Ethics and morality are matters of our daily actions. Both largely define decisions and actions that we carry out day by day in different circumstances. However, they are different things and here we explain why.
Although the definitions of ethics and morality are interpreted differently by various disciplines, since they are subjects of profound study, general and universal concepts can be used to explain the differences between ethics and morality.
Know the differences between ethics and morals
Ethics and morals have very similar meanings, which is why they are often used interchangeably. In this text Let’s explain the differences between the one and the other.. These two themes are part of human nature, so it is important to understand the concepts.
Through the differences between ethics and morality, we can come to an understanding of what they are and the impact they have on our lives. These are subjects of philosophy that have been extended to all areas of study and work.
Morality and ethics are philosophical concepts that have been studied for millennia. Both words have an etymological origin that helps us understand each concept. Because the two deal with similar issues concerning human behavior, they are confused.
The word “Ethics” comes from the Latin “ethicus“which is a voice derived from the Greek word”ethos“which refers to the form or action one has to do things, or to custom. This etymological origin gives us a clear notion of the concept of “ethics”.
On the other hand, “moral” comes from the Latin “moralis“which means “referring to the customs”, making a reference more towards the social or community sense than the staff. In this way morality has a different field of study than ethics.
As can be discerned from the etymological origin of both words, ethics and morals have a similar field of study but are not the same. However, these are issues that have to do with the actions and motives of the human being.
The very definition of ethics and morals gives us clarity about their clear differences. Currently both concepts are used to refer to almost the same thing. On a daily basis they are used interchangeably to talk about the correct actions of people.
But ethics and morals don’t mean the same thing.. Morals are the rules of conduct inherent in a system. Whether social, political or family, they are established as a way to maintain the stability of the system itself.
On the other hand, ethics studies and reflects on moral issues. That is to say, once the norms that govern a group exist, ethics questions and discerns about its legitimacy to apply them or not in a particular way.
In other words, morality functions in a collective sense, while ethics is a more introspective and individual matter. However, both end up defining the behavior of an individual in a given group.
3. Historical origin
Ethics and morals can also be understood through their historical origin.. Ethics originated in ancient Greece. The first records of the study of this discipline are in charge of Aristotle and Plato.
Several centuries later, Kant and Descartes will return to the concepts of the ancient philosophers and lay the groundwork for what is now defined as ethics. On the other hand, morality does not have a specific historical origin, since it is something inherent to the organization of human groups.
Once the human being was established in groups, the need arose to establish rules that will guarantee the progress and harmony of the clan. With the advent of writingthese moral principles became laws.
Throughout the centuries and the history of humanity, religions were responsible for permeating society with moral rules. While in the West Christianity and Judaism played a fundamental role, in the East it was Buddhism.
Ethics is permanent, while morals are temporary.. This differentiation between the two concepts can help to understand why they are two different things but have to do with each other.
Morality has changed throughout history. Those rules of conduct that governed in past centuries may become obsolete today. While the conception of the sacred, the right and the beneficial has changed, the norms and therefore the morals have changed as well.
For this reason it is that it is said that morality is temporarybecause it works in a specific period of time. Current human behavior cannot be defined and studied based on the morals of earlier times.
Ethics, on the other hand, are permanent. This is because ethics is an individual reflection that is generated in the individual and that despite being influenced by the morality of his time, is inherent to him and therefore, remains during his existence.
5. Relationship to the individual
The fundamental difference between ethics and morals is their relationship with the human being.. Both deal with behaviour and the motives for acting correctly or not according to what the group or the individual dictates, but the origin differentiates the ethical from the moral.
When it comes to the morality of the rules and foundations that guide the conduct of a group, we are talking about the expectation that the individuals who belong to that group will respect them in order to preserve the very existence of the group.
However it can happen that these moral rules are opposed to the ethics of an individualIn this way, the person who, in his own reflection and questioning of morality, decides not to act in a moral way, that is, not to respond to what the group proposes as expected behaviour.
An example of this can be the moral principles that are expected of all those who dedicate themselves to medicine or laws, where it happens that these can be opposed to the ethics of those who practice it.
- Kelly, Eugene. 2006. The Basics of Western Philosophy. Greenwood Press: 160.
- Cortina, A. and Martínez, E. (2008) Ética, Madrid, Akal.