What is Ethics ?
Ethics refers to standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do , usually in terms of duties , principles , virtues and benefits to society. Ethics not only help a person to take morally correct decisions but also help others to check morality of actions of others actions.
Four Approaches to ethics
Duty Based Approach to Ethics: This approach focuses on responsibilities and duties of public servants. Their actions should be guided towards fulfillment of their duty obligations.
Important duty obligations are:
- Dedication to service (civil servants are for convenience of citizens and not the other way round)
- Guard against conflict of interest( personal interest must never override public interest)
- Ensuring fairness and equality(procedural fairness)(though exception can be made on empathetic grounds-like if a widow with blind son is standing in line can be given preference)
- Fiduciary responsibility- a) available resources are to utilised with maximum efficiency b)one cannot complaint that resources are not available c) public money has to be spent frugally
- Serve the law and be bound by law
- Support democratic process
- Be sensitive to goals of political executives
Virtue based approach to ethics– This approach ask a person to take decisions and perform actions which are guided by various virtues like:
- Prudence(practical wisdom)
- Temperance (moral self-restraint)
- Fortitude (moral courage)
- Dignity etc
Consequentialist Approach – Machiavelli gave this approach and it says that ethical merit of a action should be judged by its end results rather than the principles or values preceding it. A action is said to be morally correct if it yields favourable results. This approach want a person to be able to perform both good and bad in order to achieve beneficial results.
- Advantages– this approach is not forgetful of results. It look beyond the acts, to the consequences. Moreover it is more important what a person has achieved rather than how it is achieved .Example- Netaji went to Hitler for help against the Britishers.
- Disadvantages – There is great potential to abuse.
Principle based approach to Ethics-This approach focuses on what is right in a universal way like ahimsa was same for Mahavira and Mahatma Gandhi. In duty based approach morality of action changes with changing responsibilities of job. But here a action is morally correct irrespective of consequence if it is based on a principle. To follow this approach one need knowledge of certain universal principles and deductive capacity to apply those principles in practical situations.
- Advantages– only approach which provide external source of guidance to people. Moreover actions based on principles are morally correct not because of consequences but because the principles followed are independently correct.
- Does not tell what to do in case of an exception.
- No ordering of principles is prescribed
- A person need to be well aware of various principles
- Does not tell how to handle conflict of interest cases