Ethics Versus Morals Analysis Philosophy

Definition:Morality and ethics are terms often used as if they have the same meaning. At other times, they are used as if they have no relationship to one another. I think most people realize ethics and morality have something to do with the concepts of good and bad. The word “morality” has been co-opted by groups, such as the Moral Majority, making us think morality only deals with acts these religious groups think aren’t proper, or are therefore immoral. If you ask people to define “immoral,” generally they will give an answer that has to do with sex.The meanings of the terms “ethics” and “morality” can be differentiated based on their origins in ancient Greek and Latin, respectively. We know that the foundations of Western philosophy came from the ancient Greeks. Thus, if one were to use a single term to describe the Greeks, it would be “philosophers.”Ethics -defined as, “inquiry into the nature and grounds of morality where the term morality is taken to moral judgements, standards and rules of conduct.The American Heritage Dictionary offers the definition of ethics:“The study of the general nature of morals and of specific moral choices; moral philosophy; and the rules or standards governing the conduct of the members of a profession.”Morals -refers in particular to the principles or rules that people use to decide what is right or wrong.“Ethics is the philosophical study of morality. The word is also commonly used interchangeably with ‘morality’ to mean the subject matter of this study; and sometimes it is used more narrowly to mean the moral principles of a particular tradition, group, or individual.Christian ethics and Albert Schweitzer’s ethics are examples.”— John Deigh in Robert Audi (ed), The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 1995Often the word “moral” purports to describe something as if there were a fact of the matter. As if “murder is wrong” were the same sort of claim as “snow is white”.In this sort of usage, the ethical needn’t be the factual. It might be unethical (that is, a breach of a particular code) for doctors to sleep with their patients; but it’s possible that there are circumstances where no one would call it immoral.The word itself is sometimes used to refer to the set of rules, principles, or ways of thinking that guide, or claim authority to guide, the actions of a particular group; and sometimes it stands for the systematic study of reasoning about how we ought to act. In the first of these senses, we may ask about the sexual ethics of the people of the Trobriand Islands, or speak about the way in which medical ethics in The Netherlands has come to accept voluntary euthanasia. In the second sense, ‘ethics’ is the name of a field of study, and often of a subject taught in university departments of philosophy…The difference between ethicsand moralscan seem somewhat arbitrary to many, but there is a basic, albeit subtle, difference. Moralsdefine personal character, while ethicsstress a social system in which those moralsare applied. In other words, ethicspoint to standards or codes of behavior expected by the group to which the individual belongs. This could be national ethics, social ethics, company ethics, professional ethics, or even family ethics. So while a person’s moral code is usually unchanging, the ethicshe or she practices can be other-dependent.When considering the difference between ethicsand morals, it may be helpful to consider a criminal defense lawyer. Though the lawyer’s personal moral code likely finds murder immoral and reprehensible, ethicsdemand the accused client be defended as vigorously as possible, even when the lawyer knows the party is guilty and that a freed defendantwould potentially lead to more crime. Legal ethicsmust override personal moralsfor the greater good of upholding a justice system in which the accused are given a fair trial and the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.The prosecution and court must also deal with the difference between ethicsand morals. In some cases past actions of the accused might resonate with the current charge, but are kept out of evidence so as not to prejudice the jury. In a sense, the prosecutor “lies by omission” in representing the case, never revealing the prejudicial evidence. The same prosecutor, however, would likely find it reprehensible to fail to tell a friend if her date had a potentially dangerous or suspect history.Another area in which ethicsand moralscan clash is at the workplace where company ethicscan play against personal morality. Corporate greed that blurs its own ethical lines coupled with unreasonable demands on time can lead to having to chose between a stressful, demanding and consuming work ethic, and family obligations seen as moral obligations to spouse and children. Conversely, people lose jobs every day because of poor personal morals, employee theft being a common reason for dismissal.In society, we are all faced with the butting heads of ethicsand morals. Abortion is legal and therefore medically ethical, while many people find it personally immoral. Fundamentalists, extremists, and even mainstream theists all have different ideas about morality that impact each of our lives, even if indirectly through social pressures or legal discrimination.In this context, ethical doesn’t just mean legal. For example, an action may not necessarily be illegal but only socially unacceptable, to be considered unethical.I think the main difference is that ethics is dictated by what others think and their standards. Morals and ethics are the bases of good standards that the rich and powerful benefits.Ethics originates in the individual, an inner authority, as thediscernment between right and wrong; morals originate from an outer authority-usually a cultural authority whether religious or national.Two disciples meet with their master for the next lesson. The master hands each a chicken and says, “Go kill the chicken where no one will see.” One comes back an hour later with a dead chicken. Two days later, the other disciple returns with the chicken still alive. When asked what happened, he replied, “Wherever I go, the chicken sees.”It would be a mistake to avoid a distinction between these two clearly related but differing concepts, morals and ethics are the basis of good standards.Also,” A Moral man does not steal because it goes against his own beliefs.” This makes even morality seem like a relative concept if it’s only the individual’s beliefs rather than being based upon an absolute standard.What’s the distinction?I don’t see that, under this definition or interpretation, ethics has any meaning of its own but is simply a synonym for legality.