Over the years, evolution of the human race has led to certain development that remains crucial for peaceful and harmonious coexistence. The fact that it is practically almost impossible for someone to survive on his own without the help of others further aggravated the need for a way and means of maintaining a peaceful co-existence. Thus, from the beginning, rules and regulations were put in place to govern the way people interacted and were related to each other (Pojman & Fieser, 2009). These rules spelt out what could be done, and what some people or even the whole population could not do. The rules dictated what was right and what was wrong. In this light, the phenomenon of ethics came into play to govern societal activities and undertakings. From this point of view, ethics has evidently been an integral part of nations and communities from time immemorial.
By definition, ethics is described as a branch of philosophy that deals with right and wrong conduct (Johnson, 2012). It involves the study of humans and the activities, in which they take part. From the analysis of these activities, certain acts are deemed progressive and are, therefore, encouraged. Those that are perceived as retrogressive and uncouth are rebuked, criticized and discouraged. Sometimes, the meaning of ethics has been narrowed down to mean morality. In this regard, it is defined as an acceptable code of conduct and behavior within a community or group of people (Pojman & Fieser, 2009). Nevertheless, the message brought about by the term â€œethicsâ€ is concise. It is a set of guidelines meant to ensure people to live in areas of suitable activities and utterances.
Ethics is a broad body of guidelines and is therefore divided into groups. It is separated into four areas: meta-ethics, descriptive (comparative) ethics, applied ethics and normative ethics. All these four categories have different meanings as it is discussed below (Mackinnon, 2012).
Meta-ethics is a branch of ethics that deals with the theoretical understanding of morality. It deals with the knowledge and perception of good and evil, right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable. Knowledge about the status of activity or utterance in ethics is divided into two paradigms: cognitivism and non-cognitivism. Cognitivism refers to generally held and accepted views of bad and good. It is associated with the facts that have already adjudged and assumed good or evil. In contrast, non-cognitivism refers to the person’s perception of activity or utterance as either good or bad. In short, it is subjective vision unlike the former one and may be said to be someone’s personal view rather than a communally accepted fact (Mackinnon, 2012).
Descriptive ethics has to do with the study of person’s beliefs and perceptions on morality. It entails the person’s observation and analysis of situation and his or her conclusion of situation as morally right or wrong. Often, descriptive ethics is determined a lot by the person’s environment and upbringing. In order to decipher an act as right or wrong, individual is directly or indirectly influenced by the surroundings. Such experiences are eventually inscribed in the person’s thoughts and beliefs and become part of their â€œcommon senseâ€, the subconscious decision-making part.
Applied ethics is a branch of ethics that attempts to put all the theoretical aspects of ethics into practice. As a result, there are many subdivisions of this branch of ethics. Professional ethics, business ethics, medical ethics and public service ethics are some of the examples in this category (Pojman & Fieser, 2009). In each of the subdivisions, ethics refers to a recommended and acceptable code of conduct in the business or workplace. Applied ethics dictates how moral outcomes can be achieved. For instance, in medical ethics, it is debatable if one should procure an abortion or not. In fact, it has been argued out that abortion is completely inhumane and unacceptable by some people. Nevertheless, the law allows doctors to procure an abortion if there any danger posed to the life of mother. In the same way, through scientific development, the cloning technology has been introduced. Whereas it is viewed by some people as a means of bringing near-perfect humans into existence, applied ethics has played a vital role in preventing the conduction of procedure on people. The general view is that such an experiment on humans would demean the human race. Thus, the experiment was localized to the use of animal and plant subjects.
In normative ethics, the behavior of person or community is used to determine a course of action. It entails the study of what is perceived as either right or wrong. The study of normative ethics gives a course way for one in order to decide whether an action is acceptable or non-acceptable (Mackinnon, 2012). Â Over time, it has been changed from being the basic perception of act as right or wrong and graduated to a broader and more encompassing role of moral status than just the good and evil parts. Under normative ethics, there is the theory of consequentialism. It is of the idea that the act or utterance is judged by the end-result or outcome of an event. Essentially, the act or utterance is presumed to be right or wrong if its consequences are good or bad respectively.
The topic of ethics is one with a rich history and opposing views of philosophers (Johnson, 2012). Politicians and other legislators have also been left in the debate. Many branches of ethics are the works of scholars and philosophers developed over the years to give rise to ethics, which is known and accepted today. Nevertheless, changes on the topic keep emerging with every new day making it one of the oldest and most dynamic topics in human history.