Ethics and Human Interface

Ethics and Human Interface

This article deals with topic titled ‘Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, Determinants and Consequences of Ethics in – Human Actions .’ This is part of our series on ‘Ethics’  . For more articles , you can click here

What are Ethics, Values , Morals and Attitude (EVMA)

Whole of the syllabus and paper revolves around four term

  • Attitude
  • Values
  • Morals
  • Ethics

First of all we will clearly define and make our ideas very much clear about these terms. Ie

  • What we mean by these terms ?
  • What are they made up of ?
  • Are they culture specific or universal ?
  • Are they absolute or relative ?
  • Are they static or dynamic ?
  • Are they subjective or objective ?
  • How are they inter related ie similarities and differences between them
  • How do they develop ?

What are these ?

  • They are mental constructs that serve as instruments for behavior regulation.
  • Since they are instruments of behavior regulation ,  they can do following
    • Guide our decision making
    • Guide our choices
    • Direct us to specific ways of action.
  • Only way through which we can get idea about Ethics, Morals , Attitudes and Values of a person is through his behavior.

Question : Attitude, Values, Ethics and Morals simplify our choices parsimoniously  . Comment

  • Attitudes, Values , Ethics and Morals are mental constructs that guide our behavior .
  • Ethics, Values, Attitude and Morals are held by the individuals but are influenced by the society. Some values, morals & attitudes find social approval & some other values which society calls negative values don’t find social approval. Hence, by making few values clearly defined as first on priority list & few values last on the priority list, they save people from lot of confusion which otherwise could have been caused if that priority list wasn’t there. They do this by making hierarchy of choices which are available before us in terms of which is the most acceptable thing to do and which is least acceptable thing to do .
  • Example of bureaucrat – If many choices are available, he can make hierarchy  based on values like Public Welfare, Personal Ambitions , Self Interest etc. Now he know that his first and foremost duty is towards welfare of people and in situations where these values will compete, he will eliminate all other choices and go by Public Welfare.

What are they made up of ?

  • They are made up of three basic things
    • Beliefs and Cognition
    • Emotions and feelings
    • Action tendency or behavioral dimensions

Are they static or dynamic ?

  • We cant say that they are static or dynamic . They can be said to be RELATIVELY PERMANENT .
  • Dynamic and Static represent extremes. Dynamic means fastly changing and Static means they hardly change. These things can change but we cant say that they can change very rapidly. Change comes very slowly

Why are they Relatively Permanent ?

  • Ethics, Values, Morals and Attitudes are the source of our identity (who you are) . Individuals want them to be stable identity. Hence, idea of very rapid change in these 4 things is out of question.
  • We develop EVMA with massive investment of Time, cost and energy & to change them we need time, cost and energy as well. When these investments are required, person don’t change these things easily.
  • Whenever there is a departure there is guilt.

Question : Environment changes very rapidly at times but still we find that Ethics, Morals, Values and Attitudes don’t change so rapidly. If Ethics are instruments that ensures our equilibrium with our environment, then how can we hold belief that EVMA are Relatively Permanent but Environment is changing ?

  • EVMA are basis of our identity . But we have to keep in mind that within single EVMA , there isn’t single behavior but spectrum of behaviors can be conferment to  single EVMA. What helps us adjust in different environments without changing our EVMA is the fact that there are set of behaviors that are permissible under a single EVMA. Depending upon environment , we can decide which behaviour we will display.
  • Eg : Take Patriotism . Patriotism as a value can be defined as collection of behaviors directed towards nation building.
  Behavior shown due to value of Patriotism
Person 1 Serving in Army
Person 2 Empowering the disempowered through education
Person 3 Donating money towards welfare of people

Each one has value of  Patriotism in them but showing it in different behavior which are permissible under Patriotism.

Are they Absolute or Relative ?

  • When we say absolute or relative wrt EVMA we mean
    • Absolute : EVMA are context and situation independent. Eg : If I have value of Truth, I will speak truth whatever may be the situation.
    • Relative : EVMA depend on  context and situation . Eg : Although I have value of Truth , but I can speak lie in some situations when speaking truth can be harmful.
  • There is no answer to this. There are some scholars who believe in Absoluteness and others who believe in relativeness. But the way human beings generally are, they operate  in relative terms
  • Eg : Some person running from dacoits came to Ashram of some Sadhu and he allowed him to hide in his place. When dacoits came there and asked have you seen that person , what should he do? Should he speak truth? Is speaking truth in this case morally correct ?
    • Speaking lie cant be termed morally incorrect because priority can be given to save life than to speak truth
    • But even if he spoke truth , there is catch in that situation
      • If the sage spoke the truth for the sake of truth , it can be welcomed
      • If he spoke the truth because it gave him pride , it is not welcome.

