The 6 differences between ethics and morals

In everyday speech, we generally use the words “ethics” and “morality” as synonyms; however, there are important differences between the two terms, or at least throughout history.

Although they are closely related, they do exist at the very least 6 differences between ethics and morality, And these concepts should not be confused with each other. These refer to multiple characteristics, both conceptual and epistemological.

    Definition of ethics

    Ethics is a branch of philosophy which studies and systematizes the concepts of good and evil, as well as those which are related to them. This discipline aims to rationally define what constitutes a good or virtuous act, whatever the culture in which it is part.

    Ethical systems, consisting of prescriptions regarding the patterns of behavior that people should follow, have traditionally been proposed by philosophy and religion.

    We consider that ethics originated from the time of ancient Greece; the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, as well as Stoicism or Epicureanism, are some of the earliest manifestations of the use of the term.

    In the Middle Ages, Christian ethics predominated in the Western world, later spreading to much of the world. Later philosophers such as Descartes, Hume, and Kant would pick up ideas from the Greek masters and make key contributions to the design of ethics in subsequent centuries.

    Definition of morality

    Morality is defined as the set of rules that govern the behavior of people who are part of a given society, so that they can contribute to the maintain stability and social structure.

    The concept of morality is often related to compliance with the implicit and explicit laws of a social group, which are transmitted to individuals in the process of socialization to which they are subjected throughout their development. In this sense, morality is part of the traditions and values ​​of the context in which we grew up.

    Morality probably arose as a natural consequence of the organization of human beings into groups. As societies become more complex, the rules of interaction that structure them have gradually become moral rules and explicit laws, especially with the advent of writing.

    Religions have had a great historical weight in establishing moral codes. While in the Western world Judaism and Christianity largely determined social norms, in Asia Buddhism and Confucianism predominantly did so.

      Differences between ethics and morals

      Many people think that today the concepts of “morality” and “ethics” mean basically the same thing, at least from the point of view of colloquialism.

      However, from a theoretical and historical point of view, we can find several differences between these two terms.

      1. Object of interest

      Morality is responsible for determining which behaviors are appropriate and which are not in a given context, while ethics refers to the general principles that define which behaviors are beneficial to all.

      Ethics is a normative discipline and morality is descriptive; thus, ethics differs from morality in that it seeks to define correct behaviors, rather than those accepted by a society.

      In other words, if ethics is a rather static element that serves as a reference to understand the type of behaviors that govern the functioning of society in a given context, morality is applied, taking into account all that is involved in the decision to act in one way or another.

      2. Scope

      Ethics is at the level of theory, trying to find general principles that promote harmony between people. On the contrary, morality he tries to apply the rules determined by ethics to a large number of concrete situations, depending on the description of what is happening in each case.

      Ethics therefore have a theoretical, abstract and rational character, while morality refers to practice, indicating to us how we should behave in our daily life through more or less explicit rules and statements.

      3. Origin and development

      Ethical standards are developed by specific people through reflection and evaluation of what is meant by human nature. These people then apply the rules to their conduct.

      In some cases, individual ethics can influence a large number of people, even become a tradition; this has happened frequently in the case of religions, of the systematizations of the ideas of their prophets. Once this point has been reached, we would move on to talk about morality to refer to the intergenerational transmission of this ethical system.

      In a synthetic way, we can say that ethics it has an individual origin, While morality is derived from the norms of our social group, in turn determined by an earlier ethical system. Morality is the generalization of this kind of description of what is good and what is bad, its way of abstracting what should be done and what should be avoided.

      4. Possibility to choose

      As we have said, ethics is part of individual reflection, while morality it has a more imposing and coercive character: If a person does not conform to social norms, they are likely to be punished, whether social or legal, because morality cannot be created by one person, but has to do with shared ideas of this what it is good to do and what is bad or what should even be a cause of punishment.

      Ethics are based on the intellectual and rational value that individuals attach to their attitudes and beliefs, unlike morality, which is determined by culture and is therefore rather irrational and intuitive. We cannot choose morality, accept it or reject it; it is therefore about respecting the rules of our social group.

      5. Mode of influence

      Moral norms work in us from the outside or the unconscious, in that we involuntarily internalize them as we develop within a given social group. We cannot stay on the margins of them; we always take them into account, either to defend them or to reject them.

      ethics it depends on voluntary and conscious choicesAs this concept defines the identification and control of certain rules in order to act in the way that seems right from a personal point of view. In addition, being rather individual in scope, it leaves some leeway in determining whether something is right or not, depending on the circumstances.

      6. Degree of universality

      Ethics claim to be universal, that is, to be able to be applied in any context, since they are ideally part of the guided use of thought, and not of obedience. blind to rigid standards. This discipline therefore seeks to establish absolute truths which are held as such regardless of the context in which they apply, as long as the person has the capacity to act rationally. Kant, for example, attempted to elevate objective ethical principles above culture or religion.

      On the other hand, morality varies according to society; behaviors that can be accepted in certain social groups, such as gender-based violence or the exploitation of children, would be considered immoral by people in other societies, as well as from an ethical point of view. In this sense, we can say that morality is largely influenced by cultural relativism.

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