Difference Between Ethics and Morals
Ethics vs Morals
Ethics and morals may seem the same on the face of it, but if one were to analyze, there is definitely some difference. It means, it may be ethical for someone to consume meat, after all there is no social code being breached, but at the same time the same person may find the idea of slaughtering an animal repugnant.
This implies that ethics define the code that a society or group of people adhere to while morality delves into right and wrong at a much deeper level, which is both personal and spiritual. The ethics that a person adheres too are impacted upon by external factors like the nation, society, peer group, religion and profession, and could change with a change in any of these influencing factors.
For instance fox hunting in England was ethical till the other day, because that was the tradition, and there was no law against it. But the recent legislation banning it made it illegal, and the widespread protests against the evil nature of the sport caused a cessation of the tradition supporting it, and therefore it became unethical. Morals on the other hand are made of sterner stuff, and usually do not change. It will for instance always be immoral to murder another human being, no matter who the person committing the act is.
Ethics are well defined and quite neatly laid down. Take the case of professionals like doctors and lawyers. They know what the ethics of their profession dictate. A doctor will never divulge his patient’s medical history to anyone other than the patient himself, unless authorized by the later, or required under law to do so. Similarly a lawyer will never compromise his client’s interest notwithstanding his own disposition towards his client.
But morals are of a subliminal nature and deciding upon what constitutes them is not that easy. We know of moral dilemma, not an ethical one. Take the case of abortion. Is it moral? On the one hand there may be extremely compelling grounds in its favor, but is taking a human life, even if not fully formed, ever going to be considered a moral act?
Following ethics is therefore a relatively simple affair; after all it only involves a set of socially acceptable guidelines which benefit all. Morals are however relatively difficult to adhere to. The religious sect of Jains in India believes that the only matter which can be consumed by human beings is leaves and fruit which have fallen off trees. No grain, no dairy products, no eggs, nor any meat. Why they are supposed to cover their mouths and noses with a piece of cloth, so that they may not inadvertently kill microscopic organisms by the very act of breathing. Now those are tough morals to follow!
We can clearly see that morals and ethics though seemingly similar are in fact quite distinct. While the former constitute a basic human marker of right conduct and behavior, the latter is more like a set of guidelines that defined accepted practices and behavior for a certain group of people.
1. Ethics relates to a society whereas morality relates to an individual person.
2. Ethics relate more in a professional life while morals are what individuals follow independently.
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