 1. Who decides what is ethical and what is unethical?

Ans. No single person decides what is ethical and what’s not. It is the nature of the act or situation that may decide its goodness. For example, in a political war, each involved party may consider their own acts ethical but the other’s may count their actions as unethical. 

Q 2. How can one know that human action is for good?

Ans. Another determinant of ethical human action is the individual’s intention or motive. The ideology behind an action also counts, thus, any human action that is morally correct and intentionally true can be said to be for one’s good. 

However, this comes with a clause. Any act that is done with a good intention but is morally incorrect, cannot be considered as a good deed. 

Q 3. How does circumstance act as a determinant for ethical human actions?

Ans. Circumstances affect the morality of an action. For example, a thief stealing precious goods is performing an immoral act, which is ethically looked down upon. However, when a persons steals from the rich and give it away to the poor, the action still is incorrect but is ethically less immoral. 

UPSC aspirants also, read:

Impediments to Human Actions

Every human action should desirably be for the good. Though, there are factors that lead to the voluntary neglect of human action. These are known as impediments. Given below are a few  impediments to conscious human action:

  • Ignorance – When a person unintentionally does something that is unethical, he/she cannot be called ignorant. For example – A little child picking up a candy/toy from a shop. Whereas, when a person does something unethical, with complete ease and comfort, then they are said to be consciously ignorant. For example – A person misusing his/her social power
  • Anger – A person in anger tends to lose his/her temper easily and may do something which is not expected out of him. When a person loses control of his own emotions, especially anger, they intentionally/unintentionally may do something wrong
  • Violence – Under any threat or violence, if a person does something wrong, they cannot be blamed for being unethical. 
  • Passion – Some passions precede an act of the will and cause the will to act. As per moral thinkers, it is human will and reason that holds human passions under check.

Apart from this, habit, psychological state, intoxication, etc. are also other impediments to human actions. 

Candidates preparing for the civil services exam must carefully analyse all the topics included in the Ethics and Attitude syllabus for the UPSC Mains examination as it can be a scoring section if proper theoretical answers are written by the candidates. 

Aspirants can visit BYJU’S for the latest exam updates for competitive exams, study material and related preparation tips. 

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