Friday, November 2, 2012

Difference between Morals and Ethics

Everyday we are faced with situations that require us to make decisions, some of which are in favor of some people’s ideologies while some run contrary to other people’s theories. The thesis of these decisions is about the rightness or wrongness of an action. That means every action is made to pass through the crucible of ethical judgments (Frankena, 1980). What is the justification upon which an action is considered right or wrong? Some of the justifications given for the rightness or wrongness of an action are, at times, rejected based on the morality. The concepts of ethics and morality shall be well examined in this write-up.
Ethics is also known as moral philosophy. It is deals basically with what is considered right or wrong. The word itself is a derivation of Greek word ‘ethos’ which means character. It is a set of moral principles which affect the way people make decisions and how they live their lives.  People’s decisions which are judged based on the concept of ethics are:
·         Ways of living a good life based on ethical theories
·         How to know our rights and responsibilities
·         How one can know why something which is considered right is right and otherwise
·         How to make the right decision
Ethics has its origin on ethical theories which also have their derivations from philosophies, concepts and beliefs. Ethical theories are further broadly classified into:
Meta-ethics: the word ‘meta’ means beyond the ordinary and as applied to the field of ethics; meta-ethics tends to explain ethical principles that constitute ethical concepts. Of all the issues meta-ethics deals with, two of them are prominent than others: metaphysical issue and psychological issues. Metaphysical issues in meta-ethics are concerned primarily with the concept of morality; whether it exists in human beings or it is just mere concept. By summarizing meta-ethics, it studies the concepts and beliefs of normative ethics.
Psychological issues in meta-ethics explore the psychological basis of judgments we consider normal. One of the issues that are dealt with is egoism. Egoism deals basically with the egocentric nature of human.   Man’s action is influenced mostly on how their action would benefit them as opposed to thoughts about the community. In a similar vein, hedonism views it that the expectation of pleasure if responsible for people’s action.
Conversely, normative ethics concerns itself with the derivation of the various ethical standards that dictate what is right and what is wrong. It tends to critically examine what makes a good ethical standard good and the reason for the wrongness of an act. Ethical theories are the basis for these concepts. Normative ethics studies what ought to be instead of what it is. It deals with ideals or concepts which cannot be measured in the real sense of it. Normative ethics studies what we ought to pay attention to; sort of things we need to value and this is called value theory.
Value theory, one of the theories in normative ethics, is subdivided into moral and nonmoral vales. Moral values are things that we consider to be morally good. In this instance, moral values refer to a person or the qualities he has. Examples include ‘someone with a good character’; ‘an action with a good motive’. Nonmoral values therefore stand for the things we hold dear; something we wish to have. Examples include valuing a car therefore having the desire to acquire it. Also, one may want to build beautiful a house or make more money in his business. All these are nonmoral values. Furthermore, if we value a thing because of another thing, it is said to have extrinsic values. When some things are valued because such is useful on its own, such is said to have Intrinsic value.  In addition to value theory, theories of obligations which also, is made up of a number of ethical principles of the good and the bad.
Lastly on ethics if applied ethics. This is a branch of philosophy which apply the knowledge of ethics to real life situations, example are ethics in medicine and surgery, ethics in engineering.
On the other hand, morality is simply concerned with the rightness or wrongness of an ethical act. It can be defined as a group of codes that dictate whether a course of action if right or wrong. These codes give rise to what is known as moral values. Morality is rightly refers to group of human behaviors and the judgments we infer from such behaviors (Hare, 1952). Ethics and morality are often used to mean the same thing but is never the same thing. A behavior can be ethically right but still considered morally wrong.  Morality is more concerned with defining a person’s characters while ethics is more concerned about the social system where the morals belonging to a person is applied (Gert, 2005). Ethics is more of a philosophy the places a lot of questions on values and morality, morality on the other hand is the tried and tested code of conducts which emphasizes right and wrong in any given instance.
There are instances where clashes occur between ethics and morals in the workplace. A company, out of corporate greed may be over demanding the employee’s time and the resources that the employee’s moral thinking may find hard to accept. Such company corporate greed may be hindering the employee from carrying out her own moral obligation in her own house thereby setting up a situation where the employee my have to make a hard decision between the company work ethics and her own obligation morality. To this end, morality serves as a hedge set up to gauge the occasional excesses of ethics.  
Conclusively, ethics and morality have so many features in common which explains why they are often mixed up. The very essence and core values which define our individuality and common values are both products of ethics and morality.


Gert, Bernard, (2005). Morality: Its Nature and Justification, Revised Edition, New York: Oxford University Press.

Hare, R. M., (1952). The Language of Morals, New York: Oxford University Press.

Frankena, William, (1980). Thinking about Morality, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

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