What’s the difference if I say ethics and you say morals?

Morality, perhaps the culmination of our value system as humans, is the recognition of some practices or behaviors as good and others as harmful. Therefore, discussing moral and ethical judgment is crucial.

However, issues occur when “ethics” and “morals” are combined in the same sentence.

The words are respectively derived from the Greek and Latin words ethos and mores, which are variously rendered as social norms, manners, and traditions. However, it is conceivable to distinguish between the Latin and Greek roots of morality in a way that might be useful in practise.

This interpretation holds that “morals” emphasises widely-accepted communal or societal norms regarding right and wrong, but “ethics” tends to be based on individual character and a more subjective view of right and wrong by individuals. To put it another way, morality is a more intersubjective communal judgement of what is good, right, or just for everyone. In contrast, ethics is a more individual appraisal of values as comparatively good or evil.

When questions like “how should I act?” and “what should I do?” are expanded to include “how should we live?” by Socrates, the distinction’s importance becomes clear. The big moral dilemma is undoubtedly, “How should we live together?” The diversity of cultures and traditions present in modern society results in a variegated moral collage in which no single truth is readily discernible.

Individual ethical responses to such questions may be constrained by their inherent egotism. In contrast to being innately aware of the existence and relevance of others, it can be limited to one’s viewpoint. According to the distinction highlighted above, moral questions can and must be answered universally because acknowledging others is a necessary component of ethical considerations. This calls for a conversation among all parties, especially since these issues concern what is good, right, and just for everyone.

Simply put, moral decision-making shifts ethical decision-making from an individualistic meditation on imperatives, value, or virtue into a communal setting. Everyone is implicitly aware of one another in that environment, and we are aware right once that communication is necessary. There is a distinction between what we should do in a moral quandary and what I should do in an ethical dilemma.

Individual decision-making in ethical situations may be influenced by frameworks such as “must-do” imperatives, utility implications, the pursuit of virtue, or a governing framework from God.

But moral choices should consider the situation in which they are made. They must understand that obligations can be placed in a hierarchy (for instance, stopping at an accident to offer aid takes precedence over the promise of a coffee date); similarly, consequences can be rated.

Community decisions are founded on communication amongst all people who the decision affects in moral choices, which acknowledge the value of others and their actual condition in the world. Instead of pursuing an unattainable perfect truth, that discussion should attempt to be inclusive, non-coercive, self-reflective, and seek consensus among actual people.

Just as an example, think about the choice of my career.

I first gather the information (such as the pre-requisites I need to enrol in a course). Before making any ethical or moral decisions, the facts must first be gathered. The ethical aspect of the choice causes me to reflect on my characteristics, such as my talents or desire to achieve the best work-life balance.

When I realise that my choice affects others—my family and the community where I live—in terms of being able to assist others rather than earn a living, the moral component is added. As a result, I enlarge my perspective and talk with those nearby about how to choose.

However, it is debatable whether some conundrums are viewed primarily (or entirely) as ethical or moral. Just think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, homosexuality, euthanasia, or suicide, to mention a few.

Each may be perceived as an issue that has to be handled by the individual or society, depending on the observer’s point of view. Our approach to the decision-making process is largely determined by how we view the situation. Whether I consider it in a monologue to myself or if we discuss it in a group setting.

In conclusion, there is an essential distinction between ethics and morals.