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Ethics and Morality

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The paper delves into the topic of ethics and morality. It would try to understand the concept of ethics and morality and the difference between the two concepts. In the paper I would analyse what motivates human behaviour and choices and why those choices can never always be moral and ethical. I will analyse some ethical and moral theories that provide guidelines for ethical human behaviour and critically assess them with the aid of real life examples, to determine whether it is possible to have universally applicable rules that help humans to decide if a decision requires ethical/moral considerations or not. The paper would aim to prove that it is the needs of humans which may be at times materialistic and at other times spiritual, that govern their course of action. As no two humans have similar needs and similar means to fulfil their needs, to straitjacket decisions into moral/ethical and rational is virtually impossible.


"The temptation to set aside ethical standards is always present, because the gains are so large for the individual who decides to work outside the rules."

From The High Price of Low Ethics

How Corruption Imperils American Entrepreneurship and Democracy

Carl J. Schramm, PhD, JD

President and CEO, The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

There is no doubt that to succeed in life today, one has to be shrewd, aggressive and practical. We see all around us that the struggle for existence forces humans to sideline issues of right and wrong and makes them focus only on achieving the ends with little or no consideration to the means employed. Does this mean that humans have become inherently immoral and unethical? No. Humans cannot be blind to morality and ethics. According to Aristotle, humans are social animals. For them to be perfectly happy, they have to be a part of a society that is also happy (Yrjцnsuuri 2004). This means that humans, who are biologically selfish, need to consider the interests of the society and be aware of the morality of their choices. But do we understand what ethics and morals are? Ethics are not the same as feelings as some people feel good even when they do something criminal (Markkula Center for applied ethics n.d.). Ethics are not religion, as many people are not religious, but ethics apply to all (Markkula Center for applied ethics n.d.). Ethics are also not law as law can become ethically corrupt as some totalitarian regimes have made it (Markkula Center for applied ethics n.d.). Ethics are not about following culturally accepted norms as cultures can sometimes become corrupt, and neither is ethics science (Marrakula Center for applied ethics n.d.). Then what exactly are ethics and morals? How do we know that we are being faced with an ethical and moral choice rather than an ordinary one? Telling the truth is considered morally right, but if our truth hurts someone should we tell the truth? Can humans be ethical and moral at all times? How many of us know people who would have been influenced by their morals to hide Jews from the Nazis at the expense of their lives? Would the people who preferred to save their own lives be considered immoral? Such questions that concern the right behaviour for humans have been a subject of debate for centuries because it is believed that there is no right answer for such questions. What may feel right to one individual or organization may be considered immoral in another society. This paper would try to analyse the concept of morality and ethics, and their importance in the life of human beings, with an objective to understand whether it is possible to develop universal rules in decision making that can make it easier for humans to take decisions that are acceptable to the society and their conscious.


The word Ethics comes from the Greek word ethos which means moral character or custom. The word Morality comes from the Latin word moralis which means custom or manner (Perle n.d.). ‘Both the words deal with the customs or the manner in which people do things. Their modern meanings relate to the way people act - either good or bad, or right or wrong’ (Perle n.d.). So, if people often use the two words as if they have the same meaning, it should be no surprise. ‘While we may often use the two terms interchangeably, morals are generally understood to be the principles of right and wrong, whereas ethics involve an entire system of moral issues and focuses on right and wrong

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