What Are Ethics?
Most people are familiar with the term “work ethics”, meaning a set of principles, or rules, that a certain individual or a company will follow regarding what they do. For example, the Hippocratic Oath is a type of work ethics, since it consists of several principles which every physician swears to follow. The most important distinctive attribute of ethics as opposed to morals is that ethics are a set of rules or principles which describe what is right or wrong as well as what is better or worse. Different ethics consist of different principles, but, more often than not, they’re used as professional standards.
What Are Morals?
In a sense, morals are also sets of principles that define right and wrong, however, morals are usually formed based on culture or religion. Mostly, people are familiar with morals in the sense of “the moral of the story”, as in the main message that we should learn from the story. Another distinction between morals and ethics is the fact that, while ethics are usually universally accepted, morals can become twisted. The term “moral compass” comes in handy here, representing a person’s orientation as to what’s right or wrong. When someone’s moral compass is oriented correctly, their every action or social interaction will be enhancing for the person at hand and, at the least, non-detrimental to anyone else that might be involved. There were many cases of socially unacceptable behavior which was caused by a person not having his/her moral compass oriented in an acceptable way. This can be a result of bad parenting, child abuse, mental illness, etc…
Similarities Between Ethics and Morals
I’ve briefly touched on the core differences between ethics and morals. There are, however, many similarities, which usually cause people to use the terms “ethics” and “morals” interchangeably, as if they were synonyms (which they are not). The main similarity is that they discuss the same thing – what is right or wrong, good or bad, correct or incorrect, in different situations and scenarios. They also do this in the same form – as a set of principles/rules. The distinction should be made between the two, though, in the sense of how and on what basis they’re applied. Ethics are usually universally accepted and are considered a set of rules determining what’s considered professional behavior in different situations, being based on our innate knowledge of right and wrong, thus transcending time, culture and religion. Morals, on the other hand, are based on exactly that – culture, religion, and time. They vary based on what part of the world you look at and at what time. They can also vary from one individual to another.
A brief coverage of the mentioned similarities is covered below:
- Both ethics and morals are rules or principles which govern how we perceive right or wrong
- In certain situations, morals and ethics might not be in conflict, meaning a person could preserve his/her moral integrity, while respecting the ethical principles of, for example, his/her workplace
Important points on Similarities Between Ethics and Morals
Although this might seem like a few similarities, they are in fact very fundamental. In a manner, ethics could be considered as morals that were set by a certain social group, or “socially-acceptable morals”. On the other hand, you should be careful when using these two terms, as, in today’s world, they certainly do not represent the same thing. Ethics are set by society, and usually they represent rules of behavior that is acceptable and expected from a person of certain profession – calling someone unethical would be the same as calling them unprofessional. On the other hand, morals are a more personal thing, as you can build them by yourself, and orient your moral compass the way you want. It should be noted, however, that you don’t have complete freedom over how you implement your morals into your life – if you endanger other people or their property, you can still be prosecuted.
Author: Dr. Howard Fields
Dr. Howard is a Clinical Psychologist and a Professional Writer and he has been partnering with patients to create positive change in their lives for over fifteen years. Dr. Howard integrates complementary methodologies and techniques to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each patient.