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What Ethics Is Not

By User

Updated May 22, 2024


Ethics is Not Morality

Morality is defined as an individual's or society's standard for judging objects as right and wrong, while ethics is about universally established standards of human conduct.

Features of Morality:

  • Individual-oriented because it depends on the individual's upbringing, conscience, and psyche.
  • Varies from person to person and society to society (e.g., individual values vs. societal values, Indian values vs. Western values).
  • Dynamic: Changes with time, place, and individual awareness (e.g., changing values regarding traditional practices).
Comparison: Ethics vs. Morality
Ground of Difference Ethics Morality
Definition Set of universal established standards of human behaviour. One’s standards of behaviour.
Dependent on Other’s perspective One’s perspective
Consistency Uniform across the world Changes person to person, society to society.
Religious connotation No
Root word Ethos = Character Moralis = Customs/traditions

Why One Should Be Moral

  • Every human has a deep desire to be good, happy, and achieve summum bonum (the highest good), and morality helps in achieving this.
  • As rational beings, humans are aware of logical, rational principles that aid in achieving their highest good.
  • To prevent discomfort, remorse, depression, anxiety, dissonance, and social disapproval or sanctions.

Ethics Are Not Values

Values are standards of behaviour that can vary from person to person, while ethics are universally established standards of human conduct. Although ethics is based on values, not all values are ethical (e.g., caste rules may be a value for someone but are not ethical).

Ethics Is Not Social Norms

Social norms are based on the customs and traditions of a particular society and are not universal. However, some social norms, such as respecting elders, can also be ethical.

Ethics Is Not Religion

Religion is based on faith and is specific to a particular community, lacking universality, while ethics is based on reason and universal principles. However, ethics draws many principles from religion.

Religion Ethical Values Drawn
Christianity Compassion, forgiveness
Jainism Satya, Ahimsa, Asteya, Aparigraha
Buddhism The middle path, Appo deepo Bhava
Hinduism Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, Nishkam Karma, Satyameva Jayate
Islam Equality, brotherhood

Ethics Is Not Law

The law is specific to a society, while ethics is universal. Although law and ethics generally align, there can be conflicts where preferences may differ based on roles (e.g., civil servants prioritizing law, while social reformers prioritize ethics).