Dimensions of Ethics

Dimensions of Ethics

This article deals with topic titled ‘Dimensions of Ethics  .’ This is part of our series on ‘Ethics’  . For more articles , you can click here

What constitute Ethics?

  • Ethics word is derived from Greek word ‘Ethica which means rituals, customs, practices , culture etc
  • Ethics are values which are held by society and  helps person  in distinguishing right and wrong.
  • They are represented in the form of Norms

Something started as moral can become ethics

  • Raja Ram Mohan Roy – His personal belief was that Sati represented Crime against women . Although practice of Sati at that time was Ethical and societal norm . Hence, Raja Ram Mohan Roy at that time was guided by his morals

Something that is Ethical can become Moral too

  • Suppose I am a government doctor and I have moral position that I will not treat  those male patients who commit atrocities against women . But ethics say that doctor must treat all persons who come to him for treatment. Hence, if I refuse to treat them, there will be complaints against me and threat of suspension 

Side Note

Good/ Fair Actions which are performed according to ethical parameters
Unfair Actions which arent performed according to ethical parameters

Determinants of Ethics

Ethics and Morals are not universal. They vary according to region , time etc. Major determinants are

  • Religion : Religious textbooks deal with questions of how an individual should behave and how the society should be. Eg : In Jainism, Non Veg is unethical while in Islam it is perfectly fine to eat non-veg.
  • Culture : Values vary with cultures . Eg : Western = Individualistic | Indian = Universalism and Multiplicity
  • Law  & Constitution
  • Nature of Leadership
  • Philosophies  : Various philosophers and thinkers subscribe to different sets of ethics.
  • Geography : Brahmins of West Bengal eat fish (non-veg diet) as geography dictates them to eat fish in order to survive
  • Economic Factors : Socialism favours economic equality while in Capitalist society, profit is considered ethical.

Dimensions of Ethics

It should be seen from two aspects

1 . Indian

1 . Ashrama Dharma : Life divided to 4 Ashramas and conduct and behaviour of person should be according to those Ashramas . These 4 Ashramas are

  1. Brahmacharya Ashrama : Person should do Learning in this phase
  2. Grihasta Ashrama : Artha & Kama
  3. Vanprastha Ashrama :
  4. Sanyasa Ashrama : retiring from public life

Behaviour inline with this is considered Ethical.

2. Samanya Dharma  : Element of God and Goodness kept at centre to prescribe Ethical behaviours like respect of elders, not to steal anything not yours etc.

3. Varna Dharma : People belonging to different Varnas should follow their prescribed duties .

2. Western

  • Normative Ethics / Prescriptive Ethics : Concerned with ‘what we  ought to do’ . Part  of ethics, concerned with providing  criteria and principles of deciding what is right and wrong.   . It is further of two types
    • Teleological /  Consequentialist : It looks at end (consequences)  while deciding right or wrong . Eg : Robinhood / Utilitarianism / Hedonism
    • Deontological : It looks at means  instead of end . Eg : Kant, Gita’s Nishkama Karma etc 
  • Descriptive / Comparative Ethics : study of the moral beliefs and practices of different peoples and cultures in various places and times.
  • Meta Ethics   : It looks at the origin and meaning of ethical principles. Meta ethics does not answer the questions of right or wrong. Eg : Integrity is Ethical Principle . Meta Ethics will look into what it means to be person with integrity. (Origin of Meta Ethics is considered to be Philosopher Moore and his book ‘Principia Ethica’ who looked into Good, Duty etc)
  • Virtue ethics : It is person rather than action based. According to this approach, a virtuous person always does the right thing . It provides guidance as to the sort of characteristics a good person should seek to achieve.  These characteristics include justice, fortitude etc
  • Applied Ethics : Part of Ethics which attempts to analyse the ethicality of real life controversial situations such as war, animal rights,  capital punishment, euthanasia, whistle blowing, media ethics, International Ethics  etc

Now we will see, how above theories can be used to analyze situations.

Applied Ethics : Euthanasia

  • Word ‘Euthanasia’-   originated in Greece,  meaning mercy killing
  • Applied Ethics consider that Death can never be good . But in following conditions , Euthanasia shouldn’t be considered unethical
    • When person is suffering from untreatable disease
    • Person is suffering from unending unbearable pain
    • Person himself wants death
    • Relatives too consider that treatment is impossible
    • Reputed hospital should have certified that disease is untreatable

Types of Euthanasia

  • Two types
    • life ending medication is administered to the patient by a third party, usually a doctor (Active Euthanasia) or
    • Life support is withdrawn (Passive Euthanasia)

Arguments against Euthanasia

  • Constitution of India – according to SC judgement in Gian Kaur Case,1996 , Right to Life doesn’t include Right to die
  • Neglect of Healthcare by State – Legalised Euthanasia has led to a severe decline in the quality of care for terminally-ill patients in Holland
  • Malafide intention –  misusing Euthanasia by family members or relatives for inheriting the property of the patient . This was held in Aruna Shanbaug Case too.

