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Have you ever deemed someone's behavior to be unethical?

Have you ever questioned their moral code


or the values upon which they base their decisions? When our minds wander to these places, the three
terms -- ethics, morals and values -- tend to get a bit murky. As a society, we tend to interchange the
three.

So, what's the difference between ethics, morals, and values? The difference is slight but it's there.
Understanding the difference between the three will help you delve into your next novel with a greater
understanding of each character.

Values

Let's start with values. Values are the foundation of a person's ability to judge between right and wrong.
Values include a deep-rooted system of beliefs. They have intrinsic worth, but are not universally
accepted. This system allows each individual to determine what should and shouldn't be.

What Is Important or Valuable?

For example, if someone's value system is founded upon honesty, they would probably make a proper
judgment between cheating on a college entrance exam (wrong) and studying hard to ace a college
entrance exam (right). Conversely, if someone valued achievement and success over honesty, that
person may opt to cheat on the exam in order to achieve the desired result. This relates to which value is
"worth more" to the individual. These fundamental beliefs are the barometer that go on to guide a
person's decisions. Values don't necessarily need to be "system wide" in a group of people. Rather, they
tend to be a personal, individual foundation that influences a particular person's behavior.

Morals

Next, we have morals, which are formed out of values. They're the actual system of beliefs that emerge
out of a person's core values. Morals are specific and context-driven rules that govern a person's
behavior. Because this system of beliefs is individually tailored to a person's life experience, it's subject to
opinion.

Amoral vs. Immoral

Be careful with the terminology in this category. Sometimes, the words "amoral" and "immoral" are
interchanged. However, they're quite different. If someone is amoral, they have no sense of right and
wrong. They don't have the foundation that comes with a sound set of values. Meanwhile, if someone if
immoral, you can be sure they know right from wrong. They're just choosing to do the wrong thing.

A Moral Dilemma

Given the personal nature of morals, someone might deem an action to be "good" even if it's breaking a
law. For example, what if a daughter couldn't afford the life-saving medicine her dying mother needed
but she, somehow, had access to the storeroom where the medicine was housed? In this instance, her
core values might tell her stealing is wrong. However, her morality would tell her she needs to protect
her mother. As such, the daughter might end up doing the wrong thing (stealing, as judged by her values)
for the right reasons (saving her mother, as judged by her morals).

Ethics

Finally, we have ethics. Ethics are the vehicle to our morals. They're our morals in action. Ethics enact the
system we've developed in our moral code. As such, someone will behave ethically or unethically. For
example, someone's ethics will prevent them from taking action and telling a bold-faced lie or stealing
their mother-in-law's secret recipe for cornbread. This might seem like muddy water to you. The line
between morals and ethics is so fine, it's easy to miss. Well, you're not alone. Encyclopedia Britannica
considers "morals" and "ethics" to be interchangeable terms. However, the context in which they're used
might provide further distinction.

Professional Ethics

We tend to link morals to matters of religion and spirituality. Meanwhile, ethics are closely linked to
matters pertaining to medicine or law. We know doctors are held to a strict code of ethics when they
swear the Hippocratic Oath. Similarly, an organization like PETA literally stands for "People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals." Consider morals as the rulebook and ethics as the motivator that leads to proper
or improper action.

Sound Moral Judgment

Sound moral judgment is rooted in strong values and acted upon by our ethics. It seems like the three
are the same, but they're different enough to warrant a closer study. If you're writing a short story, you
might want to approach your main character from this viewpoint. As you develop the conflict your main
character will face, try to create a deep-rooted set of values. Consider where those values might have
come from. Then, use their morality as the barometer in any decisions they have to make.

Finally, allow your readers to watch your main character choose right or wrong as their ethics come to
full view. This evolution will take your readers on an exciting ride. They'll be able to connect with and
fully understand the choices the main character makes.Copyright 2013 by Jensen DG. Mañebog

Morality may refer to the standards that a person or a group has about what is right and wrong, or good
and evil. Accordingly, moral standards are those concerned with or relating to human behavior,
especially the distinction between good and bad (or right and wrong) behavior.

