Ok. I'm no philosophy whiz, but I have an opinion on this issue that morals and ethics are NOT the same.

My professor disagrees with me.

What do you all think? Is there a difference? Does it matter? I think it does. I can think of many things I would deem unethical, but not necessarily moral or immoral....but....is my professor wrong or am I wrong?

Thanks......

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For me, morality is a personal set of beliefs, and ethics is the outward expression of those beliefs.  But don't quote me.

I agree - I would see morality as the study of broad theoretical principles, while ethics is the practical application of those principles.  But dictionary.com and wikipedia say that they're the same thing. 

I don't know if they're different in theory, but I think of them as different in practice.

In practice, ethics are often codified or at least can be taught as a standard, especially wrt business practice. What's almost as important as something being right or wrong, ethics are definable enough for different parties to know what to expect in an ethical transaction. To a large extent, ethics can be globalized, if only because people in business can come to agreements.

Morals are more unspoken, and emotionally based. They often get communicated by facial and other body language. They're expressed less as two party transactions than ethics, and more like multiple party expectations. E.g. being anti-gay comes from believing that gay behavior is immoral, and it's not transaction (person-to-person) based as it is a prejudice among several groups of people or subcultures. Female genital mutilation is not considered immoral in some cultures, but it's not universally tolerated. In fact, it's forced upon people, as is adherence to other moralistic codes, like religion.

Perhaps ethics can be thought of most simply as what can be reasonably expected to occur in a two party transaction, and often the transaction itself is optional for each party?

Nicely said, Pope. Yours is the closest definition I can agree with.

Given that they have two wikipedia articles, I would suggest they are two different things. From what I read, it seems that ethics is the philosophical process/thought which determines morals.

But to be fair, I'm less qualified than you are to comment on such a question.

One thing I've noticed is that, even though the two words seem to be equivalent in the dictionary, "morals" seems, at least among many atheists, to carry a religious connotation.  If you talk about "morals" they will assume you're pulling your thoughts out of the bible, or something like that, and react negatively, or at the very least, accuse me of arguing from an irrational premise (which, if I were were actually arguing on a theistic basis, would be justified).

That has gotten me into some pointless arguments, because I tend to use the words interchangeably.  When I realize what's going on and point out that the two words mean the same thing, at least one was quite adamant that morality by definition is religiously based.  Nope.

Here's my contribution: I like to make the distinction that morals is the religious version of ethics. Morals are a subset of ethics. Morality means following prescriptive ethics. Obeying the 10 Commandments. Applying The Golden Rule. Ethics involves setting prescriptions aside and DECIDING as a person, what is the best thing to do. Not honoring your parents is immoral, but might not be unethical. Stealing is definitely wrong in a moral system and probably is wrong in an ethical system.

Without this distinction, both words suffer from an unnecessary ambiguity. The ambiguity of being interchangeable. It's always better to distinguish words from each other. To take an extreme example of what I mean, suppose every word in the English language meant the same thing. Imagine the loss in what we would be able to express.

That's exactly what I thought too Unseen. The thing is as I'm doing "real" research it turns out that the world "moral" isn't explicitly religious in meaning. (or shall I say it isn't only about religion). the term "moral philosophy" doesn't have to be religious.

In my class, (Ethics of environmental sustainability) we were given an example piece written by Sinnott-Armstrong.

The example being his attempt to find if there is a principle that can be applied to make the following action "immoral." to which he admits he wants to find a fault with it, but fails to do so:

A man who owns a hummer, takes it for a long drive on the weekend "just for fun." this man is totally aware that he is emitting CO2 into the atmosphere for pure pleasure. He does it anyway.

There are 10 principles he examines but be believes all 10 of them can be disproven, therefore he concludes that this action is not morally impermissible. The challenge we've faced as a class is to test this and see if his conclusion is correct.

My own conclusion is that it's not "immoral" but it is "unethical" based on the conclusion of the "group principle." which is it is not ethical to perform an action that if everyone did it, it would cause great harm. I draw the distinction here and this is where me and the professor butt heads. I am not saying it's "immoral" but it's unethical knowing the state of the planet for a person who is well-educated on the harm "we" are causing by emitting fossil fuels into the atmosphere. But my explanation is only correct if you use the word "unethical," not "immoral." it's not immoral.

Anyway I'm sure we will be discussing it further and I want to be able to defend my position well, so I appreciate everyone's contribution. I will definitely change my mind if it turns out I'm wrong!

I'm kind of asking whether, in order for the words to have distinct meanings, SHOULDN'T we use them so that they are different?

"Moral philosophy" got its name long long ago. Today, morals/ethics get subsumed, along with aesthetics, in the field called "value theory." To me, a class named Moral Philosophy might as well be named Ye Olde Moral Philosophy Classe. It's just a traditional name that belongs to a bygone era in philosophy.

If it's wrong to emit CO2, BREATHING emits CO2. What should one do then? Commit suicide? or perhaps Try not to live a long life? A lot of CO2 emission is inadvertent and the only way to cap it is to stop living. Just add that to the long list of problems our longer modern lives are adding to the world.

Emitting CO2 breathing is within what the earth can naturally sustain. Emitting CO2 with millions of gas guzzling vehicles is not sustainable and will be a slow suicide if changes aren't made (like public transportation, motorized scooters etc...we know scientifically this is NOT sustainable. that is not just my opinion but is a fact.

I know you are smart enough to know the difference.

Emitting CO2 breathing is within what the earth can naturally sustain. Emitting CO2 with millions of gas guzzling vehicles is not sustainable and will be a slow suicide if changes aren't made (like public transportation, motorized scooters etc...we know scientifically this is NOT sustainable. that is not just my opinion but is a fact.

But it contributes to the total, and it's hard to be alive in the modern world without causing a lot of CO2 to be generated in the production of the products we buy and use. Given the political impossibility of curtailing much of the CO2 emission simply living causes, ceasing to live is probably the biggest contribution to ending the problem one could make. That and other population reduction measures, although they are probably politically unfeasible as well.

BTW, nothing is a fact until it becomes a fact. Something that hasn't happened yet isn't factual.

If it's wrong to emit CO2, BREATHING emits CO2.

Depends on your context, which was... ?

BTW, nothing is a fact until it becomes a fact. Something that hasn't happened yet isn't factual.

When something happens over several years, when can you start calling it a fact? When CO2 climbs to 600 ppm? Would you propose no limit? I mean, if even breathing matters...

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