Ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime. As a field of intellectual inquiry, moral philosophy also is related to the fields of moral psychology, descriptive ethics, and value theory.

What is “Ethics”?

Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. The field of ethics, along with aesthetics, concerns matters of value, and thus comprises the branch of philosophy called axiology. 

Important Note

Ethics – a set of moral principles, especially ones relating to or affirming a specified group, field, or form of conduct.

The Different Dimensions/ Branches of Ethics that are Studied:

  • Meta
  • Normative or prescriptive
  • Descriptive
  • Applied

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Deals with the “after” or “beyond, and questions such as: “What is goodness?” and “How can we tell good from the bad?” It also questions the origin of ethical principles, whether they are human or divine in origin. 

Does it also deal with ethical questions like what are the meanings of ethical terms: right, wrong, love, compassion? It also questions whether moral judgments are universal or relative and if they are of one kind or many.

Also Read: What are Endogenic and Exogenic Forces? IAS Geography Notes

Normative or Prescriptive Ethics

It is concerned with the criteria of what is right or wrong. It includes the formulation of moral rules that have direct implications for what human actions, institutions and ways of life should be like. It deals with ethical questions like how should people act? What is the correct action?

Important for UPSC Ethics Paper

Different Branches:

  • Virtue
  • Consequentialism
  • Deontological

Descriptive Ethics

This ethic focuses on people’s belief about morality. Describes and compares between objectives of different ethical theories. It deals with ethical questions like what do people think is right? It is different from normative and applied ethics.

Applied Ethics

It is a philosophical examination from a moral standpoint of particular issues in private and public life that are matters of moral judgment. This uses the application of moral knowledge to practical problems and uses philosophical methods to identify the morally correct course of action in various fields of human life.

Important for UPSC Syllabus

Different Branches:

  • Bio
  • Business
  • Military
  • Political
  • Environmental
  • Publication


Hope you have got enough information requires for your UPSC preparations. For a better understanding of this topic, you can also look out for videos on ethics and integrity. There are plenty of ethics books available for UPSC, you can also refer to those.

So, how would you like to start preparing for this paper? Do let us know in the comment section below.

Also Read: Ethics Notes for UPSC IAS Exams

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Understanding the Different Dimensions and Branches of Ethics: Ethics for UPSC
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Understanding the Different Dimensions and Branches of Ethics: Ethics for UPSC
It's important to have a deep understanding of the different dimensions and branches of ethics to score well in the UPSC ethics paper. Read on to know everything about it.
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UPSC Pathshala
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About the Author

Payal Ghosh

Payal is an FRM and an XLRI Jamshedpur alumnus interested in things as diverse as Waste Management and photography. She has over 16 years of work experience and is passionate about writing, teaching and sustainable living. Helping students and seeing them succeed makes gives her motivation to push herself further.

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