Difference between Morals and Ethics

In general, morals define personal character, while ethics stress a social system in which morals are applied (Corpuz, 127). In short, ethics point to general rules of behavior expected by the group. In order to fully understand the difference between morals and ethics, let us consider the case of a criminal defense lawyer. Personally, the lawyer finds murder immoral and unacceptable. However, ethics demand that the accused be defended as rigorously as possible, even to the extent that the lawyer knows that his client is guilty and that a freed client would lead to more crime. Ethics must supersede personal morals for the greater good of preserving a justice system. In this case, the accused is given a fair trial and the prosecution must prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Let us consider another example. Company ethics often play against personal morality. Employees are forced to choose between a demanding and consuming work ethic and family obligations. An employee with good morals may be charged of violating company ethics. A person who follows company ethics may have bad morals.

Epistemologically, ethics is related to the philosophy behind a moral outcome (Corpuz, 62). In order to determine acceptable and unacceptable behavior within a specific situation, ethical behavior must be defined. This term may also refer to understanding and adopting moral values within the home that should be defined. It is often related to values adhered to in the immediate social, political, and economic environment.

There are different types of ethics and their application varies from one situation to another. Normative ethics is the notion behind what declares an option as right or wrong is defined. Descriptive ethics considers a situation as a choice made in the presence of relevant moral agents. Here, the concepts of aesthetic and pure reason are examined. Applied ethics analyzes the success or failure of the application of ethical theory to common situations.

Morality refers to an adopted rule of conduct within a social environment and a set of conventional rules for what is right or wrong. The conceptions for what is morally right or wrong change over time and adopt new meanings. In a sense, morality is related to ethics. The former is abstract in understanding, while the latter is defined in the form of written code. Morality, in short, addresses the ethical aspects on the moral outcome of a particular situation.

Moral codes define what is appropriate and expected. They are defined through codes of authority. According to Aristotle, morality is synonymous with good life (Aristotle, 22). It is both an end and a means to achieving the ideal good life. Hence, moral codes are based on systems of values that have been tried and tested. Some moral codes are religious in nature such as the Eightfold Path of Buddhism and the Ten Commandments.

In summary, morals define individual character while ethics dictate the working of a social, legal, or political system. As Immanuel Kant argued

What separates morality from ethics is focus. Morals pervade individual personality. Ethics is more or less a summary of accepted rules of behavior  rules which are based from accepted notions of right or wrong. In essence, morality is universal within a specified context while ethics is universally defined from varied forms of behavior. However, the difference between the two is only arbitrary (174).


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