Ethics & human interface

Mains Marks Booster     2nd August 2023        
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"A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world."  - Albert Camus

“In just about every area of society, there’s nothing more important than ethics”- Henry Paulson 


  • The term ‘ethics’ is derived from the Greek word ‘ethikos’ which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition.
  • Ethics is the branch of philosophy that deals with moral principles and values that govern individual and collective behaviour. It involves critical thinking about what is right and wrong, and the principles and values that should guide human conduct.

Source of Ethics:- 

  • Religion: Different sects of individuals are affected differently by religion. It is the most significant source of ethics since religious teachings frequently outline what is right and wrong and society as a whole upholds these standards.
  • Example:  Christianity – Compassion, Hinduism -Buddhism – Peace etc.
  • Leadership: The leadership of a society influence its followers to determine the conduct.
  • Example:  The leaders of the independence movement have instilled democratic, liberal, secular, and tolerant traditions in us.
  • Philosophies: Various philosophers and thinkers subscribe to different sets of ethics.
  • Example: Bhakti movement teaches Inclusiveness, Tolerance, selfless service etc.
  • Human conscience: A man's conscience aids in his ability to distinguish between right and wrong.
  • Example: Inner conscience for not taking a bribe, showing a compassionate view for animals etc.
  • Culture: It defines certain behaviour as acceptable and others as unacceptable; hence, values vary with cultures.
      • Example: Western cultures - Individualistic, Indian culture - Universalism and Multiplicity
    • Family: It is a wellspring of ethics. The family system comprises traditional or cultural values relevant to the family's composition, purpose, roles, and underlying principles.
      • Example: Family teaches to respect elders and feelings of love, trust etc. 
  • Legal System: It acts as a guiding source for human behaviour in society. It is expected that the rules laid down by these Laws are followed strictly.
  • Example: The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 prohibits indecency, etc.
  • Thinkers and Philosophers: They serve as role models for people and aid in society’s quest for new virtues.
    • Example: Philosophy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu teaches us about selfless service, dedication and submission to God.
Source of Ethics

Significance of Ethics:- 

  • Treat everyone equally: Ethics promotes equality and shapes society based on ethical values
  • Example:
  • Right to equality, life, and freedom for all, Upholding of rules, laws and regulations etc.
  • Democratic nations like India, the USA, where all people have equal rights. This is not possible without the majority of citizens behaving in an ethical manner.
  • Make Society better: Ethical values like Tolerance, Compassion, integrity etc. make society better for society.
  • Example: Tolerance promotes acceptability in a society like refugees are being welcomed in Europe, India etc.
  • Succeed at business: A company's ethical practices also influence the level of consumer loyalty it experiences.
  • Example:
  • Tata’s compassionate business model helped it reach out worldwide.
  • Valued Products made by Apple
  • Reduce Stress: Right moral decision, or taking a principled perspective on an issue, reduces stress.
  • Example:
  • Avoiding speculative games, help to balance private and professional relation
  • Engaging in corruption, and unfair means like Match fixing in Cricket leads to stress in life
  • Provides Moral Map: Ethics provides us with a moral map, a framework that we can use to find our way through difficult issues.
  • Example: Compassion-based Talisman of Mahatma Gandhi
  • Solution for moral issues: Ethics does provide good tools for resolving moral issues. It can eliminate confusion and clarify the issues.
  • Example: Decision required to be taken in a Conflict of Interest
  • Ensures individual and social good: By putting moral ideas into practice, ethics aims to regulate behaviour and assist man in living a good life. It strives for the overall good of humanity.
  • Example: Assist to balance between Personal and Professional relation
  • Resolves ethical dilemmas: Ethical values such as integrity, trustworthiness, responsibility etc. help guide us along a pathway to deal more effectively with ethical dilemmas.
  • Example: Decision to optimum balance b/w development and environment like infrastructure work in the Western Ghats, construction of dams in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh etc.
  • Frees from Bias and prejudices: The application of moral principles and ethical values in our life helps to deconstruct the wrong conceptions and attitudes and helps to avoid bias and prejudices.  
  • Example: Recruitment process based on merit, voting pattern in election, balanced development works by the politician in his/ser constituency
  • Effective Decision making: Ethics guides us to make right, just and inclusive decisions aimed at personal as well as societal interests.  
  • Example: Attainment of the Highest good: "Summum Bonum"

Effects of Lack of Ethics:-

Lack of Ethics at - 



Individual level

  • Selflessness, tendency to cheat others, Poor interpersonal relations, stressed life etc.
  • Issues with life partners may lead to divorce
  • Engage in corruption
  • Poor balance b/w personal and professional relationships etc.

