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?


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And going along with Bush into Iraq. I don't remember the first protests coming from any American religious leader

Not an American religious leader, but then pope JP2 was at the forefront of opposition to the Iraq war.  He and the Vatican were right on about every count.


This might interest you, @Pope Beanie.  From "The Moral Sense" by James Q Wilson: 

"Much of the time our inclination toward fair play or our sympathy for the plight of others are immediate and instinctive, a reflex of our emotions more than an act of our intellect, and in those cases in which we do deliberate (for example, by struggling to decide what fair play entails or duty requires in a particular case), our deliberation begins, not with philosophical premises (much less with the justification for them), but with feelings - in short, with a moral sense.  The feelings on which people act are often superior to the arguments that they employ." 

Where does this come from?  Our shared evolutionary heritage as human beings. 

Where does this come from?  Our shared evolutionary heritage as human beings.

Very much so. But the deeper we get into science, the more complicated these questions get. Birth control is an example of an issue that medical science has sprung upon us that requires new thinking about how we can and should mess with some basic, evolutionary processes. The discussion of the morality of widely available abortion requires us to question those built in emotions, and consider intellectually (and philosophically) what new choices should or shouldn't be allowed.

So we need to consider both that evolution should inform our default moral baseline, but modernity and new powers over nature require us to consider ethics of our new roles, and any new legislation required to monitor and regulate (or explicitly make legal) new practices (such as abortion, pot use, death penalty and euthanasia, etc.). FGM is another example of humans usurping nature, albeit not "locally" (in the west).

Sympathy in abortion cases ranges from (my) "it's just a damned clump of cells that look like a salamander" to (their) "oh, it's just a poor baby". Sympathy and empathy matters, but I claim that it shouldn't matter until a fetus is developed enough to feel those (and other) things. Others claim to know what God would want, and therefor we need something like sharia law to close down abortion clinics. (Whoops, have I added too much emotion here?!)

Sorry, forgot to conclude... so ethics are sets of agreements we can use to update morality, while localizing its jurisdiction to our own state or society. Morality is more of a "well, I think all humans should be this way, even if I don't know or interact with them".

They are so close in meaning that each of us has probably assigned a slight nuance of difference in our interpretations. That disclaimer said, in my head morals are more emotionally seated, whereas ethics seem to be more logically arrived at.

And aren't judgmental people more likely to refer to morals rather than ethics?

"And aren't judgmental people more likely to refer to morals rather than ethics?"

I think so.

I can't remember ever meeting a non judgmental person spouting off about morals.

While it's true that many people don't bother to make a distinction between them, distinctions are more useful than synonymy. Since I think the words morals, moralizing, and immoral are more frequently used by judgmental people, who are more typically religious, it's useful to use "morals" to refer to the prescriptive ethics of religious people and "ethics" to refer to the rational struggles of intelligent people to try to discover and do the right thing by thinking things over.

I like using the word ethics rather than morality with fundamentalists. They get an instant deer-in-the-headlights look before they clutch their hearts. It's almost like you described having sex with  newborn goats.

"in my head morals are more emotionally seated, whereas ethics seem to be more logically arrived at."

^^^ That sounds good to me.

Well, words have definitions. Almost every dictionary I know of defines ethics and morals as relating to the concept of right and wrong in regards to certain behavior. Often, they are used interchangeably or used to define each other. So you are wrong and your professor is right, objectively speaking. Now you can have your own definition of morals and your own definition of ethics, and they might be different. Indeed, this is often a useful practice when considering what is right and what is wrong. For instance, I know some people who define morals as what they feel is right, as a result of their mammalian emotions, and ethics as what they think is right based on logical mental tests. But that is not how those words are actually defined and your subjective definition of words is irrelevant when arguing a point. I could easily say that killing someone isn't murder if you really really really wanted to do, because that's how define murder. That would likely not hold up in any court of law.

A distinction is always more useful than a synonymy because it makes a distinction and synonymy does not. And to me the most useful distinction is to say that morality is more of a religious thing than ethics because the religious people always invoke morality when discuss behavior. Rarely do they say that thievery or adultery is unethical. Rather they say it's immoral. So I give them that because it can take us away from syonymy and allow us to invoke an EXTREMELY meaningful distinction. For me...

MORALITY is a behavior involving the rote following of value-based behavioral prescriptions. There is no discussion of those values. Part of being moral is just accepting them, on faith if you will.

ETHICS is a behavior rejecting prescriptions and using evidence, logic, and values to arrive at responses which are defensible in terms of evidence, logic, and clearly defined values. Values which can be discussed.

^^^  that sounds great Unseen.  Start bottling it and I'll help you sell it. LOL.

Best explanation I've heard.


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