Hence, intention too has role in deciding righteousness.

  • Eg : Yudhistar’s act of speaking half truth can be pardoned because he spoke half truth to uphold dharma and also it was not guided by personal interest 

Question : ‘ Few people think that Values keep on changing based on circumstances , time and place . Whereas few other think , Values are universal and eternal in nature . ‘ Evaluate the statement and give your opinion on the  same .

Whether they are culture specific or universal ?

  • They are both  Culture Specific as well as Universal
  • Some EVMA are universal eg Love, Integrity , Commitment etc. People of each and every culture would have these
  • But some of them are culture specific too. Eg : Some EVMA unique to Indian Culture are
    • Familism
    • Collectivism (western is Individualism)

How are Ethics-Values-Morality-Attitude (EVMA) interrelated ?

1 . Value

  • It is worth & importance we (as individual/society) allocate to something.
  • Values are abstract (ie dimensionless. Eg : if Peace is value,  we cant tell the dimensions of Peace)
  • Values are global (all encompassing) .
  • They are general determinants of behavior (not specific) .
  • However, Values are not tied to any specific object (eg :Value of peace isn’t tied to any object and are intangible).

There are different things which are valued in life such as honesty, love , compassion, tolerance etc . Values help in determining the preference in life . They form the basis for ethics and morality .

There are two type of Values

Instrumental Values Those Values which are means to an end but not end in itself (Utilitarian Value) .
– This is to say, we consider any value as a secondary value with the objective of achieving some other primary value.

– Eg:
1. Education as value : Educating (means) our children  so that they can get job (end).
2. Plantation of trees (means) in order to get the fruits (end) (We are planting tree not because of it’s inherent benefit but to get fruits)
Intrinsic Value When we consider value as end in itself .
– This is primary or ultimate value .
– Eg : Educating children for sake of wisdom .

2. Attitude

  • When Values are objectified (ie tied to an object) , they become Attitudes. Or in other words, Attitudes are values that have been applied to specific objects .
  • Domain of Attitude is narrower than values .
  • Attitudes are specific predictors of behavior .

If we have a choice between knowing individual’s value and  individual’s attitude which we will prefer to know in order to predict individual’s behaviour ? Answer is  Attitude .

Eg : Sham Values peace but has Anti -Pakistan Attitude. In this case, he will not mind having war against Pakistan.

3. Morals

  • Morals are  values which are held by Individual & which help him in distinguishing between right and wrong (Note – All values don’t help in distinguishing Right and Wrong) .
  • Two things in it
    • Held by individual
    • Help in distinguishing between Right and wrong .
  • They determine the character of individual.
  • Every Moral is a value but every Value is not Moral .
  • Fundamental Forces driving the Moral are Conscience & Ego-ideal .

Note – Conscience are inner voices that we have about don’ts. Inner voices about Dos are called Ego-ideal

  • Conscience –  Inner voice that guides our actions and prevent us from  wrongdoings .
  • Ego-ideal – Goals that are cherished and therefore should be pursued.

4. Ethics

  • Ethics are values which are held by society as a whole and also help in distinguishing right and wrong.
  • They are represented in the form of Norms (set of rules & behaviours agreed upon by societal members & are binding upon all members)  .

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 . He made efforts and was able to convince whole society to accept that Value. When Society accepted that Sati is bad and called it unethical, gradually norm of society changed too.

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 if I continue with this behavior. Under pressure, I would start treating male patients but with moral guilt each time I am treating them. But gradually, either I will alter my morality or quit the job  because person cant continue to live with such moral guilt .

Question : Identify different conflicting values in society. How these values give rise to growth of intolerance in society (threaten society). What can be the possible solutions to avoid Value Conflict?

Value is worth or importance that person allocates to something . Different Individuals can hold different Values which sometimes results in Value Conflict. Various conflicting values present in our society are

  • Patriarchy vs Gender Equality
  • Rationalism vs Fundamentalism .