Societal level

  • Culture of corruption in day-to-day life, Gender biases, Commodification of life, moral degradation of society, and increase in crime.
  • Degradation of the status of women & marginal society 
  • Social boycotts
  • Stalking of girls, drug addiction,
  • Poor law and order.

Political level

Criminalisation of politics, Nepotism, power concentration, defectionsInstability to government, violence, communalism, use of money and muscle power, abuse of the constitution
  • Campaigning on communal agenda
  • Bribing voters
  • Political violence using goondas to create a ruckus in rallies or rioting etc.

Bureaucratic level

Conflict of interest, abuse of power, neglect of public welfare, poor implementation of schemes and welfare programmes.
  • Bribe culture
  • Delay in disposal of files
  • Absence of due process of law 

International level

Encroachment at border areas, cross-border terrorismDrug trafficking, human trafficking, organised crimeSafe tax havens, protectionism, Vaccine nationalismNuclearization, conflict-war, erodes the legitimacy of international institutions etc.
  • Russia – Ukraine war
  • Private Army marching to Moscow under Wagenar
  • Aggression of China
  • Trade war b/w USA & China, 
  • Protectionism, terrorist attacks, 
  • Huma Rights violation.

Environmental Level

Illegal deforestation, encroachment of natural water bodiesAnimal rights violation, illegal mining and depletion of natural resources, wildlife crime. Illegally poaching and trading threatened species.Constructing large dams on rivers to change the course of rivers like China’s dam in the  Tibbet regions on Yarlung Zangbo river.Excessive use of fertilisers, water, etc. Exploitation of natural resources.

Evaluation of Ethics:- 

Evaluation of Ethical conduct means respecting the rights of participants and ensuring the minimisation from potential harm.

  • Autonomy:  A choice is evaluated for ethical or unethical when it is chosen from available options freely. 

Example: A batsman knows that he is out, but waiting for the third umpire signal.

  • Knowledge: We cannot exercise free will in an ethical manner, unless and until we have knowledge of its consequence. 
  • Example:
  • Actions of baby or mentally challenged people of destroying something is not unethical, because he/she does not have knowledge of it. 
  • Husband suffering from schizophrenia mistreats his wife
  • Fear: If someone tries to kill you and you kill him in self-defence, you’re acting in fear for your life. So, it’s subject to legal scrutiny but not ethical scrutiny. 


  • Fire by Policemen on self - defence
  • Killing of Leopards to save human lives 
  • Pathological status:This is not subject to ethical scrutiny because one is suffering from a mental disorder and lacks knowledge and free will. 
  • Example: Crime committed by a person with a mental disorder
  • Habit: Repeated reinforcement of human behaviour results in a habit.
  • Example: Japanese people are taught to apologize even for the smallest error or inconvenience they may have caused to another person. It cannot be considered unethical if an American working in Japan behaves differently. Because it is not common in the USA.
  • Value system: Values are standards of behaviour, such standards can be on the basis of individual, societal human values etc. 
  • Example: Rather than being tortured by his foes, a wounded Samurai warrior would choose ritual suicide. Considering that it is a component of his Bushido code of honour. If a fallen American soldier doesn’t commit suicide, it can’t be evaluated on ethical grounds.

Character, Conduct & Behaviour

Character, Conduct & Behaviour

Ethics is about the study of behaviour such as character and conduct. Its aim is to understand which behaviour is right or wrong. (Based on established standards)

Ethics and Religion

Religious values precede the emergence of ethical values. Therefore, religion has a profound influence on ethics. Hence, Ethics cannot be separated from religion.

Comparative Facts of Ethics and Religion




Based on

Based on facts, rationality and reasoning

Based on faith, belief


It can be questioned and hence the possibility of acceptance/ rejection

As faith cannot be questioned and hence limited scope for question


Broader than religious science

Different religions have different sets of core values


Ex. Family ethos, social life

Ex. Karma Concept, Nishkam karma

Ethics and Law:-

  • Law is defined as an ordinance of reason to achieve the common good. It is based on facts and reasons
  • Ex. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act provides termination of certain pregnancies to save the life of women, avoid unwanted pregnancy etc.
  • There may be instances wherein an action may be legal but not ethical. 
  • Ex.  The death penalty is legal in many countries including India, but it is not ethical to take the life of an individual.
  • The ethical standard of society keeps changing with time but the pace of change in law does not match with the pace of change in societal values.
    • Ex. Homosexuality, Rights of LGBTQ Community, Live in Relationship, 




Based on

Based on facts, rationality and reasoning

It cannot define intention, honesty, self- commitment etc.