In favour of Euthanasia

  • SC Judgement : Common Cause Case (2018) held that Right to Life include Right to refuse treatment and Die with Dignity and allowed Passive Euthanasia and living wills regarding this.
  • Hospitals are already overcrowded. Hospitals should devote resources on those patients which can be cured.
  • Care-givers Burden: The caregiver’s burden is huge .  Many families have gone bankrupt to ensure medical care for a terminally ill person or to keep up the treatment for an incurable disease.
  • Encouraging Organ Transplantation
  • Law Commission  in various reports has spoken in favour of Passive Euthanasia

Case Study  : Mr X belongs to Elite Family. He is suffering from disease which cant be cured using present medical technology. He is suffering from unbearable pain . Due to this, he has approached Judiciary for Euthanasia.

Keeping above things in mind, answer following

  • Is this example of Voluntary Euthanasia ?
  • If somebody approaches you for advise, under which conditions Euthanasia should be allowed?

Given case study is related with issue of Euthanasia and controversy related to it

In part 1 of question, it can be clearly said that it is example of Voluntary Euthanasia as

  • Person is not under pressure or influence of others to demand Euthanasia
  • He has tried to treat it but disease is uncurable
  • He is under unbearable pain

Above reasons have forced person to approach Judiciary and hence, it is Voluntary in nature

In  part 2 of question, in sensitive matter like Euthanasia, specialists should keep following points in mind while giving suggestion

  • When disease is incurable
  • There is no scientific method to treat person
  • Well recognized hospital or medical hospital has certified that person cant be treated
  • Patient and his relatives consider Euthanasia to be last option.
  • Judiciary too consider it apt for Euthanasia .

Applied Ethics : Gender Inequality\

Arguments of Applied Ethics on Gender Inequality

  • Male and Female have same spirit. Hence, inequality is wrong
  • Main reason of inequality is  physical power of man. But if Physical Power should be considered main reason for establishment of authority , then Tiger should get precedence over Humans who is powerful than Humans
  • If we compare Man and Female on mental abilities, females are more creative, have more reasoning abilities and rationality .
  • Men have outlined the social roles of females which is morally wrong .

Applied Ethics : Abortion

Against Abortion

  • Religion : Killing other person 
  • One spirit cant kill other spirit. Spirit can be creator but not destroyer.

But it is not unethical in following situation

  • When mother faces chance of death due to embryo or during childbirth
  • When embryo has genetical deformity which results in major disability.
  • Pregnancy resulting from Rape and resulted in suicidal tendency in mother (Ireland Rape – England Case)

Environmental Ethics

  • Environment Ethics say that Environment should also be a criteria to judge the righteousness and wrongness of a action (earlier decision makers were not using it as criteria)

Principles to keep in mind in Environmental Ethics

  • Inter Generational Equity
  • Intra Generational Equity

Note – Sustainable Development is not anti development. It only says that develop in a way that future generations should also have Capacity to develop (Inter Generational Equity)

(2014 UPSC) Now-a-days, there is an increasing thrust on economic development all around the globe. At the same time, there is also an increasing concern about environmental degradation caused by development. Many a time, we face a direct conflict between developmental activity and environmental quality. It is neither feasible to stop or curtail the development process, nor it is advisable to keep degrading the environment, as it threatens our very survival.

Discuss some feasible strategies which could be adopted to eliminate this conflict and which could lead to sustainable development. 250 words

Today, Policymakers have to look for Sustainable Development  . To achieve high economic growth, we cant allow  environment to degrade to such an extend that our cities become unliveable and earth face existential crisis . Nor can we afford not to develop at all because to eliminate poverty , country need to develop. Hence, need of the hour is to develop in a way which cause minimum harm to nature

  • Green GDP : Growth should take into account depletion of resources done to achieve that growth
  • Use Polluter Pays Principle
  • Use of Green Codes
  • Increase the energy efficiency of appliances
  • Use Renewable Resources of Energy like Solar , Wind Energy etc  
  • Environment Impact Assessment 
  • Go towards Organic Farming and use of micro irrigation

Marketing Ethics

Ads / Marketing agencies shouldn’t indulge in

  • Misappropriation of facts to misguide the people
  • Stereotyping of gender : Eg Roles like dish washing , kitchen work etc done by female actors
  • Objectification of women : Some beauty cream and soap ads indulge in these practices
  • Use of brand ambassadors: Ambassadors endorsing products  which they don’t use or whose authenticity they don’t cross check, making profits out of public’s reverence of a person
  • Paid News 
  • Negative advertising techniques
  • Surrogate advertisement:   For example, advertising soda under the brand name of alcohol producing company for its promotion.

Leave a Comment