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A question was brought to attention in our previous class:

What is the difference between morals and ethics?

This question has been a hot topic of discussion since the very beginnings of philosophy and critical thinking. Some may reference the dictionary definition of these words. This will give us a basis for thought.

mor·al [mawr-uhl, mor-]
1. of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical: moral attitudes.

eth·ics [eth-iks]
plural noun
1. ( used with a singular or plural verb ) a system of moral principles: the ethics of a culture.

Now you must be completely confused. The words “moral” and “ethical” seem to be used interchangeably with one another in these definitions. In reality, these are just building blocks into the bigger picture of society. It starts with morals. Morals are widely accepted as a human being’s personal vision of what right and wrong are, lending itself to the argument of truth and absolutes.

What is “right” and what is “wrong”?

Suppose a man is on the brink of death from starvation. His life will not continue to exist if he does not drink a medical concoction that another man possesses. The one who possesses the drink refuses to offer it to the dying man, forcing the dying man to steal it from the other in order to live. Because he was dying, that allowed him to justify stealing from the other man. Is this right? Can we properly label right?

No, we simply cannot. What is right is relative to the culture or situation, however, relativity in and of itself is a fallacy. The Theory of Relativism states that there are no absolutes, which in and of itself is an absolute, thus rendering this theory null and void. On that same construct, we can extract the knowledge that there will never be a universally accepted “right.” (This is the part where all the math majors raise their hands) Ask anyone, “What is 2+2?” Most people will reply with an off-handed joke due to the repetitious nature of the question, but will inherently reply, “4.” Math is considered to be absolute, however, once you progress far past basic math, you will find that math become theoretical based on the variables established in more simpler forms. Off the assumption that 2+2=4 is absolutely true, many more ideologies dealing with a greater understanding of the physical world are developed.

What I’m trying to say is that what we believe to be true about math is only because men long ago decided to say that’s what math is–relative to how they felt. If other men were to develop it, it would have taken on a very different form. But what we know to be true is that no matter what form it comes in, we would still come out with a similar outcome.

So then, as it stands, truths about right and wrong are pretty widely accepted. (Or at least we will go with that understanding) These rights and wrongs are how people develop their morals and they use these morals together with one another to create an ethical code.

So what is the answer? Too may variables to determine. However, my theory on it goes like this: Morals = A human’s perception of right and wrong. Ethics = A society of human’s perception of right and wrong.