Definition and Meaning of Ethics

The word `Ethics’ is derived from the Greek word `ethos’ which means customs, usages or habits. Ethics is also called as Moral Philosophy. The word `moral’ is derived from the Latin word `mores’ which also means customs, usages or habits. Thus literally, Ethics is the science of customs or collective habits of men. Any custom has a reference to the community. Customs are the ways of acting, approved by the group.

The root word ‘ETHOS’ indicates that this branch of philosophy was originated in Greece and the credit goes to Aristotle. Various definitions are given to explain the subject matter and scope of moral philosophy. Let us have a look at these definitions-

Paulsen defines Ethics as a science of customs or morals.

According to Mackenzie, Ethics is the study of what is good or right in conduct.

For Seth, as the science of the Good, Ethics is the science par excellence of the ideal and the ‘ought’.

For Jadunath Sinha, Ethics is the science of the Highest Good.

Lillie’s definition is a comprehensive definition. According to William Lillie, “Ethics is a normative science of the conduct of human beings living in societies – science which judges this conduct to be right or wrong, good and bad.”

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