General Studies Paper 4 (Ethics): Great ambition is the passion of a great character

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Syllabus: General Studies Paper 4 (Ethics)


1. (a) “Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.” – Napoleon Bonaparte.

Stating examples mention the rulers

(i) who have harmed society and country,

(ii) who worked for the development of society and country.

1. (b) “If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.” – A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Analyse. (2017)


Great ambition has been a double edged sword since the time immemorial. There are many examples around the world where it changed the course of history and mankind in both negative and positive manner.

(i) Rulers who have harmed society and country.

When one’s goals are based solely in the “I’ll show them” category, the rise to greatness may be fast and glorious but the impending fall is blindingly disastrous. For example

  • Hitler’s great ambition led by greed, thirst for power and supremacy – to make Germany the most powerful nation resulted in World War-II, the deadliest conflict in the history of mankind. It eventually brought the horrors of holocaust and massive destruction not only for the Germany and Europe but for the whole world.
  • Ambition and betrayal of Mir Zafar welcomed British colonialism into India.
  • MUSSOLINI-The dictator of Italy was companion of Hitler n suppressed opposition to come to power.
  • ALLAUDIN KHILJI– He was religious bigot n tyrant ruler who killed his father n become king. He mercilessly killed his opponents n forcefully converted them to Muslims.

(ii) Rulers who worked for the development of society and country.

Masses have been led by efficient leaders since the oldest times known to men. Although times have changed, the contributions of these great leaders cannot be forgotten and although practices and ways of doing things have changed as well, the ways of these great leaders cannot be overlooked. What made them great might still be applicable in today’s day and age.

  • George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Julius Caesar, Fidel Castro etc. to name few.
  • Ashoka, the great Mauryan ruler, was responsible for one of the earliest welfare state – guided by the principle of Dhamma comprising compassion, charity, purity, self-control and truthfulness. Despite, the territorial vastness of the empire, the state was dedicated to harmony and well being of not only its subjects but even animals.
  • Mahatma Gandhi who was born as an ordinary boy with a determination to excel at what he did. His policy of ‘truth and non-violence’and protest through civil disobedience eventually succeeded when he led our country to freedom in 1947. His main characteristics were resilience, knowledge, people-skills, motivational approach and leading by example.

On the contrary, the above examples bring out the contradiction in actions when guided by differing principles one wherein, ambition based on weak principles resulted in harm to society and one where ambition based on ethical and moral principles led to development of society.


1.b  “If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.” – A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Analyse.

Corruption is considered to be originated from the minds of the people. Peoples’ thinking, ethical values, conduct and behaviour all makes a man either corrupt or be honest and uninfluenced. In nut and shell, the ill effect of mind leads one towards corruption. The basic and permanent solution to this involves inculcating more and more ethical and moral values since childhood. The role of parents and teachers in ensuring that the citizens of a country grow up as ethical, moral, law abiding citizens with a strong knowledge base cannot be overstated enough.

Socialisation is the process of the attitude building of an individual and this is a continuous process which takes place throughout life. However, in this process two major elements which play the most crucial part are parents and teacher.

Role of Parents

  • Parents are the initial and the first guide and teacher of any individual. It is said that a child may not listen to his/her parents but he will follow them in most of the cases. They build initial mindset of an individual. They teach him what is wrong and what is right.
  • Parents can also teach him values like greed are a bad habit and honesty is the best policy.
  • Parents, especially the mother, are called a child’s first teachers. A child’s first lesson on right and wrong comes from his/her parents – when he/she is taught not to steal, never lie and not to intentionally harm others. Lessons learnt at this age are reinforced over the lifetime of an individual and form their basic character.
    • Example- Gandhi through his close contact with his mother during childhood learnt and imbibed the moral values of truthfulness, non-violence through the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata. These values instilled in Gandhi’s thoughts, feelings and actions as a child, functioned as ideals and standards that governed his actions in the course of Indian freedom struggle.

Role of Teachers

Teachers have a very important responsibility of laying the foundation of an individual’s future. They are the most important nation builders as they are not only responsible for the intellectual nourishment of young minds but also for moulding the overall personality of children. At young impressionable ages.

  • A teacher is the second guide for a child where the child spends second highest time. A student tries to imitate the teacher and takes the talks of the teacher very seriously. A teacher can also instil the questioning power in a student which can develop his mind
  • Teaching them about discipline, being responsible for their actions; inculcating values like team spirit, sharing, fair play, cooperation – a teacher sets the stage for a responsible citizen of the country.
  • A moral teacher can become a moral guide for a student; he can develop moral values like done by Henry derozio in the 19th century in Bengal.

Therefore, the nurturing done by parents and teachers determines the course of a nation – whether it will be made of upright, moral and argumentative Indians or dull-minds ready to compromise on their ethics. Therefore, these lines of Dr Kalam will certainly remain true for any civilization and for any time if the world wants to build a better future. A poem by the 19th-century writer Charles Reade shows the importance of  training one’s mind from childhood itself. “Sow an act and you reap a habit; Sow a habit and you reap a character; Sow a character and you reap a destiny.”


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