Questions of Ethics and Morals

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The question of
Ethics
The question of
Ethics

Submitted to: Prof. Franson Manjali
Submitted by: Payal Sharotri M.A., 2ND SEMESTER.

ABSTRACT
If you ask a certain group of people ‘What does ethics means to you?’, the reply will be varied. Some of the expected replies can be as follows: "Ethics has to do with what my feelings tell me is right or wrong." "Ethics has to do with my religious beliefs."

"Being ethical is doing what the law requires."
"Ethics consists of the standards of behavior our society accepts." "I don't know what the word means."
These replies might be typical of our own. What this tells us is that the meaning of "ethics" is hard to pin down, and the views many people have about ethics are shaky. Some influential philosophers have claimed that ethics is nothing more than the codification of political ideology. That is, ethical beliefs function to express and perpetuate a particular power structure. Popular ethical beliefs are either the beliefs actually held by the dominant class; or they are the beliefs that the dominant class enforces on the less dominant classes. In either case, the assumption is that popular ethical beliefs are those which, if followed by the majority of people, are in the interests of the dominant class. The paper is an attempt to figure out the true essence of ‘ethics’, if not a meaningful definition of it. The paper begins with an assessment of the different meanings of ‘ethics’ over the course of time. It ten moves on to discuss Levinas’ views on the topic, ending with what Nietzche thinks about ethics and morality.

DEFINING ETHICS
According to Tomas Paul and Linda Elder of the Foundation for Critical Thinking, "most people confuse ethics with behaving in accordance with social conventions, religious beliefs, and the law", and don't treat ethics as a stand-alone concept. Paul and Elder define ethics as "a set of concepts and principles that guide us in determining what behavior helps or harms sentient creatures". The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy states that the word ethics is "commonly used interchangeably with 'morality' ... and sometimes it is used more narrowly to mean the moral principles of a particular tradition, group, or individual." The general meaning of ethics: rational, optimal (regarded as the best solution of the given options) and appropriate decision brought on the basis of common sense. This does not exclude the possibility of destruction if it is necessary and if it does not take place as the result of intentional malice. If, for example, there is the threat of physical conflict and one has no other solution, it is acceptable to cause the necessary extent of injury, out of self-defence. Thus ethics does not provide rules like morals but it can be used as a means to determine moral values (attitudes or behaviors giving priority to social values, e.g. ethics or morals). Many people tend to equate ethics with their feelings. But being ethical is clearly not a matter of following one's feelings. A person following his or her feelings may recoil from doing what is right. In fact, feelings frequently deviate from what is ethical. Nor should one identify ethics with religion. Most religions, of course, advocate high ethical standards. Yet if ethics were confined to religion, then ethics would apply only to religious people. But ethics applies as much to the behavior of the atheist as to that of the devout religious person. Religion can set high ethical standards and can provide intense motivations for ethical behavior. Ethics, however, cannot be confined to religion nor is it the same as religion. Being ethical is also not the same as following the law. The law often incorporates ethical standards to which most citizens subscribe. But laws, like feelings, can deviate from what...
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