Ethics also has to keep in view the effect of the question of the freedom of the will upon moral judgment. Analyzing the difference between man and animals, ethics makes only voluntary actions the object of its judgments.
2. Social Aspect:
The ethical assumptions are influenced in large measure by social customs and traditions. Sociological studies yield knowledge to this effect and consequently, their effect upon ethics can be studied.
3. Theories of Ethical Standard:
The major problem of ethics is to describe the ultimate good or the nature of the supreme ideal of human life by which any behavior is measured and declared good or bad, right or wrong. In this way, there are many theories about such a criterion and even after adequate criticism their importance is partial because none of them is completely true or false.
4. Practical Ethics:
In practical life the direction from ethics depends upon the nature of that ultimate good which is followed or expounded by some ethical doctrine. Obviously, the practical ethics of a hedonist will contradict the ethical laws of the rationalist
Psychological Problems in Ethics:
All the above subjects are the problems of ethics, which at the same time mark its scope. As a normative science, ethics describes ethical ideals.
It has nothing to do with either the origin or die development of human behavior. It studies that ultimate good according to which we are to progress.
But the search for the ultimate good makes a description of behavior, character, will, desire etc., indispensable because without knowledge of them it becomes difficult to understand the ultimate good. Ethical ideal is expressed his behavior.
Behavior is the mirror of character. Character is known from habits and habits are practice generated volitions.
There is motive and intention behind volition. Action may either be voluntary or forced. In this way the study of all these psychological facts comes within the scope of ethics.
Problem of Moral Judgment:
But the basis of ethics is ethical judgments. These are the judgments which necessitate the above-mentioned psychological study.
Thus it is also a problem of ethics to know the nature of these judgments, their subjects and their criterion.
A moral judgment decides the goodness or badness of an action. Good is that which corresponds to or concurs with the criterion while bad contradicts it. Good is right and a duty while bad is wrong and not to be done Good is the means to the ultimate good.
The chain of means and ends leads finally to the ultimate good. The major subject of the study of ethics is the study of this ultimate good and bad, right and wrong, duty and non-duty as its basic concepts. Another problem of ethics is the search for the real nature of these basic concepts.
To the ethical judgments are attached the ethical sentiments of agreement and disagreement. Along with ethical decisions, the feeling of duty, moral justification or moral obligation is also attached. Another object of the study of ethics is the finding of die nature, origin, source and basis of this moral obligation.
Freedom and Responsibility:
Ethical decisions are directed only towards voluntary activities of man. Ethics describes the nature of man’s freedom. Freedom is conjoined with responsibility.
It is only due to responsibility that reward for good actions and punishment for bad actions can be given. Ethics describes responsibility and presents a basis for punishment
Ethical activities are accompanied by a feeling of vice and virtue. Ethics details the criterion for this vice and virtue. Its scope includes the descriptions of good qualities and bad qualities.
Due to the relation of good and bad to every human activity, the field of ethics includes the conclusions of other sciences and arts.
Ethics gives moral judgments on these too. In this way, many psychological, political, economic, sociological, religious and philosophical problems come to be included in the field of ethics.
Psychological problems like the real form of human personality, voluntary nature of volition, immortality of the soul, the existence of God, and unity and the moral order in the universe, etc., are included in ethics.
The sociological problem relating the relation between the individual and the society is also an ethical problem.
In this way, in brief, it may be said that wherever there is human behavior and human volitions, there is scope for ethics in John Dewey’s words:
“The foremost conclusion is that morals have to do with all activity into which alternative possibility enter. For wherever they enter, a difference between better and worse arises.”