Moral standards involve the rules people have about the kinds of actions they believe are morally right
and wrong, as well as the values they place on the kinds of objects they believe are morally good and
morally bad. Some ethicists equate moral standards with moral values and moral principles.

Non-moral standards refer to rules that are unrelated to moral or ethical considerations. Either these
standards are not necessarily linked to morality or by nature lack ethical sense. Basic examples of non-
moral standards include rules of etiquette, fashion standards, rules in games, and various house rules.
Technically, religious rules, some traditions, and legal statutes (i.e. laws and ordinances) are non-moral
principles, though they can be ethically relevant depending on some factors and contexts.

The following six (6) characteristics of moral standards further differentiate them from non-moral
standards:

a. Moral standards involve serious wrongs or significant benefits.

Moral standards deal with matters which can seriously impact, that is, injure or benefit human beings. It
is not the case with many non-moral standards. For instance, following or violating some basketball rules
may matter in basketball games but does not necessarily affect one’s life or wellbeing.

b. Moral standards ought to be preferred to other values.

Moral standards have overriding character or hegemonic authority. If a moral standard states that a
person has the moral obligation to do something, then he/she is supposed to do that even if it conflicts
with other non-moral standards, and even with self-interest.

Moral standards are not the only rules or principles in society, but they take precedence over other
considerations, including aesthetic, prudential, and even legal ones. A person may be aesthetically
justified in leaving behind his family in order to devote his life to painting, but morally, all things
considered, he/she probably was not justified. It may be prudent to lie to save one’s dignity, but it
probably is morally wrong to do so. When a particular law becomes seriously immoral, it may be
people’s moral duty to exercise civil disobedience.

There is a general moral duty to obey the law, but there may come a time when the injustice of an evil
law is unbearable and thus calls for illegal but moral noncooperation (such as the antebellum laws calling
for citizens to return slaves to their owners).

c. Moral standards are not established by authority figures.

Moral standards are not invented, formed, or generated by authoritative bodies or persons such as
nations’ legislative bodies. Ideally instead, these values ought to be considered in the process of making
laws. In principle therefore, moral standards cannot be changed nor nullified by the decisions of
particular authoritative body. One thing about these standards, nonetheless, is that its validity lies on the
soundness or adequacy of the reasons that are considered to support and justify them.

d. Moral standards have the trait of universalizability.

Simply put, it means that everyone should live up to moral standards. To be more accurate, however, it
entails that moral principles must apply to all who are in the relevantly similar situation. If one judges
that act A is morally right for a certain person P, then it is morally right for anybody relevantly similar to P.

This characteristic is exemplified in the Gold Rule, “Do unto others what you would them do unto you (if
you were in their shoes)” and in the formal Principle of Justice, “It cannot be right for A to treat B in a
manner in which it would be wrong for B to treat A, merely on the ground that they are two different
individuals, and without there being any difference between the natures or circumstances of the two
which can be stated as a reasonable ground for difference of treatment.” Universalizability is an
extension of the principle of consistency, that is, one ought to be consistent about one’s value
judgments.

e. Moral standards are based on impartial considerations.

Moral standard does not evaluate standards on the basis of the interests of a certain person or group,
but one that goes beyond personal interests to a universal standpoint in which each person’s interests
are impartially counted as equal.

Impartiality is usually depicted as being free of bias or prejudice. Impartiality in morality requires that
we give equal and/or adequate consideration to the interests of all concerned parties.

f. Moral standards are associated with special emotions and vocabulary.

