Morality and Ethics

Morality is the human attempt to define what is right and wrong about our actions and thoughts, and what is good and bad about our being who we are.

The three bases for determining the morality of human acts, as outlined by the catechism of the Catholic church,are

  1. Object
  2. Intention and
  3. Circumstances.

The object of an act is the “chosen good” that initiates it, such as the provision of food for a family.

The elements determining morality:

Depend on the individual and the surrounding culture; however, basic human emotions, religious beliefs and political views are decisive factors in establishing morality.

Morals emerge from the superego, the region of the brain that controls feelings of guilt and conscience, according to Sigmund Freud

it would be interesting to know how morality factors in when evaluating companies or political candidates. Recalling the Volkswagen emissions scandal, consumers perhaps care about a company’s morality quite deeply, but for different reasons than for why they care about an acquaintance’s morality.

What is ethics?

At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles. They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives.Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society and is also described as moral philosophy.The term is derived from the Greek word ethos which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition.

Ethics covers the following dilemmas:

  • how to live a good life
  • our rights and responsibilities
  • the language of right and wrong
  • moral decisions – what is good and bad?

Our concepts of ethics have been derived from religions, philosophies and cultures. They infuse debates on topics like abortion, human rights and professional conduct.

Approaches to ethics

Philosophers nowadays tend to divide ethical theories into three areas: metaethics, normative ethics and applied ethics.

  • Meta-ethics deals with the nature of moral judgement. It looks at the origins and meaning of ethical principles.
  • Normative ethics is concerned with the content of moral judgements and the criteria for what is right or wrong.
  • Applied ethics looks at controversial topics like war, animal rights and capital punishment.  If ethical theories are to be useful in practice, they need to affect the way human beings behave.Some philosophers think that ethics does do this. They argue that if a person realises that it would be morally good to do something then it would be irrational for that person not to do it.But human beings often behave irrationally – they follow their ‘gut instinct’ even when their head suggests a different course of action.However, ethics does provide good tools for thinking about moral issues.

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