Difference in Value Systems often creates tension in society because of the Intolerance that people show towards other’s value which don’t confirm to their Value System. They are not ready to accept the difference and coerce other person to adopt their Values or face consequences  .

Possible solution to this can be

  • Making people to think objectively
  • Making them believe of various truths
  • Making them tolerant .

Aligning E-V-M-A with each other and Behavior

Thing to note is

  • Our EVMA should be in line with each other
  • Our Behavior should be in line with each one of them

Why EVMA should be in line with each other

  • It is required that  Ethics, Morals , Values and Attitude are aligned with each other .
  • If EVMA are not aligned with each other, it will leave person with immense confusion and emotional turmoil and we cant take decisions easily . Hence, more aligned they are , more peace and tranquility a person will have.

Side Topic : Behavior

  • Behavior is anything which a person does and can be observed
  • All the behaviors are product of Heredity and Environment (in which he lives)

Ie B= Heredity X Environment

Some Behaviors are more Hereditary and less Environmental

Others are more Environmental and less Hereditory 

Why our behavior shows difference with EVMA some times

  • Main Answer is that if somebody has justification for his behavior, he will go ahead with that even when they are not inlign with his EVMA .
  • Eg : Kings used to marry many women which was Immoral & unethical but still they did. Reason was they had justification for their behavior that king has to marry many women in order to protect the interests of their subjects . Justification might not be reasonable & in most of cases they are faulty. But as long as justification is present, they will go on with behaviors inconsistent with EVMA .

Why should Behavior be in line with EVMA

  If both are not aligned, will result in 
Our Values not in line with Behavior Conflict
Our Attitude not in line with Behavior Dissonance
Our Morals not in line with Behavior Guilt
Our Ethics not in line with  Behavior Social Isolation & Social Ostracisation

All of them have one thing in common , that is they are Aversive State  (state which you dislike) . Therefore , effort is not to have inconsistency .

But many times, inconsistency do happen  if we have justification for our behavior . If we have justification, Aversion caused by those inconsistencies will minimize and we continue with those behaviors.

Explanation for Inconsistency

Underlying concept in these cases is Cost Benefit Analysis: We have to keep in mind, whatever action we take whether they are consistent with our EVMA or not,  are based on COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS. We show any behavior after taking costs and benefits that accrue from them . But thing is,  costs involved in these include emotional and mental costs which generally overpowers physical costs. Hence, we go with EVMA. When we can justify that physical costs are more than Emotional Costs and Social Costs , then we show inconsistency in our Behavior .

Value Conflict

Question : Identify different conflicting values in society. How conflicting values threaten society ? What can be the possible solutions to avoid Value Conflict?

Value is worth or importance that person allocates to something . Individuals can hold different Values which sometimes results in Value Conflict. Various conflicting values present in our society are

  • Conservative vs Progressive (Eg : Patriarchy vs Gender Equality)
  • Rationalism vs Fundamentalism
  • Communal vs Secular
  • Regional vs National Value
  • Nationalism vs Universalism / Humanism
  • Capitalism vs Socialism
  • Localisation vs Globalization
  • Vegetarianism vs Non Vegetarianism.

Difference in Value Systems often creates tension in society because of

  • Intolerance that people show towards other’s value which don’t confirm to their Value System. They are not ready to accept the difference and coerce other person to adopt their Values or face consequences  .
  • Various sections indulge in Moral Policing so that nobody have different value which doesn’t confirm with values of majority .

Possible solution to this can be

  • Making people to think objectively.
  • Teaching existence of multi – truths .
  • Making them tolerant .

Two situations of Value Conflict and Value Harmonization epitomised by philosophy of

  • Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations
  • Swami Vivekananda’s – Harmonization of Spiritualism of East and Materialism and Individualism of west.

When to look for ethicality or morality in Action?

  • For looking into ethicality and morality of any action, first of all it has to be Human Action. 
  • For any  Action to be Human Action  , there are three important conditions to be met

1 . There must be some human knowledge of the consequences of that action

Eg : Child dips mobile in water. In this case, we cant check ethicality of action because Child had no knowledge about consequences of his action

2. Action should be done voluntarily ie no compulsion     

If work is done under some compulsion, then ethics and morality don’t come into scene. Eg : If somebody places a gun on ur forehead and ask you to do something, in such a scenario we shouldn’t judge ethicality of action .

3. There should be presence of different choices

There should be number of choices to choose from .

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