Prescriptivity indicates the practical or action-guiding nature of moral standards. These moral standards
areGenerally, the terms ethics and morality are used interchangeably, although a few different
communities (academic, legal, or religious, for example) will occasionally make a distinction. In fact,
Britannica’s article on ethics considers the terms to be the same as moral philosophy. While
understanding that most ethicists (that is, philosophers who study ethics) consider the terms
interchangeable, let’s go ahead and dive into these distinctions.Both morality and ethics loosely have to
do with distinguishing the difference between “good and bad” or “right and wrong.” Many people think
of morality as something that’s personal and normative, whereas ethics is the standards of “good and
bad” distinguished by a certain community or social setting. For example, your local community may
think adultery is immoral, and you personally may agree with that. However, the distinction can be
useful if your local community has no strong feelings about adultery, but you consider adultery immoral
on a personal level. By these definitions of the terms, your morality would contradict the ethics of your
community. In popular discourse, however, we’ll often use the terms moral and immoral when talking
about issues like adultery regardless of whether it’s being discussed in a personal or in a community-
based situation. As you can see, the distinction can get a bit tricky.

It’s important to consider how the two terms have been used in discourse in different fields so that we
can consider the connotations of both terms. For example, morality has a Christian connotation to many
Westerners, since moral theology is prominent in the church. Similarly, ethics is the term used in
conjunction with business, medicine, or law. In these cases, ethics serves as a personal code of conduct
for people working in those fields, and the ethics themselves are often highly debated and contentious.
These connotations have helped guide the distinctions between morality and ethics.

Ethicists today, however, use the terms interchangeably. If they do want to differentiate morality from
ethics, the onus is on the ethicist to state the definitions of both terms. Ultimately, the distinction
between the two is as substantial as a line drawn in the sand.Moral values are relative values that
protect life and are respectful of the dual life value of self and others. The great moral values, such as
truth, freedom, charity, etc., have one thing in common. When they are functioning correctly, they are
life protecting or life enhancing for all. But they are still relative values. Our relative moral values must be
constantly examined to make sure that they are always performing their life-protecting mission. Even the
Marine Corps core values of “honor, courage and commitment” require examination in this context.
Courage can become foolish martyrdom, commitment can become irrational fanaticism, honor can
become self-righteousness, conceit, and disrespect for others. Our enemies have their own standard of
honor, they have courage, and they are surely committed. What sets us apart? Respect for the universal
life value sets us apart from our enemies.

What is Ethics?

A person who knows the difference between right and wrong and chooses right is moral. A person
whose morality is reflected in his willingness to do the right thing – even if it is hard or dangerous – is
ethical. Ethics are moral values in action. Being ethical id an imperative because morality protects life
and is respectful of others – all others. It is a lifestyle that is consistent with mankind’s universal values as
articulated by the American Founding Fathers – human equality and the inalienable right to life. As
warriors it is our duty to be protectors and defenders of the life value and to perform the unique and
difficult mission of taking the lives of those acting immorally (against life) when necessary to protect the
lives of innocent others.

When you must kill protecting life it is still hard, but it is moral. Those who kill those not observant of
their narrow relative religious, ethnic or criminal values – in other words, kill over relative values – are
immoral. A dedication to protecting the life value of self and others – all others – makes the Ethical
Warrior different and moral.from the Greek word ethos. The word “morals” or “morality” comes from
the word mores. The difference is that the ethos of a society or culture deals with its foundational
philosophy, its concept of values, and its system of understanding how the world fits together. There is a
philosophical value system that is the ethos of every culture in the world. On the other hand, mores has
to do with the customs, habits, and normal forms of behavior that are found within a given culture.

In the first instance, ethics is called a normative science; it’s the study of norms or standards by which
things are measured or evaluated. Morality, on the other hand, is what we would call a descriptive
science. A descriptive science is a method to describe the way things operate or behave. Ethics are
concerned with the imperative and morality is concerned with the indicative. What do we mean by that?
It means that ethics is concerned with “ought-ness,” and morality is concerned with “is-ness.”

Ethics, or ethos, is normative and imperative. It deals with what someone ought to do. Morality
describes what someone is actually doing. That’s a significant difference, particularly as we understand it
in light of our Christian faith, and also in light of the fact that the two concepts are confused, merged,
and blended in our contemporary understanding.

