What are ethics?

Ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, It is also known as moral psychology,


As per Indian Culture :

In Indian culture, the phrase morality and ethics is 'dharma'. Dharma originates from "dhr", which means to hold together. And thus the function of dharma is to hold the human society together for its stability and growth. Precise conduct is indispensable for the existence of the human society. The dharma in Hinduism is co- extensive with morality.


Need and importance of Ethics

Ethics is the theoretical exposition which studies human behaviour and attempts to determine- right or wrong in human action. It is also called moral philosophy. The significance of ethics is obvious. Since prehistoric period, man has always sought to know how to lead a good life and to draw up rules of conduct. Philosopher of all cultures tried to explain in what this 'good' life consisted and, especially, why precisely it was 'good'. It is not so much that traditional moral values are questioned but more radically still, that-the very 'meaningfulness' of an unchanging and universally valid morality is brought into question.

Ethics help us navigate the area between what is absolutely right and what is morally wrong. They provide the structure that helps us make a decision we can be proud of in the context of our societal, familial and personal value structures.



Morality is used in connection with the ways in which individuals conduct their personal, private lives, often in relation to personal financial probity, lawful conduct and acceptable standards of interpersonal behaviour (including truthfulness, honesty, and sexual propriety).

Difference between Morals and Ethics


  • Reasoning Involved
  • Beyond rules
  • Usually Considered Universal
  • For the survival of the society
  • Eg - e.g., codes of conduct in workplaces



  • Adhere to what is described
  • Hard and fast rules
  • Related to culture
  • According to the individual
  • Eg - Personal thoughts over

Therefore - Ethics = Morals + Reasoning

Dimensions of Ethics

 Meta Ethics

Meta ethics is described by thinkers as the study of the origin and meaning of ethical concepts. The term "meta" means after or beyond, and, consequently. Meta-ethics is associated with the nature of ethical properties, statements, attitudes and judgments. Meta-ethics examines such themes as what moral questions mean, and on what basis people can know what is 'true' or 'false'.

It Deals with the “after” or “beyond, and questions such as: “What is goodness?” and “How can we tell good from bad?” It also questions the origin of ethical principles, whether they are human or divine in origin. It also deals with questions like: What are the meanings of ethical terms: right, wrong, love, compassion? It also questions whether moral judgments are universal or relative, and if they are of one kind or many.


Prescriptive Ethics (Normative Ethics)

Normative Ethics is concerned with the criteria of what is right or wrong. IT includes the formulation of moral rules that have direct implications for what human actions, institutions and ways of life should be like. It deals with questions like: How should people act? What is the correct action?

The different branches are:


  • Virtue Ethics - It focuses on the innate character of a person rather than on specific actions. Virtue ethics stress the role of one's character and the virtues that one's character embodies for determining or evaluating ethical behaviour.
    The cardinal virtues are a set of four virtues derived primarily from Plato's proposal,. They consist of:

    • Prudence: It is also explained as wisdom, the ability to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time.
    • Justice: It is considered as fairness, the most extensive and most important virtue.
    • Temperance: It is called restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, and moderation.
    • Courage: It is known as fortitude, forbearance, strength, endurance, and the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, and intimidation.


Consequentialism (Teleology): Consequentialism is the form of normative ethical theories that indicates the consequences of one's conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness or wrongness of that behaviour. Consequently, from a consequentialist viewpoint, a morally right act is one that will produce a good outcome, or consequence.


  • Deontological Ethics - Deontological ethics: Deontological ethics is the normative ethical state that judges the morality of an action based on the action's adherence to rules. It is defined as "duty" or "obligation" or "rule" based ethics, because rules "bind you to your duty." Deontology argues that decisions should be made considering the factors of one's duties and others' rights.


Descriptive Ethics

Descriptive ethics studies people’s belief about morality. Describes and compares between objectives of different ethical theories. It deals with questions like: What do people think is right? It is different from normative and applied ethics.


Descriptive ethics investigates people's ethical morals or what actions are condemned in a civilization. It aims to find out people's beliefs about values, which actions are right and wrong and which characteristics of a moral agent are virtuous. Descriptive ethics seeks the explanation of actual choices made by moral agents in practice. It investigates the ethical codes applied by various groups. Descriptive Ethics is a value-free approach to ethics. It is empirical exploration of people's moral philosophy.




