Ethics is the theoretical exposition which studies human behavior 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.
The causes of this modem questioning are hard to pin down. Certainly the spread of education, progressions in science and technology, problems arising from modern way of living like the ever-increasing urbanization, easier communication media, faster means of travel whereby people of one culture come in closer contact with people of another culture, are some of the causes. But moral thinking is closely related with philosophical thinking in general, it might very well be that these causes are to be sought for on a deeper human level. Human being, perhaps, is not so much asking about the morality of this or that human act but, more intensely still, about himself; the meaning of his life, the direction of human history, the significance of the human world he lives in, the ambit of his knowledge and the possibility of his ever getting an answer to the questions he asks.
Ethics deals with voluntary actions. It can be distinguished between human actions and actions of human: human actions are those actions that are done by human consciously, deliberately and in view of an end. Actions of human may not be willfully, voluntarily, consciously and deliberately done but all the same they are done by human. It is the intention which makes the difference between human action and action of human. In ethics, human actions are more important.
Determinants of Ethics
This is the factors in human behavior that determine whether it is good or bad. There are three such determinants of ethics, namely the object, the end, and the circumstances.
Object means what the free will chooses to do in thought, word, or deed or chooses not to do. Be end is meant the purpose for which the act is willed, which may be the act itself (as one of loving God) or some other purpose for which a person acts (as reading to learn). In either case, the end is the motive or the reason why an action is performed. By circumstances are meant all the elements that surround a human action and affect its morality without belonging to its essence. Some circumstances so affect the morals of an action as to change its species. Other circumstances change the extent of kindness or badness of an act. In bad acts they are called aggravating circumstances. To be ethically good, a human act must agree with the norm of morality on all three counts; in its nature, its motive, and its circumstances. Departure from any of these makes the action morally wrong.