What has come out of the confusion of ethics and morality is the emergence of what I call “statistical
morality.” This is where the normal or regular becomes the normative. Here’s how it works: to find out
what is normal, we do a statistical survey, we take a poll, or we find out what people are actually doing.
For example, suppose we find out that a majority of teenagers are using marijuana. We then come to the
conclusion that at this point in history, it is normal for an adolescent in the American culture to indulge
in the use of marijuana. If it is normal, we deem it to be good and right.

Ultimately, the science of ethics is concerned with what is right, and morality is concerned with what is
accepted. In most societies, when something is accepted, it is judged to be right. But oftentimes, this
provokes a crisis for the Christian. When the normal becomes the normative, when what is determines
what ought to be, we may as Christians find ourselves swimming hard against the cultural current.

The Christian concept of ethics is on a collision course with much of what is being expressed as morality.
This is because we do not determine right or wrong based on what everybody else is doing. For example,
if we study the statistics, we will see that all men at one time or another lie. That doesn’t mean that all
men lie all the time, but that all men have indulged in lying at some time or another. If we look at that
statistically, we would say that one hundred percent of people indulge in dishonesty, and since it’s one
hundred percent universal, we should come to the conclusion that it’s perfectly normal for human
beings to tell lies. Not only normal, but perfectly human. If we want to be fully human, we should
encourage ourselves in the direction of lying. Of course, that’s what we call a reductio ad absurdum
argument, where we take something to its logical conclusion and show the folly of it. But that’s not what
usually occurs in our culture. Such obvious problems in developing a statistical morality are often
overlooked. The Bible says that we lean toward lying, and yet we are called to a higher standard. As
Christians, the character of God supplies our ultimate ethos or ethic, the ultimate framework by which
we discern what is right, good, and pleasing to Him.

Why the need to distinguish moral standards from non-moral ones?

It is important to note that different societies have different moral beliefs and that our beliefs are deeply
influenced by our own culture and context. For this reason, some values do have moral implications,
while others don’t. Let us consider, for example, the wearing of hijab. For sure, in traditional Muslim
communities, the wearing of hijab is the most appropriate act that women have to do in terms of
dressing up. In fact, for some Muslims, showing parts of the woman’s body, such as the face and legs, is
despicable. However, in many parts of the world, especially in Western societies, most people don’t
mind if women barely cover their bodies. As a matter of fact, the Hollywood canon of beauty glorifies a
sexy and slim body and the wearing of extremely daring dress. The point here is that people in the West
may have pitied the Muslim women who wear hijab, while some Muslims may find women who dress up
daringly despicable.

Again, this clearly shows that different cultures have different moral standards. What is a matter of moral
indifference, that is, a matter of taste (hence, non-moral value) in one culture may be a matter of moral
significance in another.

Now, the danger here is that one culture may impose its own cultural standard on others, which may
result in a clash in cultural values and beliefs. When this happens, as we may already know, violence and
crime may ensue, such as religious violence and ethnic cleansing.How can we address this cultural
conundrum?
This is where the importance of understanding the difference between moral standards (that is, of what
is a moral issue) and non-moral ones (that is, of what is a non-moral issue―thus, a matter of taste)
comes in. This issue may be too obvious and insignificant for some people, but understanding the
difference between the two may have far-reaching implications. For one, once we have distinguished
moral standards from non-moral ones, of course, through the aid of the principles and theories in ethics,
we will be able to identify fundamental ethical values that may guide our actions. Indeed, once we know
that particular values and beliefs are non-moral, we will be able to avoid running the risk of falling into
the pit of cultural reductionism (that is, taking complex cultural issues as simple and homogenous ones)
and the unnecessary imposition of one’s own cultural standard on others. The point here is that if such
standards are non-moral (that is, a matter of taste), then we don’t have the right to impose them on
others. But if such standards are moral ones, such as not killing or harming people, then we may have
the right to force others to act accordingly. In this way, we may be able to find a common moral ground,
such as agreeing not to steal, lie, cheat, kill, harm, and deceive our fellow human beings.

Now, what are moral standards, and how do they differ from non-moral ones?

