Ethics is one of those things which have an integral part to play in our lives without us even realizing it. Morality is one of the parts of ethics. Whether one is being moral or immoral is also a part of ethics. Morality is more of a subjective term as what may be moral to one is immoral to another. It is rare to find two people who hold the exact same moral views. So, most of our actions are categorized either as ethical or as unethical. But most of the ethical values that we hold is not that one of ethical theory instead it is a mixture of many ethical theories which have been formed ever since the beginning of time. The more the ethical theories become popular the more we adapt them into our systems extremely well. The surprising factor is that we do not realize the fact that we have adapted an ethical theory. Here are some of the most common ethical theories by philosophers, which have been developed over centuries and which are an integral part of our day to day activities.
1 Theory of Virtue.
We have all heard of Aristotle. Haven’t we? He was a great philosopher, student of Socrates and a teacher to Alexander the Great. His theory was basically meant for the ruling class, but as the time flew by more and more people started to adapt his theory and now his ethical theory is a part of almost every household. Remember as children when your parents used to tell you to choose the middle path? Well that is the theory given by Aristotle. Aristotle said that a virtue is a middle path which lies between two extremes or vices. For example the virtue of courage which lies between the two extremes of being cowardice and rash. He believed that a person can be truly virtuous in nature if he has the virtues of humility, temperance, courage, charity, kindness, diligence and patience. These are the virtues which we try to build in our system ever since we are children. We start to practice them and try not to make a mistake. The middle path has always been the safest way, which rarely made one err. Just like Aristotle, some of us also believe that the middle path is the path to happiness.
Utilitarianism or hedonism is the most integral part of the system. It is a very well known fact that the theory of democracy is built upon the theory of utilitarianism. The foundation stone of utilitarianism was laid down by Jeremy Bentham, which was later modified for the better by his god-son John Stuart Mill. The main basis of utilitarianism is the maximum number of happiness for the maximum number of people. Pleasure has two meanings the state of mind and non-mental actions like activities or actions. John Stuart Mill believed that different things give different amount of pleasure to people. Once one experiences higher pleasure, they do not like to experience the lower pleasures. For example if one has watched theater, then they would rather watch theater than watch a non-sensical movie. But then again there can be incidents when people might like to indulge in lower pleasures because they cannot afford the higher ones. If we apply this theory into our day to day life, it sits perfectly because we do have value to things according to the pleasure it gives us. We would prefer to have dinner in a fine dining restaurant with wine, rather than going to a fast food restaurant.
3. Categorical Imperative:
Categorical Imperative is indeed a big word. But to simplify this big word into a layman’s language it means one who is concerned more about the moral duty. Immanuel Kant is considered to be the father of Categorical Imperative. His main theory was to stick by what was one’s duty. Kant is more concerned about the means to an end, rather than the end to the means. Just like Gandhi believed. Kant’s views are quite in contradiction with the ones on which our society is based, I.e. Utilitarianism. Kant believes that if the means are right than the ends do not hold much value. A perfect example of it would be that, suppose you had gone out on a vacation and had given your key to the neighbor. Just a few hours before your arrival, your neighbor goes into your house and lights the fire so that you can come home to a warm home. But he forgets about it and accidentally your house catches fire. According to Kant the action wasn’t wrong as the neighbor did not mean to harm you. Even as little kids, when something used to turn out bad our parents used to tell us that it wasn’t our fault as our means were right.
So here are three extremely contrasting theories from which we have picked up ethical elements and have made them a part of our lives in such a way that it turns out to be a new ethical theory. Some of you may believe that ethics and morality isn’t important. To an extent it isn’t, but then it is important to be able to dwell in peace in our own environment.