Ethics – Snippets

Ethics – Snippets 

Snippets to think – Ethics

This is a section where we post Ethics – Snippets which takes us to think about a few questions/topics essential from UPSC’s point of view. Wherever possible, we are also giving links for further references. These articles are well researched and taken from the internet and various books.

Snippets to think #16 (Ethics Snippets)

This articles deals with Organisational Values in Civil Services. Organisational Values embodies what an organization stands for, and in essence should be the basis for the behavior of its members…


Do you think one of the major dilemma of civil service malperformance and need for reform in India is lack of alignment between individual values and organisational values?

Snippets to think #15 (Ethics Snippets) 

This snippet is on Ethics in indian politics. To read more, you can click on the above link.

“Politics is the last refuge of scoundrels” attributed or more correctly misattributed to George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and earlier to Samuel Johnson…

Snippets to think #14 (Ethics Snippets)

Machiavelli held that the rules of everyday morality should not be applied to the acts of public officials when they are carrying out their professional roles and responsibilities to further the common good. The “dirty hand” dilemma”is a graphic phrase for this problem. As Machiavelli said, “when act accuses, the result excuses.”

Is it right for the civil servants to do evil and wrong things to produce political and administrative good that ultimately furthers common good or the public interest?

Snippets to Think #13 (Ethics Snippets)

If we see a friend of ours stealing an innocent stranger’s wallet, we don’t get violently angry, but we don’t walk away either. We choose the mean between the two. We give our friend a severe talking  and insist that he return the money. However, if we see a man repeatedly hitting a small child, then we get very angry indeed and wade in there and stop him. lt depends – on the situation, the people involved, our relationship to them, and the nature of their behavior.

By being partial is it that you violated one of the foundational principle of ethics i.e., impartiality?

Snippets to Think #12 (Ethics Snippets)

As per ethical absolutism, ethical standard is not dependent on the context or circumstances in which the actions arise but is true in all cultures and is applicable to everyone. Ethical absolutism arises from religious doctrines that dictate right and wrong human behavior, such as the Judaeo-Christian biblical commands. Religions often have objective ethical positions that are believed to be commands from God and are therefore divine, absolute and unchangeable over time and place. Many secular philosophies also hold that absolute ethical laws are inherent in nature, human beings and the universe.

However, on the other hand, Humanists believe that science, reason, and historical experience are sufficient guides for figuring out what is right or wrong in any situation. These standards will not always be the same, as each person has a different background and reasoning. Therefore, the standards and values – ethics – are relative.

Which of the above moral compass you would choose for yourself?

Snippets to Think #11(Ethics Snippets)

There are innumerable ethical issues, such as capital punishment, abortion, and guy rights, that divide people in our society today. Wouldn’t we all be happier if everyone were free to believe according to his or her own conscience? The ethical relativist seems to say that everyone should apply and be judged by his or her own standards, and therefore the ethical relativist seems to be open minded, nonjudgmental, virtuous, and correct.

This is appealing and at times very convincing. How do you conceptualise your ethical standards? Do you agree with the viewpoint mentioned above?

Snippets to Think #10 (Ethics Snippets)

International Ethics:

When governments and other authorities treat people harshly, as is now happening to asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island, someone will normally ask whether what they are doing is right.  This is an ethical question that has been bothering the international community for long. The most controversial position on this has been that of Australia which many will consider as  unethical and xenophobia. As Australian Prime Minister  John Howard, 2001 said -“We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” It is argued that empathy should figure in ethical reasoning; that it is irresponsible to adopt an ethical framework without attention to practical feasibility; and that in a liberal democracy, moral obligations are complicated by a value of self-determination.

Think, contemplate and develop your views…if you are made the Australian Prime Minister then what would you do?

Snippets to Think #9 (Ethics Snippets)

Ethics in Politics

Many will say that government policy making has nothing to do with ethical reflection. What a duly elected government does with majority support is by definition right. The strong do what they wish, and the weak suffer what they must.

This position should be respected for its honesty even though it will corrupt a society. May be democracy to thrive has to accept this position. Are okay with this view point?

Snippets to Think #8 (Ethics Snippets)

Ethics always says, “Not I, but thou.” Its motto is, “Not self, but non-self.” The vain ideas of individualism to which man clings when he is trying to find that Infinite Power, or that Infinite Pleasure through the senses, have to be given up, say the laws of ethics. You have to put yourself last, and others before you. The senses say, “Myself first.” Ethics says, “I must hold myself last.”

Thus, all codes of ethics are based upon this renunciation; destruction, not construction, of the individual on the material plane. That Infinite will never find expression upon the material plane, nor is it possible or thinkable.

