Essay on the Relationship between Ethics and Psychology

Ethics is the science of good. It tells us what we ought to do. It places ideals before us and asks us to practice them in life. But it is not a practical science thus it does not tell us how to practice these ideals in life or about the means of obtaining good.

Thus the singular study of ethics is insufficient for a delineation of means psychology is needed. Ethical judgments depend upon volitions and these show the way amidst the conflicting desires. What are these desires? What is volition? How are these two related?

Psychology answers these questions. Ethics is the science of character. Character is revealed in conduct. What is character? What is conduct? What are reason, intention, desire, self? These questions which arise in ethics are answered by psychology.

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Need for a Psychological Basis:

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Thus, there is a need for a psychological basis in ethics. According to Aristotle, ethics is the study of characteristic qualities of human beings. According to Butler, the question of the characteristic qualities of human beings or of a life appropriate for him brings us to the question of his nature and structure.

Taking the question of ethical good, the hedonists and the rationalists inferred different conclusions. The reason for this disagreement was their disagreement on the subject of human nature. According to the hedonists, man is a feeling-dominated living being.

In the opinion of empiricist Hume, “Reason is and ought to be the slave of passions.” On the other hand Kant accepted man as a purely intellectual being. Thus, he tried to eliminate feelings and emotions from an ethical life. Is man purely intellectual or does he have both feelings and intelligence?

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It is left to psychology to answer this question. Here ethics should take assistance from psychology. A true ethics needs a real psychology.

A one-sided ethics will develop from a coincided psychology. This kind of one-sided psychology is found cot only in Plato and Aristotle, Stoics and the Epicureans but also in hedonists and intellectualists.

The aspirant, desiring to find truth in the mutually contradictory opinions of the various schools, will have to keep an eye on the most modern psychological conclusions. He will have to see the whole man, man who is intellectual as well as passionate and who has in him cognition, conation and affective aspect.