It is adhered to in both letters and spirit 

It may be adhered to in letter but not in the spirit


Broader than existence law

Ex. Betting is unethical but not illegal in many countries like Macao

Law is guided by ethics

Ex.  Chopping trees are prohibited to protect the environment


Any type of unfair means is unethical

Tax evasion is not illegal until a law is framed for that 


  • Derived from the Latin word ‘moralis’, meaning “traditional customs”.
  • Morals are the social, cultural and religious beliefs or values of an individual or group which tell us what is right or wrong. They are the rules and standards made by the society or culture which are to be followed by us while deciding what is right. 
  • Example:
  • Selfless service is given by local people during the Balasore Train accident
  • Do not cheat, always tell the truth etc.

Difference between Ethical standards and Morality

Ethical Standards


  • It is a field of Normative science which studies moral philosophy.
  • It has established standards which have relative – Objectivity, Universality and Impersonality.
  • Irrespective of whether a person agrees or disagrees, ethical standards exist and human behaviour can not be considered ethical unless it matches the established standard.Ethics largely stays universalEx. Compassion, Non-Violence, Truth
  • Morality is a basis for studying Ethics i.e. different moral values in society.
  • It is based on any individual or cultural values which may not match the established standards.
  • It depends on the agreement of an individual that is why that person, and culture have established their own moral standards.
  • Usually consistent, but can change if an individual’s beliefs change.
  • Ex. Homosexuality, Cross cousin marriages

To be ethical one has to conform to the established standard but to be moral one has to conform own’s standard of behaviour. Ethics and Morality can have the following three types of relationship –

  • Ethical and Moral: 
  • Selfless,
  • Respect for human dignity
  • Moral but not Ethical:
  • Child Marriage in some parts of Rajasthan, People consider Western culture as vulgar
  • Jallikatu, Animal sacrificing
  • Societal values like LGBT, Legal Rights
  • Ethical but not Moral: 
  • Universal values conflicting with moral values

Social Morality & Constitutional Morality

  • Social Morality is a set of values and norms that exist in society. These are the rules that govern the members of a society on how they should behave with each other for their welfare and well-being. 
  • It varies from culture to culture depending on various beliefs, practices, traditions, or customs prevalent in society.
  • It is about how people behave towards others in their community. 
  •  It provides the guidelines for society to live in peace. It helps people live together in harmony and avoid conflict and tension among themselves.
  • It can be done through social, economic, environmental, and political means.

Components of Social Morality:-

  • Shared Values: Shared values consist of what people in a culture or society think are good or bad, desirable or undesirable.
  • Norms: Norms are social rules that guide behaviour in a culture or society. These norms may be written down in law or unwritten customs. They may vary from place to place within a culture or society. Sometimes, these norms may change over time as people's opinions about acceptable change with time.


  • Importance of reciprocity: It ensures that people will treat others how they want to be treated in return.
  • Importance of hierarchy: Society needs some form of organization, so it's necessary for there to be a governing body.

Constitutional Morality:-

  • Constitutional Morality means adherence to or being faithful to bottom line principles of the constitutional values. It includes commitment to inclusive and democratic political process in which both individual and collective interests are satisfied. 
  • Constitutional morality is the soul of the constitution which is to be found in the preamble of the constitution. It has been regarded as a paramount reverence for the constitution.
  • The major elements of the constitutional morality in the context of Indian constitution are – Rule of law, right to equality, rule of law, social justice, unity and integrity of nation, social justice, secularism, individual liberty and freedom of expression etc. 
  • Example:
  • The SC had relied on constitutional morality to allow entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple under a 4-1 majority verdict. 
  • In the Navtej Singh Johar vs Union of India the SC struck down the archaic provision of Section 377 and upheld constitutional morality.

Values, Human Values and Moral Values:-

  • Values are the general standard of behaviour and therefore they will have broader coverage than human values.
  • Human Values: These values are the essence of human being existence. They determine the core characteristics of the goodness of human behaviour
  • Moral Values are an individual standard of behaviour. 


  • Being Vegetarian is a Moral standard and not a human value whereas Being Responsible can be both a Moral standard as well as human value
        Values, Human Values and Moral Values

Ethics and Values:-





It refers to the guidelines for conduct that address questions about morality.

