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 questioned.
  • Moral judgments: These are a person’s perceptions about things. These are concerned with good / bad / right or wrong.
  • 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 or immoral.

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 choose them.
  • 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 away.
  • Right based ethics: Judging the action by seeing whether the rights of an entity were violated by the action or not.

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 for it.

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 people.

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 person.

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 environment.
  • Organizational values: Drives actions of a society.
  • Constitutional values: Prescribes the conscience of the country.

Human values

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.

Chapter Review

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Q1:Judgments that are concerned with color and taste are called.
1.factual
2.aesthetic
3.moral
4.none

Q2:”What ought to be done?” is answered by which type of ethics
1.descriptive
2.normative
3.applied
4.meta

Q3:To debate the ethicality of situations which is a precondition to be met
1.Free will
2.Knowledge
3.Voluntary action
4.all

Q4:Judging the action by the persons virtue and not his conduct. – is called
1.virtue ethics
2.conduct ethics
3.right based ethics
4.all

Q5: If maximum people benefit by an action then it is justifiable and ethical is which theory of ethics.
1.Utilitarian
2.Hedonism
3.Egoism
4.Rights based theory