Ethics is called “moral philosophy.” Ethics may be defined as the systematic study of human actions from the point of viewof their rightfulness or wrongfulness, as means for the attainment of the ultimate happiness. In simple words ethics refers to what is good and the way to get it, and what is bad and how to avoid it. It refers to what ought to be done to achieve what is good and what ought not to be done to avoid what is evil.

History of ethics in brief

Ethics is as old as humanity. In as much as it is the study of human behaviour, we cannot really trace the history of ethics. However, as a systematic study of human behaviour, we can point out how ethics evolved as a discipline. In the Western Philosophy, the history of ethics can be traced back to the fifth century B.C with the appearance of Socrates. The medieval period was dominated by the thoughts of Christian philosophers andtheologians like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. The contemporary ethical scenario is a further complex area of study. The contemporary European ethics in the broadest sense attempts to cover a generous range of philosophies running from phenomenology to theories of communicative action.

Methods used in ethics

Ethics, as a philosophical discipline makes use of the methods used in philosophy. Thus in ethics, both the inductive method and deductive methods are used. Deduction is a process of gaining knowledge independently of experience through pure logical reasoning. Induction is aprocess of arriving at knowledge through experience. Induction begins with the particular and moves to the universal.

Approach to studying ethics

  • Non-normative approach- The non-normative approaches examine morality without concern for makingjudgements as towhatis morally right or wrong. They do not take any moral position regarding moral issues.

  • Normative approach- The normative approaches instead make judgements as to what is morally right or wrong. They take a clear moral position regarding moral issues.

So what exactly Ethics is?

Ethics is the study of human behaviour. It studies human actions and judges them to be right or wrong. As a philosophical discipline, ethics is the study of the values and guidelines by which we live. In ethics we deal only with human actions, those actions done by a human person consciously, deliberately and in view of an end.