It is defined as the principles and ideals that helps them in making judgement of what is more important

They are-

System of Moral Principles

Stimuli - for thinking



Differs from Person to person

Convey -

About morally correct or incorrect for a particular situation

Provides direction in the determination of right versus wrong or good versus bad


Extent of rightness and wrongness of our options

Level of importance




Ethics, Morality and values:- 

Ethics, Morality and values

  • Ethics and morals are values, but values are not ethics. 


  • Bravery, is a value but not ethics. People who are not brave cannot be considered unethical. 
  • Similarly, Conservation is a value but not ethics in our society.  
  • Values provide direction in the determination of right versus wrong or good versus bad.


  • Punctuality is a value but also ethics in some countries like Japan. Hard work is a value but not ethics.

Types of values                             

Types of values




Relative and Absolute values

    • Relative values differ between people, and on a larger scale, between people of different cultures for ex- materialistic values are individual specific and society specific.
An absolute value can be described as philosophically absolute and independent of individual and cultural views, as well as independent of whether it is known or apprehended or not.

Absolute Values: Non-violence, equality, Non-discrimination etc. Relative Values: materialistic values

Protected values

The value which an individual is unwilling to trade off no matter what the benefits of doing so may be.
  • Privacy
  • Self- Respect

Sacred Values

Some values are considered sacred and are moral imperatives for those who believe in them. Sacred values will seldom be compromised because they are perceived as duties.
  • Nation’s flag represents a sacred value. But for citizens of other countries, the flag may just be a piece of cloth.

Personal & Community Values

  • The values prescribed by the individual alone, irrespective of his or her social relationships, are termed personal values.
  • The values which are regarded in the whole community are called community values.

The dignity of Labour, Sensitivity, Cleanliness, Politeness, Honesty, etc.

Caring & respecting elders

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Values

    • The intrinsic value is the value “in itself,” “for its own sake,” or “in its own right.”
Extrinsic value is the value of something based on such things as appearance or what it could be sold for, which may not be its real value.

Intrinsic Values: love, truth, and freedom

Extrinsic Values: Wealth, Fame

Constitutional Values

  • Justice, Liberty, Equality, Non-discrimination, secularism, tolerance, fraternity, compassion towards weaker sections etc

Importance of Values

  • Guides Human Behaviour - Values are the principles and fundamental convictions which act as general guide to behaviour. Values tend to influence attitudes and behaviour. 


  • Values: to Respect elder, shape our behaviour like we offer chair to them, listen their words etc.
  • Value – Patriotism, Ready to die for the cause of the country
  • Driving force in ethical decision-making - Values are universally recognized as a driving force in ethical decision-making. They are the basis of their intentional activities and influence the choices made by an individual.


  • Values: Universal Peace, India’s stand of using Nuclear war only in self defence, India’s neutral stand in Russia – Ukraine war
  • Internal reference for good living - Personal values provide an internal reference for what is good, beneficial, important, useful, beautiful, desirable and constructive. 


  • Integrity helps to balance professional and personal life
  • Caring & respecting elders
  • Differentiate what is right and wrong - All values are effective, cognitive and directional aspects, they guide us shape our priorities in deciding what is right and wrong.


  • Equality, Non-discrimination
  • Promotes Peace and stability - Human values are a tool to manage human relations and a tool for peace when the tension is high. Values permit us to live together in harmony, and personally contribute to peace.


  • Tolerance, Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam, Non-violence
  • Identification of the goals - Value education helps us to accurately identify our wants and goals, as well as how to go about achieving them.
  • Transcend specific actions and situations: Values go beyond specific actions and situations. Example:
  • Obedience and honesty are values that may be relevant at work or in school, in sports, business, and politics.

Values and Skills:- 

  • Values and Skills are complementary to one another. Goal-achieving abilities are facilitated by skills, while decision-making is influenced by values. Skills enable us to accomplish our goals while values help us identify them.

Comparison between Values and Skills 



  • Values help to achieve the goal.
  • Values develop the character of the person.
  • Values are enduring and keep going with time. Ex. To respect Elders, Love, and Affection.
  • Values are related to the heart, emotions, feelings etc.
  • It leads a good and satisfactory life.
  • Skills are required to perform.
  • Skills make the person achieve proficiency
  • Skills keep on changing with the passage of time. Ex. C and C+ programmer updated their skills to work on Java, Phyton, and Rubi. 
  • Skills are related to mind and hand.
  • It makes you earn a living.