Moral Standards and their Characteristics

Moral standards are norms that individuals or groups have about the kinds of actions believed to be
morally right or wrong, as well as the values placed on what we believed to be morally good or morally
bad. Moral standards normally promote “the good”, that is, the welfare and well-being of humans as
well as animals and the environment. Moral standards, therefore, prescribe what humans ought to do in
terms of rights and obligations.

According to some scholars, moral standards are the sum of combined norms and values. In other words,
norms plus values equal moral standards. On the one hand, norms are understood as general rules about
our actions or behaviors. For example, we may say “We are always under the obligation to fulfill our
promises” or “It is always believed that killing innocent people is absolutely wrong”. On the other hand,
values are understood as enduring beliefs or statements about what is good and desirable or not. For
example, we may say “Helping the poor is good” or “Cheating during exams is bad”.According to many
scholars, moral standards have the following characteristics, namely: 1) moral standards deal with
matters we think can seriously injure or benefit humans, animals, and the environment, such as child
abuse, rape, and murder; 2) moral standards are not established or changed by the decisions of
authoritative individuals or bodies. Indeed, moral standards rest on the adequacy of the reasons that are
taken to support and justify them. For sure, we don’t need a law to back up our moral conviction that
killing innocent people is absolutely wrong; 3) moral standards are overriding, that is, they take
precedence over other standards and considerations, especially of self-interest; 4) moral standards are
based on impartial considerations. Hence, moral standards are fair and just; and 5) moral standards are
associated with special emotions (such as guilt and shame) and vocabulary (such as right, wrong, good,
and bad).
Non-moral Standards

Non-moral standards refer to standards by which we judge what is good or bad and right or wrong in a
non-moral way. Examples of non-moral standards are standards of etiquette by which we judge manners
as good or bad, standards we call the law by which we judge something as legal or illegal, and standards
of aesthetics by which we judge art as good or rubbish. Hence, we should not confuse morality with
etiquette, law, aesthetics or even with religion.

As we can see, non-moral standards are matters of taste or preference. Hence, a scrupulous observance
of these types of standards does not make one a moral person. Violation of said standards also does not
pose any threat to human well-being.

Finally, as a way of distinguishing moral standards from non-moral ones, if a moral standard says “Do not
harm innocent people” or “Don’t steal”, a non-moral standard says “Don’t text while driving” or “Don’t
talk while the mouth is full”.from the Greek word ethos. The word “morals” or “morality” comes from
the word mores. The difference is that the ethos of a society or culture deals with its foundational
philosophy, its concept of values, and its system of understanding how the world fits together. There is a
philosophical value system that is the ethos of every culture in the world. On the other hand, mores has
to do with the customs, habits, and normal forms of behavior that are found within a given culture.

In the first instance, ethics is called a normative science; it’s the study of norms or standards by which
things are measured or evaluated. Morality, on the other hand, is what we would call a descriptive
science. A descriptive science is a method to describe the way things operate or behave. Ethics are
concerned with the imperative and morality is concerned with the indicative. What do we mean by that?
It means that ethics is concerned with “ought-ness,” and morality is concerned with “is-ness.”

Ethics, or ethos, is normative and imperative. It deals with what someone ought to do. Morality
describes what someone is actually doing. That’s a significant difference, particularly as we understand it
in light of our Christian faith, and also in light of the fact that the two concepts are confused, merged,
and blended in our contemporary understanding.

What has come out of the confusion of ethics and morality is the emergence of what I call “statistical
morality.” This is where the normal or regular becomes the normative. Here’s how it works: to find out
what is normal, we do a statistical survey, we take a poll, or we find out what people are actually doing.
For example, suppose we find out that a majority of teenagers are using marijuana. We then come to the
conclusion that at this point in history, it is normal for an adolescent in the American culture to indulge
in the use of marijuana. If it is normal, we deem it to be good and right.

Ultimately, the science of ethics is concerned with what is right, and morality is concerned with what is
accepted. In most societies, when something is accepted, it is judged to be right. But oftentimes, this
provokes a crisis for the Christian. When the normal becomes the normative, when what is determines
what ought to be, we may as Christians find ourselves swimming hard against the cultural current.