In this way ethics literally means the science of convention or practice. Ethics is the science of human conduct. Habits and behavior are related to the permanent peculiarities of human character.
Conduct is the mirror of character. Thus ethics is the science of character or habit It evaluates human habits, character and voluntary determinations and discusses their propriety or otherwise.
Ethics considers the duties of human beings. It is an ethical science and it pronounces ethical decisions upon conduct there is a motive in conduct.
In it there is voluntary determination. It manifests character. Character is manifested in determination. Determination is the activated form of character.
Therefore it studies what is right and what is wrong in character. But the propriety of habits and determination can be determined by measuring them with the ideals of life. These goods too have classes. Supreme good determines the propriety of the immediate good.
For example, every student must take the examination, it being his immediate good because he has labored for it throughout the year.
But in some conditions it may be improper to do so. To take an example, he may have to desist from taking the examination in order to nurse his mother.
Here the propriety of the immediate good of sitting for the examination is determined by the supreme good of postulating the superiority of duty to oneself. Thus ethics is above all, the science of the supreme good.
It studies the ideals of human life. It shows what ought to be done and what ought not to be done.
In the words of James Seth,
“As the science of the Good, it is the science par excellence of the ideal and ought”
Ethics is the Science of Character:
Ethics is the science of character. But it is different from the natural and Factual sciences. It is a normative science.
In Moorhead’s words,
“It is related not merely to temporal behavior but to behavior in the form of the basis of legal decision.”
Its function is to give decisions on behavior, whether the behavior is right or wrong.
According to Mackenzie, ethics can be defined as “the study of what is right or good in conduct.” In this definition ethics has been accepted as the study of both right and good.
But there is difference between right and good. ‘Rectus’ the Latin word from which right has been derived, means straight or according to law.
Thus good behavior will correspond to law. Good comes from the German ‘gut’, meaning that which is useful for the supreme good.
In this instance, good is that which leads to supreme good. Mostly, good is taken to mean an end, not a means to an end.
4. The Intuitionists View:
In this definition, Mackenzie has reached a compromise between two conflicting doctrines. The first doctrine is of the intuitionists according to which ethics is the science of right is the basic concept there is obligation in ethical laws. They ought to be obeyed under every circumstance.
It is a duty to act in accordance with ethical laws and wrong is to act against them. Obeying moral laws is ethical. Lawful activity is right and unlawful activity is wrong. Ethical law is the determinant of good or bad in human actions.
According to this school, ethics is the science of right it searches for ethical laws. These ethical laws are in relaxed ideals and man is bound to follow them. Thus this theory becomes duty predominating ethics.
5. Formalist’s View:
According to the formalists, ethical laws are ends in themselves. They are not die means to some other ideal.
For duty Kant presented the theory of duty, and accepted goodwill as the only good. Kant says,
“There is nothing in the world, or even out of it that can be called good without qualification, except a good win.”
In Kant’s view, good will is itself good. Its goodness is not dependent upon its result Good will is will according to moral law.
Formalists believe that the ethical laws stand self- proved. The conscience is innate and it acquires the knowledge of good and bad easily. Ethical laws are universal. They are simple and of a categorical nature.
6. Teleologist View:
Contradicting the intuitionists and formalists, the Teleologists believe that good is the supreme element. With them ethics is the science of good, not right their point of view is teleological. Duty is for ethical emancipation, not for duty’s sake.
Laws are not for the sake of laws, but for the attainment of good. To abide by laws is a duty because it achieves ethical good. Any act is right or wrong in relation to this standard of good. Teleological ethics searches for the supreme good of human beings.
That supreme good is the highest end. Any act leading to it is good while any act hindering progress is evil. Ethics strives for this supreme human good or the highest ideal of human life. Right and laws are merely the means to such an end.
Thus the definitions of ethic good and other ethical concepts used by the teleologists differ from the formalists. The teleologist morality searches for the ideals as well as the highest form of itself at the same time that it searches for the duties of mankind.
It discusses those qualities which elevate the character and which help in the attainment of the supreme aim. Bentham, Mill, Henery Sidgwick, etc., believe in the teleological point of view and postulated that the right and wrong of any action depends upon the result.
7. Synthesis of the Above Two Opinions:
In his definition of ethics, Mackenzie synthesizes the above mentioned view points. Ethics studies right and good in human behavior, meaning whereby, that it directs that our conduct should be aimed at our ideal.
It is related to those laws or general principles in accordance with which we should work for the attainment of this goal.
But a study of the aim must precede our acquisition of knowledge relating to the goodness of such conduct.
Of course, the ethical aims in the different stages of human life and those in the different lives of different people may not be similar but because ethics does not study any particular aspect of conduct but conduct as a whole, its aim is the knowledge of the supreme goal which is the goal of each one of us.
This is called the ideal good. All the aims and activities of human life are directed to the ideal good. The subject of study of ethics is to find out what this ideal good is.
Without knowing it, it is not possible to decide about good or evil, duty or non-duty.
In’ this way, Mackenzie’s saying that,
“Ethics is the science or general study of the ideal involved in human life is quite realistic.”