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:

  1. Dedication to service (civil servants are for convenience of citizens and not the other way round)
  2. Guard against conflict of interest( personal interest must never override public interest)
  3. 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)
  4. 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
  5. Serve the law and be bound by law
  6. Support democratic process
  7. 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:

  1. Prudence(practical wisdom)
  2. Temperance (moral self-restraint)
  3. Fortitude (moral courage)
  4. Justice
  5. Honesty
  6. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Disadvantages
  • 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

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