Ethics vs Morals

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The thread about our first post here at CR got me to searching. I found a thread I had started entitled "Defining Terms" There I touched on defining terms such as Ethics and Morals but we never really discussed the subtle difference between the two.

Now, three years later I still have the question about such things as I see the dilemma of crashing ethics and morals as being one of the keys to conflict within discussions here at CR. Not that conflict should be avoided or eschewed but I feel it should be well managed and to nearly everyones credit here an admirable effort is made to do just that.

So exactly what is the difference between Ethics and Morals, and how should we go about reconciling the conflict when they clash?
 

Snoopy

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(grist for the mill!)


Wikipedia:


A moral is a message conveyed or a lesson to be learned from a story or event. The moral may be left to the hearer, reader or viewer to determine for themselves, or may be explicitly encapsulated in a maxim.

Morality (from the Latin moralitaser "manner, character, proper behavior") has three principal meanings.


In its first descriptive usage, morality means a code of conduct held to be authoritative in matters of right and wrong, whether by society, philosophy, religion, or individual conscience.


In its second, normative and universal, sense, morality refers to an ideal code of conduct, one which would be espoused in preference to alternatives by all rational people, under specified conditions. To deny 'morality' in this sense is a position known as moral skepticism.


In its third usage 'morality' is synonymous with ethics, the systematic philosophical study of the moral domain.

Ethics is a major branch of philosophy, encompasses right conduct and good life. It is significantly broader than the common conception of analyzing right and wrong. A central aspect of ethics is "the good life", the life worth living or life that is satisfying, which is held by many philosophers to be more important than moral conduct. The major problem is the discovery of the summum bonum, the greatest good.



Cambridge Dictionary:

ethic
noun [C usually plural]
a system of accepted beliefs which control behaviour, especially such a system based on morals


morality
noun [C or U]
a personal or social set of standards for good or bad behaviour and character, or the quality of being right, honest or acceptable


s.
 

seattlegal

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Ethics is a major branch of philosophy, encompasses right conduct and good life. It is significantly broader than the common conception of analyzing right and wrong. A central aspect of ethics is "the good life", the life worth living or life that is satisfying, which is held by many philosophers to be more important than moral conduct. The major problem is the discovery of the summum bonum, the greatest good.
Ain't that the truth. People have long justified evil for such nebulous reasons as "it's for the greatest good." It reminds me of the term "doublespeak." It can be employed in "bad faith" in order to justify an abuse of power, or cover up a malicious motive.
 

Snoopy

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Actually, this phrase made me laugh. "discovery" ??? Where was it discovered? Behind the sofa? Isn't discovery something that happens with archaeological artefacts or new planets? :rolleyes:

s.
 

Paladin

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Kind of like when I watch a little baby "discover" their hands and feet for the first time.
SG, it sounds like you have a good point that the greatest good can lead to amoral behavior, but I think the danger lies in when this so called greater good only applies to the group and leaves the individual behind.
 

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I remember an argument involving another member of CR and myself over the issue of homosexuality. According to the moral stance of this person homosexuality was wrong and anything done to those practicing it was justifialble including violence. I argued that it simply wasn't ethical to treat another human being wrongly because of their orientation, and the battle ensued.
Here was a definite clash of morals vs ethics with neither side ever reaching anthing like a consensus or resolution. The best we could do was drop the subject after exhausting our supply of words.
 

seattlegal

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SG, it sounds like you have a good point that the greatest good can lead to amoral behavior, but I think the danger lies in when this so called greater good only applies to the group and leaves the individual behind.
Tyranny of the majority and/or scapegoating comes to mind; the crucification of Jesus.
 

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People have long justified evil for such nebulous reasons as "it's for the greatest good." It reminds me of the term "doublespeak." It can be employed in "bad faith" in order to justify an abuse of power, or cover up a malicious motive.
It can also be justified for fairly simple self-serving reasons. What about banning someone from a discussion forum on the grounds that it's good for the person being banned (who was never even consulted in the matter) when actually it was because the site owner just didn't like that individual's views? Abuse of power is not limited to public office.
 

Eclectic Mystic

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Actually, this phrase made me laugh. "discovery" ??? Where was it discovered? Behind the sofa? Isn't discovery something that happens with archaeological artefacts or new planets? :rolleyes:

s.

You've discovered that there is no such thing?
 

Snoopy

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I checked out Wiki and the dictionary as I wasn't too sure of the difference between the two terms. And having checked out the entries I'm not sure I'm much the wiser. As the entries show, the two at best seem to blend in to one another and at worst seem to be conflated. :confused:

Feel free to separate the two for me!!

s.
 

Snoopy

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You've discovered that there is no such thing?


Er no; I was suggesting that “discovery” is not the most appropriate term. Discovery applies to something that pre-exists and is then, er, discovered, like a planet (leaving aside self-discovery of limbs). A concept dreamt up by some bearded Continental philosopher in a moment of opium induced insight is not a discovery. When some such person has another such shaft of wisdom next week that too will not be a discovery as such. He just needs to go out and get a proper job.

s.

 

wil

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I remember an argument involving another member of CR and myself over the issue of homosexuality. According to the moral stance of this person homosexuality was wrong and anything done to those practicing it was justifialble including violence. I argued that it simply wasn't ethical to treat another human being wrongly because of their orientation, and the battle ensued.
Here was a definite clash of morals vs ethics with neither side ever reaching anthing like a consensus or resolution. The best we could do was drop the subject after exhausting our supply of words.
Namaste Paladin,
I've got to agree with Snoopy following quote, I've always had them in my head as the same. And in this case you provided I don't see it as a difference between ethics and morals, but your ethics and morals, and his/her ethics and morals.
I checked out Wiki and the dictionary as I wasn't too sure of the difference between the two terms. And having checked out the entries I'm not sure I'm much the wiser. As the entries show, the two at best seem to blend in to one another and at worst seem to be conflated. :confused:

Feel free to separate the two for me!!
Namaste Snoop,

It isn't really 'have to' agree, but do agree, that I need to be more educated so I looked around.

