January 27, 2013

Ethics: Absolute or Relative?

I love collaborations, more so if it's in writing! This Monday I asked some of my friends (after being asked by one of my friends) the following question:

"Are ethics absolute or relative/circumstantial?"

Here is what they replied back (in the order of their reception):

Abhishek Garg (via SMS)
I thnk ethics are absolute in themselves bt as far as pple are concerned, they are circumstancial.

Namrata R (via email)
ETHICS, to put plainly, is the differentiation between right and wrong. When the question of conduct comes, it is not absolute. But when character comes into picture, its absolute.

So, according to me, ethics can be both absolute and relative.
To elaborate on my point, a vegan may find eating meat as unethical. Whereas, for an inuit, it is their only mode of survival. But that does not mean, murder/rape or such crime can be allowed the benefit of relativity. Morals cannot be relative!

Varsha Dholpuria (via email)
i dnt have second thots abt drinking bt since i hav always been told its a bad habbit ..  i dnt du it .. its not in our culture ..i get to hear it !!

i had  someone_(then)_special in my life ;) .. i wud have simply wanted to introduce it out to my family irrespective of the fact of the longetivity of d  relationship or whtsoevr ..bt  i cudnt .. jus in case i have one in future i wont be :D coz thts nt hw things works moraly ...AOUCH !!

My manager sometyms.. many a  tyms does not appreciate or take into consideration efforts i put in  .. Still i dnt agrue .. Coz after all he is d boss and d boss has rights to be bosssy all d tym !!!


whn i hear a great news .. whn i party around .. whn its my parents annivery .. we champagne it out .. sometyms grab a beer .. vodka shot were never tht exciting  unless my friend jus j turned his dream dream fancy relation to actual one .. i Drink :) .. i shout aloud n say cheers ..lyk  as if m learning to pronounce it hard  ;) !!

Whn i used to go out on  weekends .. whn d phone rang .. d special tone was heard ... d name on the cell phone read .. ever1 giggles .. i blushed ..
We all know it .. mum knws .. dad knws .. sibling literally tease you ................stiillllllll ....... HYPO~~~CRACY ... HYPO ~~~CRAZY  !!!

Appraisal days gone .. We are back in buisness ..... We shoot mails disrespecting each other .. I highlight my work to others And abuse him  :D .. We argue many a tyms :) !!

 Somewhere its all situational .. Different people different perception different reaction ..... !!

Had it been Absolute .. there would have been No term as SELF DEFENCE to KILLING :) !!!!!!

World seems  more deadly whn it has to be that strict ... atleast in my case .. !!

For me ..Say it Easier  or call it Happier .....way to lead a life .. " JUST  LIVE IN D SITUATION " !!

Keep Dsmile awn !1

PK (via email)

Definitions (from http://oxforddictionaries.com)


            [usually treated as plural] moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the  conducting of an activity

            concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviour

So basically ethics are the principles that tell a person what is right or wrong

Now, of all the (very few) things that I have understood in life, one of them is that almost nothing has a definite white or black. Things most often lie in the grey area. And thus, I believe the same is the case with ethics. The answer to the question will obviously depend on the person answering the question. I think ethics are relative/circumstatial. That means  what is right/wrong at some point of time, depends on the environment, the people, the circumstances and so on, at that point. On the contrary "absolute ethics" would mean: If something is wrong/right than it is wrong/right, no matter what, which seems kind of absurd to me (that might be because I cannot imagine myself function that way).

Here are some examples I could think of in support of my opinion:

1. Lying is wrong (at least that is what all my elders said when I was a kid), but you gotta admit, it does feel the right thing to do sometimes. Also, everybody lies.

2. Stealing is immoral, but what about someone stealing food for his starving family. Or stealing from someone very rich to provide to someone very poor. (Who else likes Robin Hood?)

3. Taking a life is definitely unethical! Oh wait, but we wanted the terrorist executed so that's not it either.

I have always adhered to the notion that ethics are relative, I just didn't knew that (until a few days ago). And why would I not stick to this idea, it has always given me the excuse to lie to a liar and cheat a cheater without eating away at my conscience. 

That Way
From JustinBaedar. Taken under CC license.

Katy Pandey (via email)
Einstein's theory of relativity holds good here as well. To me, ethics are relative in nature. What my grandpa considers unethical may not be unethical to me. Ethics vary according to geography, era and race. They are a byproduct of human psyche. Influence of external environment,education & life experiences  shape our value system and construct our ethical code of conduct. They change with time, but only for the betterment of self. I feel nothing is absolute, not even the world that we see around us. Ethics should not be imposed on oneself rather they should be experienced and weighed on our own intellect. 

Anshul Vir (via WhatsApp)
Ethics are all about your personal sense of right & wrong. This sense is gathered through experiences mostly. Now, one can live by these ethics until you come upon new experiences that make you question or prove one of these beliefs wrong. Then you might try to readjust yourself to this new experience or not but it will keep a lurking sense of discomfort based on knowing otherwise. You ponder it in your head as your entire functioning depends on it. Have i been living wrong or restricting myself? Would adopting this ideology have made me enjoy life a little more & efficiently? Then by extension, you question your other beliefs, "What if all the other things i know only half baked ideas that I've based my life on?" Shit. But hey, that's what life is about. Learning & evolving gradually. So, that's ok. Hence one must be aware at all times to learn as much to get a good idea of how & what they base their ideas on. So with such ever changing existence, one can't truly say anything is absolute, let alone ethics.

Ethics for me are personal moral rules that we create in order to give meaning to our lives. And as every person is different they will have different sets of rules, which sometimes may be contradicting to others' ethics. So, from that point of view ethics can't be absolute; there can't be one silver bullet for all. 

But if you consider a single person and his ethics, they have to be absolute and not depend on other person or situation. Hence, they can't be circumstantial either! Confusing, right?!

Let me give you an example: I for instance have taken a pledge to be a non-smoker and non-drinker for life. Because my ethics say that they are not good for me and my near & dear ones. But many of my friends smoke and drink. I do not support it, but I don't oppose it either. Because according to their ethics it's totally fine if done in control. So, you can make a law on smoking and drinking (by setting an age limit for example), but you can't tell people that non-drinking and non-smoking is the absolute right way to live. It's up to them to decide.

Similarly, if I have decided that I won't smoke and drink, I just have to stand by and defend it no matter what. Even if that means I am laughed on 'still being a kid' or not considered 'coo!' by friends. I can't drink or smoke just this one time and be alright about it. Those are not ethics. Those would be conveniences.

Deciding your ethics and staying by them in all situations may be difficult in some circumstances but they do make your life easier in the long run.

PS: All the above views are completely unedited and uninfluenced. If you have your own views on the above question, please do leave a comment below to let us know what you feel. Thank you all who participated!