Ethics and morals both relate to “right” and “wrong” conduct. However, ethics refer to the series of rules provided to an individual by an external source, e.g. their profession or religion. Morals refer to an individual’s own principles regarding right and wrong.
|What are they?||The rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group or culture.||Principles or habits with respect to right or wrong conduct. While morals also prescribe dos and don'ts, morality is ultimately a personal compass of right and wrong.|
|Where do they come from?||Social system - External||Individual - Internal|
|Why we do it?||Because society says it is the right thing to do.||Because we believe in something being right or wrong.|
|Flexibility||Ethics are dependent on others for definition. They tend to be consistent within a certain context, but can vary between contexts.||Usually consistent, although can change if an individual’s beliefs change.|
|The "Gray"||A person strictly following Ethical Principles may not have any Morals at all. Likewise, one could violate Ethical Principles within a given system of rules in order to maintain Moral integrity.||A Moral Person although perhaps bound by a higher covenant, may choose to follow a code of ethics as it would apply to a system. "Make it fit"|
|Origin||Greek word "ethos" meaning"character"||Latin word "mos" meaning "custom"|
|Acceptability||Ethics are governed by professional and legal guidelines within a particular time and place||Morality transcends cultural norms|
Contents: Ethics vs Morals
Source of Principles
Ethics are external standards, provided by the institutions, groups or culture to which an individual belongs. For example, lawyers, policemen and doctors all have to follow an ethical code laid down by their profession, regardless of their own feelings or preferences. Ethics can also be considered as a social system or a framework for acceptable behavior.
Morals may also be influenced by culture or society, but they are personal principles created and upheld by the individuals themselves.
Consistency and Flexibility
Ethics are very consistent within a certain context, but can vary greatly between contexts. For example, the ethics of the medical profession in the 21st century are generally consistent and do not change from hospital to hospital, but they are different from the ethics of the 21st century legal profession.
An individual’s moral code is usually unchanging and consistent across all contexts, but can change if the individual has a radical change in their personal beliefs and values.
Example of a conflict between ethics and morals
One professional example of ethics conflicting with morals is the work of a defense attorney. A lawyer’s morals may tell her that murder is reprehensible and that murderers should be punished, but her ethics as a professional lawyer, require her to defend the client to the best of her abilities, even if she knows that the client is guilty.
Videos explaining the differences
The following video explains how ethics are objective while morals are subjective.
The following video discusses the ethical and moral dilemma faced by Captain Picard in an episode of Star Trek where he must choose whether to do nothing — in which case tens of thousands of people will die — or do something to save them but with a risk that millions of people will die.