Comparison between Values and Skills

Values Associated with Past generation and Present Generation

values associated

Nolan Committee: Seven principles in public life

In honour of its first Chairman, Lord Nolan, the Committee on Standards in Public Life was occasionally referred to as the Nolan Committee. The Committee has outlined the following seven principles of public life. 
Seven principles in public life

1. Accountability: It is the first chapter in the book of public service. Officials are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office. 


  • All party meetings like on Manipur Violence
  • Formation of JPC on an issue of public importance such as It was first formed on the Bofors Scandal
  • Governor of a state asking the CM to give details of the work
  • Enforcing President law in a state by the Central government
  • Teachers of the government school of Chhattisgarh are accountable for the performance of students in board exam

How to Uphold Accountability

  • Control and monitoring: Ex. Institutions of CAG, CVC, Judiciary, ED, NHRC, Head of Department
  • Checks and balances Ex. Annual Appraisal, Written explanation for any rules deem to be violated
  • Conduct rules: Ex. Citizen charter, RTI
  • e-governance Ex. Aadhar Card, Pan Card and Mobile number linkage, CCTVs
  • Judicial: Ex. Writ jurisdiction, Advisory notice
  • Legislative: Ex. Financial control, Parliamentary discussions and motions
  • Technological intervention: Ex. Centralised CCTVs, Data storage 
2. Selflessness: Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family or their friends. 


  • Fakir Chand from Haryana (a Waste Collector) contributed till now more than 90% of his total earning till now.
  • Sindutai Sapkal known for her selfless work in raising orphaned children in India.
  • Dasrath Manjhi from Gaya made a road by cutting a hill  with his own effort only.
3. Integrity: Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organizations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties. 


  • U. Sagyam (civil servant from Tamil Nadu) has been transferred around 20 times in the 20 years of his service. Heis the first IAS officer to make his assets public. 
  • Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln were exemplary leaders who were famous for their integrity. Both in times of crisis adhered with their values like Lincoln sticking to abolition of slavery and Gandhi towards non-Violence.
4. Objectivity: It refers to taking decisions on fair basis without any bias or external influence.


  • With objectivity of financial empowerment, D Subba Rao brought about reforms for financial inclusion, and financial literacy and organised village outreach programmes. 
  • Sam Manekshaw in his approach to the preparation of Indo – Pak war of 1971, and delivered India one of its swiftest and most remarkable military victories.

Use for civil servants: In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit

5. Openness: Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands. 


  • The answerability of civil servants to RTI applications provide openness to their decisions.
  • Vinod Rai, former CAG turned the office of CAG into a powerful force for openness and transparency by unearthing 2G scam. 
6. Honesty
  • It can be defined as “being trustworthy, loyal, fair and sincere”. An honest person is free of deceit, is truthful and sincere and does not tell a lie.
  • Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest. 


  • Second Covid wave hit street vendors hard but less than 1 in 5 defaulted on relief loans (Only 17.5%).
7. Leadership: A leader is someone who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example. 


  • IAS Jharkhand Cadre Ramesh Gholap started ‘Sarkar AapkeDwar’ Campaign to provide government services 
  • Telangana Doctor drove Covid victim’s body in Tractor to crematorium after driver stayed away in fear.
  • IPS Officer Harsh Poddar’s innovative policing strategies have won him widespread acclaim. His unique ‘Youth Parliament Championship’ created some two lakh young leaders against crime and terror in Maharashtra.

These seven principles are most comprehensive statements of what constitutes ethical standards for holders of public office and are of general applicability in every democracy. 

The Seven Social Sins, as quoted by Mahatma Gandhi in “Young India,” 1925 

Politics without principles 


  • War situation created by the world power in Syria and Ukraine, lack the principles of Right to life and compassion
  • Use of money power and muscle power in Elections
Wealth without work


  • 2G Scam, Sahara Scam
  • Wealth created through gambling, lottery 
Pleasure without conscience


  • Drug Addiction and Gambling
  • Online life-threatening game like Blue Whale challenge 
Knowledge without character


  • Activities of teachers caught in molestation with their students
  • Osama bin Laden an engineer, tool life of many people
  • Harshad Mehta fraud 
  • Satyam Scam

Commerce without morality 


  • Chit Funds
  • Trade of drugs
  • Adulteration of Urea in milk

Trade of arms by world Power in Yamen to continue the fight
Science without humanity 


  • Weaponization of Space
  • Research on Biological weapons of Mass destruction
  • Degradation of environment due to development 

Worship without sacrifice


Politician of Pseudo democratic system worship the temple of democracy but failed to adhere with the principles of the Democracy
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