The term “morality” can be used either descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or, some other group, such as a religion, or accepted by an individual for her own behavior or normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.
Morality in Public life
Morality is an attempt to discover the nature of the good life and then to live by it. The task of morality is to seek those principles which enable men to live at their best in their personal lives and community relationships. The moral thinker tries to reflect and understand the ways of living and the principles which enable men to live life best in their personal and inter-related lives with others.
Principles of Morality
We are living in a period of rapid social change. If men are to live whole some lives and to grow, they need to cultivate certain fundamental principles and attitudes. In order to have an orderly and disciplined social life, we must come across mutually acceptable principles, agreements, and understanding of each other’s’ interests and needs.
Public life is usually regulated by customs, rites and rituals and conventions: legal and political rules, religious convictions. Ethics is primarily concerned with understanding the basic principles of living a good life and judging actions as good or bad. It weighs the factors involved in judging actions good or bad by applying the basic principles. These principles are the guides to actions and make public life worth living.
Individual and Morality
To a great extent individual way of acting, feeling and thinking are controlled by the group. What is customary becomes the habit of the individual. Morality makes us what we are as an individual and as a society. In order to have a prosperous life and society we must do what is morally good in any instance. If moral rules are not followed, then the society would be converted into anarchy because of lack of rules and regulations.
Public morality refers to moral and ethical standards enforced in a society, by law or police work or social pressure, and applied to public life, to the content of the media, and to conduct in public places. It also refers to generalized conception of human relations and their actions. Public good presupposes having the minimum acceptable moral standards which ensure a tolerable quality of moral life. Moral principles are the guides to actions and make public life worth living. Human ends are achieved practically and we get direction from guiding principles.
Thinkers on Morality
Hume and Aristotle emphasized on the social good and claimed that morality must be grounded in human nature. It must be based on the potentialities and capabilities of the agent and an understanding of the social organizations of which they are members. Human nature has great potentials and capabilities for being good and evil.
Morality is not merely a formal study of principles nut how far can they be applied in promoting public and personal life. Ethics is the search for universal principles for evaluating human actions good or bad and principles of morality define code of conduct and gave the humans ability to distinguish their way of living.
The utilitarian school stresses the importance of social welfare or public good rather than individual welfare and defined the highest good in terms of the pleasures of the greatest number of peoples.
The term utility means by Bentham “the property of any object where by it tends to produce benefits advantage pleasure, good or happiness.” Bentham believed that individual or private good simultaneously increases general and public good.
Mill is of view that there is a powerful natural sentiment, the social feeling of mankind, the desire to be in unity with our fellow-creatures in human nature. Man conceives himself as a member of an institution. For him the social state is at once natural and necessary as an inseparable part and destiny of human being. The individual learns by living in society; that his interests are promoted by cooperation with others.
Public Private Morality
We are all driven by our conscience to do what is morally right for public life. Without morals there would be no society. Aristotle says, “good of society’s greater than good of individual.” Morals make it possible forms of live in a society as a community with laws and regulations.
Private and public morality cannot be easily distinguished as the morals of an individual have a significant impact on society as a whole. Ethics is the search for universal objective principles for evaluating human conduct. Public life could be regulated by implementing moral rules.