However, Altruism, ultimately, denies an individual value and is therefore destructive both to society and its individual components, viewing life merely as a thing to be sacrificed. Novelist Ayn Rand is quoted as writing that, “If a man accepts the ethics of altruism, his first concern is not how to live his life but how to sacrifice it.

Moreover, “The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification for his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue or value.” Rather, she writes, “the purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.

Which of this view is worthy of ethics?

Snippets to think #7 (Ethics Snippets)

Ethics in Public Sector

Unquestionably, everyone should be concerned with ethics, and ethics is not an entirely different subject depending upon one’s employment status.There are many different professions with their special ethical environments. The environments may vary even among those in the same profession, depending upon factors such as a job’s specific duties, the culture of the organisation, and the significant conditions that pertain at a specific time. Nevertheless, factors are at work in Public Administration in general that are different from those in the charitable organisation.

Why is ethics in the Public Sector different from ethics in the Private Sector?

Snippets to Think #6 (Ethics Snippets)

Codes of Conduct

Codes of conduct are  coercive, quick-fix strategy that reduces ethics to legalism by focusing on both the lowest common denominator and penalties for deviations. This strategy does little to promote a philosophy of excellence or to engender a sense of personal responsibility, and it does not work.

In contrast, codes of ethics demand more than simple compliance; they mandate the exercise of judgment and acceptance of responsibility for decisions rendered-the real work of ethics. Codes of ethics acknowledge the ambiguities and complexities of public service, and offer interpretative frameworks to clarify decision-making dilemmas.

Do you agree with the above argument? Is it alright if policy makers ignore code of conduct and promote code of ethics?

Snippets to Think #5 (Ethics Snippets)

Ethics and Human Interface

One interesting idea from Aquinas is that happiness may involve a greater awareness of suffering. In what sense might this be true?

Is there a danger that the idea of ‘ultimate’ or perfect’ happiness might lead to us undervaluing more ordinary, everyday happiness? What might be the problems with this?

Snippets to Think #4 (Ethics Snippets)

Animal Ethics

Most people around the world eat meat. We are just one of the many animals that eat other animals. But we can live quite healthily without meat and it is cheaper to grow crops than farm animals.

Is it right to kill an animal just for food? If we believe that it is wrong to make animals suffer, perhaps we should all become vegetarians. Or is eating meat a natural part of the food chain?

Snippets to Think #3 (Ethics Snippets)

Principle of Beneficence

The principle of beneficence implies that assisting others in securing their most important (needs) and removing harms is good. It is also nice to help secure their less important interests(wants), but generally speaking, we are not morally required to help others secure mere wants.

(a) Do you believe in the principle of beneficence?
(b) Illustrate from your own experience the above idea.


Snippets to Think #2 (Ethics Snippets)

Conflict in values

Six reasons for clash of civilizations(according to Huntington) :

(a) The basic reasons are history, language, culture, tradition, and religion. Relations formed on the basis of the above elements cause severe differences, which give rise to conflicts.

(b) As people are interacting with one another across the globe, they are becoming aware of the differences in geography, color, and race. These disparities are giving rise to conflicts.

(c) Because of economic development, the identities defined by the nation-states have weakened, and the religions (read fundamentalists) have tried to revive their identities through a process of unsecularisation, thereby causing conflicts.

(d) After having successfully exported its culture to the elite of the other countries, the West is going to face antagonism  from the Russians, Hindus, the Asians. Islamic nations, etc. Hence, conflicts will arise.

(e) In a world of melting political boundaries, choosing ethnic sides and proving what you are becomes the foremost. You may hold dual citizenship but cannot follow two religious faiths. Thus, conflicts will occur.

(f) Trade blocs are being formed around the globe and there is a rise in economic regionalism. The common cultures in places like North America, Europe, Arab and Central Asian regions, and South East Asia enhance it. Conflicts, both on the macro and micro level are inevitable.

Do you think the same?

Snippets to Think #1 (Ethics Snippets)

Triple Filter Tests

Socrates met an acquaintance who said, ‘do you know what I just heard about your friend?’ ‘Hold a minute, ‘Socrates replied. ‘Before telling me anything, I would like you to pass a little test. It is called the ‘Triple Filter Test’. ‘Triple filter?’ ‘That’s right,’ Socrates continued. ‘Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you are going to say. That’s why I call it triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell  me true? ‘No,’ the man said, ‘actually, I just heard about it and…’ ‘All right,’ said Socrates. ‘So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?’

‘No, on the contrary …’ ‘So, ‘Socrates continued, ‘you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test through, because there’s one filter left-the filter of usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?’ ‘No, it is not’. ‘Well,’concluded Socrates, ‘if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why do you want to tell it to me at all?’

Why it is important to raise several questions before finding a solution?

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