Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

Ethics? Morals? Whats the difference?

Recommended Posts

Morals are basically things that you believe are right or wrong. Saying "it's wrong to kill", or "lying is bad" would be a moral judgment. Ethics, on the other hand, are effectively systems by which we decide how complicated actions are "right" or "wrong," which often takes more than just a gut reaction to something. This is why there are philosophical theories about ethics, such as Ethical Egoism, Utilitarianism, etc. The fundamental reason for these theories is that they provide answers to moral "gray areas." Utilitarianism might say that it's okay to kill someone who threatens ten people on a skytrain, but that it's not okay to kill someone threatening your dog with a baseball bat. Some people will maintain that killing is wrong in all cases, and others may maintain that killing is right in both cases, due to differing ethical views. Regardless of that, all three people may believe that killing is inherently a bad thing (even the one that thinks attacking a dog merits that punishment). Ethics are also useful in dealing with politics and social justice, since it's possible to act on the basis of ethical contradiction (usually called hypocrisy) where someone will react differently to different situations that are logically equivalent.

The common example is that asking most people to divert a train from a track on which it will hit 4 people to one where it will only kill one person usually receives a reply of "yes," but asking the same person if they, as a doctor, would take parts from one perfectly healthy person in order to save the lives of four people in need of transplants usually receives a reply of "no." It's strange, though, because logically, in both cases you're killing one uninvolved party for the sake of four others. This example is usually used to show the difference between morals and ethics, because the natural reaction is to use "moral sense", or your gut reaction, instead of an ethical theory. Most ethical theories (other than ethical egoism and moral sense) will answer both questions with the same answer, which simply shows the potential usefulness of approaching ethics from a rational direction.

So basically, morals is how you feel about an action, ethics is about how you should act. If you've ever thought to yourself "this feels wrong, but I know it's right," you have a case of ethics overriding morals, and if you've ever thought "this feels wrong so I'm not doing it, even though I know it would be right," you have a case of morals overriding ethics.

  • Like 2

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ethics (also known as moral philosophy) is a branch of philosophy which seeks to address questions about morality; that is, about concepts such as good and bad, the noble and the ignoble, right and wrong, justice, and virtue.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  


Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.