Ethics vs morality - the distinction between ethics and morals

Morals vs. Ethics

Ethics vs. Morality

Morality vs. ethics@Everything2.com

Free Agency Rules: Ethics vs Morals

Morals vs Ethics - According to the Pragmatic Thinker

And I still see them as birds of a feather, potato, tomato...
 

Snoopy

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Namaste Paladin,
I've got to agree with Snoopy following quote, I've always had them in my head as the same. And in this case you provided I don't see it as a difference between ethics and morals, but your ethics and morals, and his/her ethics and morals.Namaste Snoop,

It isn't really 'have to' agree, but do agree, that I need to be more educated so I looked around.

Ethics vs morality - the distinction between ethics and morals

Morals vs. Ethics

Ethics vs. Morality

Morality vs. ethics@Everything2.com

Free Agency Rules: Ethics vs Morals

Morals vs Ethics - According to the Pragmatic Thinker

And I still see them as birds of a feather, potato, tomato...

Heck thanks! Why keep a dog and bark yourself eh?:D No really, thanks.

Snoop (of little brain).
 

Snoopy

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A quick filleting from wil's link-fest:

"[Ethics is] 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.

The Oxford English Dictionary (1989) seems to show that, from the earliest times, the words had very similar meanings.

The terms ethics and morality are often used interchangeably - indeed, they usually can mean the same thing, and in casual conversation there isn't a problem with switching between one and the other. Technically speaking, however, there is a difference: morality is used to refer to what we would call moral standards and moral conduct while ethics is used to refer to the formal study of those standards and conduct. For this reason, the study of ethics is also often called "moral philosophy."


Ethics (Εθικη): From Greek, εθοσ ("ethos"), meaning "behaviour." Ethics is the philosophical study of human motivation and behaviour, and the ways in which psychology becomes personally normative.
Morality (Moralitas): From Latin, mos (pl. mores), meaning "custom" -- compare German Sitt. Morality is the philosophical study of interpersonal relations and their ethical ramifications.
Ethics is all about interaction or conduct between people in a society or a government setting. Interaction and conduct can have adverse affects on people. There are several ways someone can adversely affect another person. It can be as small as unfair treatment, or as big as infringing upon their freedoms or Civil Rights. Morals, on the other hand, might be about conduct as it relates to “mores” or “norms.”

Once again, while Ethics and Morals are closely related, I would like to propose a distinction based upon the affected party. Ethics being about conduct that may affect people, and Morals being about conduct that can affect the given society.



s.
 

wil

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A quick filleting from wil's link-fest:

"[Ethics is] 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.

The Oxford English Dictionary (1989) seems to show that, from the earliest times, the words had very similar meanings.

The terms ethics and morality are often used interchangeably - indeed, they usually can mean the same thing, and in casual conversation there isn't a problem with switching between one and the other. Technically speaking, however, there is a difference: morality is used to refer to what we would call moral standards and moral conduct while ethics is used to refer to the formal study of those standards and conduct. For this reason, the study of ethics is also often called "moral philosophy."

Once again, while Ethics and Morals are closely related, I would like to propose a distinction based upon the affected party. Ethics being about conduct that may affect people, and Morals being about conduct that can affect the given society.
So it is it ethics and morals that collide or simply the fact that my morality, my ethics differ from yours and that we collide.

As societal norms I'm not even thinking that just because they collide one or the other is required to be wrong. (they could be, but they don't have to be) and as in anything if one is wrong, it would always be yours!

ie in one society charging interest is immoral, unethical, in another it is part of life.

in one society multiple partners is unethical, immoral, in another it is part of the fabric of the country and has a viable basis.
 

Snoopy

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(they could be, but they don't have to be) and as in anything if one is wrong, it would always be yours!

You're right, it would always be yours. :)

Glad we've sorted that out.

Next!

s.
 

Snoopy

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"morality is used to refer to what we would call moral standards and moral conduct while ethics is used to refer to the formal study of those standards and conduct."

Does this seem....odd?

s.
 

Snoopy

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In the UK we have some sort of Ethical Standards Committee to oversee/look into politician's dodgy behaviour. Stop laughing, certainly a full time committee. "Ethical" seems to be the right word here, "Moral" would not be I think.

Fair Trade goods...bought for ethical reasons, not moral??

Just a thought (or two)...


s.
 

wil

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"morality is used to refer to what we would call moral standards and moral conduct while ethics is used to refer to the formal study of those standards and conduct."

Does this seem....odd?s.
Those definitions are what make me say it is really one and the same. But if ethics is the study of morals than what does that make something that is ethical?

Maybe they just didn't like the sound of moralography?
 

seattlegal

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In the UK we have some sort of Ethical Standards Committee to oversee/look into politician's dodgy behaviour. Stop laughing, certainly a full time committee. "Ethical" seems to be the right word here, "Moral" would not be I think.

Fair Trade goods...bought for ethical reasons, not moral??

Just a thought (or two)...


s.
It seems that the application of "ethics" is used in a social engineering sense, with the summum bonum being the "philosopher's stone" of ethics, and the "transmutation" of the morals of different groups being the goal. {To take this thread in a more sinister, conspiratorial, direction...just because my PMS is starting to kick in...:eek:}
 
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