Ethics refers to a set of standards, norms, principles that the society places over itself, against which the actions of an individual is judged from the view point of rightness or wrongness or goodness or badness. In simple words, Ethics is a set of standards that a society places on itself, which helps to guide the behavior, choices and actions of an individual through our Sources and Essence of Ethics.


Ethics is a moral philosophy or philosophical treatise which studies human behavior and tries to determine whether an act performed is morally right or wrong. In nutshell, Ethics is a set of moral principles by which people conduct themselves-personally, socially and professionally.  These set of principles i.e. Ethics are derived from various sources.

Various sources of ethics can be broadly summarized as below:

  • Religion: Religion is the most important source of ethics as religious teachings often prescribe what is right and wrong and society subscribes to such norms.
  • Customs and Traditions: Practices that are handed over from generation to generation become part of societal standards.
  • Family and society: Family is the fundamental unit of the society and they establish certain standards for a functioning society. A child is first educated about ethical norms in family. For instance, recently experts have urged families to inculcate respect for women among children as a way to reduce gender-based violence.
  • Human conscience: Conscience helps a man to differentiate between good and bad, and certain standards for society are acceptable for all conscientious men. For example, the social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy were persons whose values were inculcated not by the then social norms but by their inner goodness/ voice, i.e. their conscience.
  • Government laws, Rules and Regulations: Sometimes, certain standards are imposed on the society through laws, which over time are accepted by society and forms part of its ethical system.
  • Civil society: Ethics also arise from collective conscience of the public. Every society has certain shared values and opinion. Society mobilizes in the form of social and civic bodies to promote a particular set of goals and values. Such activity also affects ethics of individuals. For example, people from all communities came forward and raised their voice against mob lynching in India due to the culture of tolerance and pluralism.
  • Thinkers and Philosophers: They inspire people and help in societies discovering or assimilating new virtues.


  • The essence of Ethics is to understand those philosophies which guide us in determining what is right or wrong. Basically, Ethics is elaborated as the systematic study of human actions from the perspective of their rightfulness or wrongfulness, as means for the attainment of the definitive happiness.
  • Thus, the objective of an ethical system is to achieve “Summum Bonum” (The Highest Good – The Definitive Happiness).
  • The term Summum Bonum is a Latin expression introduced by the Roman philosopher Cicero, which means the ultimate good. Summum Bonum is the final end to be achieved; however different philosophers advocate and recommend different pathways to reach the ultimate good.

Therefore the essence of ethics is a subjective aspect which varies from one approach to another approach, one philosopher to another philosopher, one person to another person. However, the end objective will be similar from all the perspectives.