Ethics has always been concerned with the normative as well as prescriptive aspects of human conduct with the ultimate goal of regulating human action and harmonizing interpersonal relations within the purview of certain interrelated conception of what is good and evil.
Any theory of ethics, in order to be relevant to different modes of man’s action and to various human situations, must confirm to human motivation, desires, needs and aspiration
For Devatma Ethics is a science which discovers the laws of the soul , its conditions of health & ill-health just as medicine discovers the laws of the body , its conditions of health & ill health .
Ethics is ‘the science of the whole man, because ethics is man’s concern for what he ought to do in order to attain the most of what is best in his life.
In Devatma’s ethics, we must remember that Devatma was a reformer, a religious revolutionist and emergent evolutionist in a broad sense of the term – not an academic or a professional philosopher.
The core of Devatma’s ethics is the search for what constitutes the highest good of the human soul. According to many schools of Indian thought, Knowledge of one-self is perhaps one of the greatest achievements. But according to Devatma, the greatest good is to get soul-consciousness and soul-knowledge and free oneself from loves and hates that are harmful to oneself and to others.
Secondly, Devatma makes a distinction between good & pleasure. According to him-the law of pleasure is not the Law of good and pleasure is acceptable as long as it is subordinate to good. He upholds good is as much as it helps this process of evolution, & condemns pleasure in as much as it hinders this process.
Devatma’s ethics of pleasure is straightforward and empirical. He does not condemn pleasure; on the contrary, he appreciates all forms of beauty & art. He again and again emphasises that the pursuit of pleasure becomes evil when it claims an exclusive right in making our choices of conduct in relation to the social, animals, vegetable & mineral worlds. In fact, he attributes all forms of human weaknesses and evils to the pleasure principle. Even the best of moral and intellectual men, fail a prey to the pleasure principle. As long as man continues to be dominated by the influence of pleasure, there is no hope for his soul to rise above untruth and evil.
Good as that which aids growth & evolution, and evil as that which hinders evolution’, says Devatma. He defines good and evil are not humanistic but cosmic. These qualities can be extended to the animal, the plant, and the mineral world.He further holds that evolution is cosmic. Therefore the evolution of man is part of evolution of all other entities. Hence, wherever man participates in the cosmos, he ensures the growth of his soul.
The human soul is life-force, nutritive, reproductive, motor, sensitive and rational. Like any other living organism it is subject to birth, growth & disease.
Hence, ethics of Devatma is unique also because that is within the reach of all men, whether intellectual or not, philosophers or laymen. The heart of his ethics is the Human-soul & the aim of his philosophy is the advancement of the human soul. ‘Soul consciousness’ can be acquired only by one who believes his soul as the highest good & who tries to get freedom from low loves & low hates & cultivate higher loves & higher hates.
The ethics of Devatma is neither idealistic nor theistic. It can perhaps be classified as naturalistic. His ethics denies the existence of any world beyond any space & time. He does not recognize an absolute world beyond this life, a world beyond good & evil. The values that he recognizes pertain only to the relationships that exist in the phenomenal world. By relationship, he does not mean only the relationship between human beings, but he also extends it to the animal and the vegetable and the inanimate worlds. Good & bad are applicable even to our conduct towards ‘infra-human existents’. Our attitude towards the animal and the plant kingdoms, and the world of inanimate objects should be one of respect & understanding. The basis of all ethics is not ‘reverence for life’ only. He extends this ethics to the material worlds: “every relation of man to any other existent, human, animals, plant or mineral has ‘value dimension’.”
Devatma’s ethics is also naturalistic in the sense that it is not rationalist. “An action of moral worth for him is not expression of reason, but of higher feeling of Altruism.” For instance, he explains that the feeling of mercy is a result of sympathy for the pain of others and the urge to remove that pain. And as being naturalist, he rejects certain other forms of naturalism, like Hedonism. Pursuit of pleasure is different from the pursuit of good and if unchecked, it can totally devitalize both body and soul.
Empirical method – Devatma’s ethics is unique in this that while a total empiricist, he employs the empirical method to study the laws of the soul. Devatma is an empiricist both in method and spirit. While a man of religion, religious leader who challenged all religions, he never put his deliverance outside the possibility of error and insisted that whatever in his philosophy will not satisfy the scientific criteria of truth must be rejected. He writes, If any of the teachings of the Devatma also fails to satisfy any one of these four criteria, it too does not deserve to be accepted as true.”
There is difference in Devatma’s ethics and modern empiricists in ethics. For Devatma to study of the soul is religion & morality. But modern empiricists in ethics are not sensitive to the relation of soul and values, and are found mainly concerned to systematize the values discovered by certain altruistic feelings. There is all the difference between a codified common-sense and a science about the subject.