Applied Ethics

Applied ethics is a philosophical examination from a moral standpoint of particular issues in private and public life that are matters of moral judgment. This uses application of moral knowledge to practical problems and uses philosophical methods to identify the morally correct course of action in various fields of human life.

The different branches are:

  • Bio Ethics - Bioethics is the study of contentious ethics brought about by advancement in biology and medicine. Bioethicists are more involved with the ethical questions that arise in the relationships among life sciences, biotechnology, medicine, politics, law, and philosophy.
  • Business Ethics - Business ethics also referred as corporate ethics is a type of applied ethics that scrutinizes ethical principles and moral or ethical problems that arise in a business environment. It applies to all aspects of business conduct and is pertinent to the conduct of individuals and entire organizations. Business ethics also has both normative and descriptive dimensions.
  • Organisational Ethics - Organizational ethics is the ethics of an organization, and the way an organization responds to an internal or external stimulus. Organizational ethics is interdependent with the organizational culture. Although, it is similar to both organizational behaviour and business ethics, organizational ethics is neither organizational behaviour nor solely business ethics. Organizational ethics articulate the values of an organization to its employees and/or other entities irrespective of governmental and/or regulatory laws.

There are at least four elements that create an ethical culture and behaviour of employees within an organization. These elements are:

  1. A written code of ethics and standards (ethical code)
  2. Ethics training for executives, managers, and employees
  3. The availability of ethical situational advice (i.e. advice lines or offices)
  4. Confidential reporting systems


  • Military Ethics - Military ethics deals with questions regarding the application of force and the ethos of the soldier and are often understood as applied professional ethics.
    Military ethics involves manifold areas, including the following among others:
  1. The laws of war.
  2. Justification for the initiation of military force.


  • Decisions about who may be targeted in warfare.
  1. Decisions on choice of weaponry, and what collateral effects such weaponry may have.
  2. Standards for handling military prisoners.
  3. Methods of dealing with violations of the laws of war.


  • Political Ethics - Political ethics is concerned with making moral judgements about political action and political agents. It includes two areas. The first is the ethics of process (or the ethics of office), which deals with public officials and the methods they use. The second area, the ethics of policy (or ethics and public policy) concerns judgements about policies and laws. Some opponents argue that ethics has no place in politics.


  • Environmental Ethics
  • Publication Ethics


Ethics and Private relationship


Ethics in private relationship are generally directed by individual virtues, universal human values, religion, social norms and law of land. Therefore they comprise limited influencing factor. Ethic makes for action that one can defend publicly and comfortably. These actions are those that not only owns oneself but also the community can live with (Reddy, et, al., 2015). Ethics in private relationship are also checked by private religious law. Individual familial and community obligations have long been written into law and supported by serious sanctions from ancient time to today’s inheritance divorce, marriage and other law. In India, along with moral codes, religious institutions and constitution provision governs ethical issues in private relationship



Ethics in Public Relationships

Public relationship are more instrumental such as organizational colleagues, politicians, strangers, and other outside of one’s relatively narrow circle of intimacy (Reddy, et, al., 2015). Public Relation is a management function that engages monitoring and evaluating public attitudes and maintaining mutual relations and understanding between an organization and its public. Public could include shareholders, government, consumers, employees and the media. It is the action of getting along with people we constantly come in touch with. Public relation officers guarantee internal unity in the company by maintaining a clear communications network between the management and personnel. Its major objective is to improve channels of communication and to establish new ways of setting up a two-way flow of information and understanding.

Public relation is often understood as an occupation that is always working behind the scenes, gliding in and out troubled situations. But Public relation is also often considered to be a corporate conscience which fits well with the business ethics of social responsibility.


Ethics in public relations can come into play at:

  • Social Ethics – tolerance towards other sections, peace and harmony etc.
  • Political Ethics  – constitutional ethics, national interest etc.
  • Organisational Ethics – impartiality, honesty, hard work, efficiency, corporate governance etc.
  • International Ethics – ethics in diplomacy, respecting international treaties etc.


There are code of professional standards for the practice of public relation to meet goals. Such as

  1. To provide behavioural guidelines to its members.
  2. To educate management on public relations standards.
  3. To distinguish public relations professionals from those individuals

Characteristics of public relationship

  1. In public, there are people who are different from dealing person.
  2. Public relationships are likely to be instrumental.
  3. Engagements due to work or benefit.
  4. Expectation for respect.
  5. Particular kind of role to be played in public relationship therefore responsible for what person says.
  6. Accountability vis a vis what person says and person does.