What are ethics and morals

Morals: definition, difference to ethics + examples

We talk about morals and ethics all the time - moral, ethical, or immoral behavior. But most of the time we don't even know what the terms exactly mean and how they differ. In the following we will show you what morality actually is and what it has to do with ethics. We also explain how morality arises, where it leads to difficulties and give examples of moral behavior.

Definition: what is morality?

Morality determines the behavior accepted by a society

The moral is defined as that Set of ethical and moral norms, principles and values ​​that regulate interpersonal behavior in a society and which it accepts as binding. The term comes from the Latin word moralis from what means concerning the manners. Are synonyms for morality ethical or moral disposition, Custom,moral order and Morality. The antonym or opposite of morality is Immorality, thus the violation of moral concepts.

The Moral concept denotes the Conception of moralitythat someone owns or that predominates - in other words, what is specifically understood by morality. This view of morality can be, for example, honor, decency, conscience, courtesy or humility.

So morality describes for the most part Actions that are expected of a person or a whole society. Custom makes people behave in a certain way.

Difference Between Morals and Ethics

Often the terms morality and ethics are used synonymously, as the different meanings are not clear to many. We have already clarified how morality is defined. So when we talk about morals, we mean morals.

Definition: what is ethics?

Ethics is the moral philosophy

ethics is now the scientific preoccupation with morals. Only when we reflect on morality, philosophize about it, analyze it or examine it, do we speak of ethics. So a synonym for ethics is Moral philosophy.

Accordingly, several morals can coexist while there is only one ethic.

Definition: Moral, Immoral and Ethical

The adjective morally can on the one hand value neutral used - then it means something like tobelonging to a moral - or positive judgment. Most of the time, moral is used in a positive way, namely with the meaning according to morality or morally.

The opposite of moral, i.e. the negative judgment adjective, is immoral. Means immoral contrary to custom and morality. Most often it is used to evaluate behavior. Immoral behavior is behavior that contradicts the ideas of society.

The adjective ethically however only has one neutral Meaning, namely concerning ethics or moral science.

Moral disposition

As mentioned earlier, moral disposition is synonymous with morality. More precisely, the moral disposition describes the awareness of moral values, i.e. that ethical awareness. The moral disposition is also known as Ethos. So if you have a high ethos, you are aware of your morals or your moral values ​​and adjust your actions accordingly.

Requirement for moral behavior

First comes the food, then the moral.

is a saying that comes from Bertolt Brecht's “Ballad about the question: What does a person live on?” originates. He wants to say that you can only act morally when you have been supplied with food, i.e. when you have satisfied your basic needs.

How is morality created?

Just like the values ​​and the corresponding norms that make up a morality, morality is not the same worldwide, but differs in different areas and societies.

Morality is not just educated, but also in part innate and evolutionary originated. Even at the time of the hunter-gatherer it became clear that group formation and mutual help in emergencies gave all members of the group a survival advantage. So evolution got us one moral sense given that aims at personal contact.

Sense of morality determined by instinct rather than reason

On evolutionary new situationsthat have arisen through globalization, among other things, are ours Instincts not prepared. One example is the less pronounced moral duty to help people in need with whom one has no personal connection, for example because they live far away. If we saw an injured person on the street who needed urgent medical attention, we would feel it was our duty to help him. In a person who lives on another continent but needs the same help, we would rather feel less of a sense of duty. For this situation we have not developed any instinct in the course of evolution and have to work through ours reason make it clear that moral action is also required in this case.

Our sense of So morality is more shaped by emotions and instincts than reason and understanding. Hence, there are actions that we consider immoral without really being able to explain why.

Moral dilemma

A dilemma is a situation in which one is forced to to choose between two equally difficult, mostly unpleasant alternative courses of action.

In the case of the moral dilemma, the alternatives cannot be weighed against one another

A moral dilemma is one Special shape a dilemma situation. It occurs when at least two goods, rights or interests are at stake, among which no absolute priority rules exist. In addition, both can neither be realized, protected nor fulfilled at the same time. There is no third way that fulfills both obligations. So it is in a moral dilemma not possible, the goods, rights or interests at stake against each other to weigh up.

Example: track worker dilemma

A well-known example of a moral dilemma is the philosopher Philippa Foot's rail workers' dilemma. The situation is as follows:

An out of control wagon races along the railroad tracks and cannot be stopped. There are five track workers at work on the route who cannot see or hear the wagon and are run over and killed by it. You are standing at a point between the approaching wagon and the five workers. The only way to save the five people from death is to move the switch and divert the car to the other track. However, there is a single worker on this track who neither sees nor hears the wagon. You cannot warn any of the workers.

So your only two options are:

  • You can do nothing and the wagon will roll over five workers.
  • You can Actively switch points and a worker is run over.

What you are doing?

As a rule, the majority answers the question with "I would change the switch”On the grounds that it is better if only one person dies instead of five.

Example: surgeon's dilemma

Another example is the surgeon's dilemma. There the situation is as follows:

The surgeon's dilemma as a moral dilemma

One surgeon has five patients. Each of them lacks a vital organ and they will soon die if they do not receive a donor organ soon. A young, healthy tourist happens to be brought in to have a small wound stitched up. The surgeon determines that the man's organs are a perfect fit for the five patients and would save their lives. So he could use the tourist as an involuntary organ donor and thus save the lives of the five other patients.

So its two options are:

  • He can do nothing and the five terminally ill patients die.
  • He can do that Implant organs of the healthy patient in the terminally ill patient and only that healthy patient dies.

What would you do?

In this dilemma, the majority of respondents usually state that they have the leave healthy patients alone and accept that the other five patients will die.

But why would most people actively set the course in the first situation to let “only” one person die instead of five, but would not sacrifice the life of one patient in the second situation to save the life of the other five?

It usually falls to the respondents hard to explain this decision. This is because action is primarily determined by instinct and not reason. Due to evolution, most people find it easier to sacrifice someone with whom they have a certain distance than someone with whom they have direct contact.

Moral hazard

The Moral hazardwhat in German as much as moral risk means, is originally a term from insurance science and is used today in economic parlance. Moral hazard is a general term False incentives or unequal information that lead to people behaving irresponsibly or recklessly and thus triggering or increasing a risk.

Information asymmetries lead to increased risk

The reason why a contract partner behaves more risky after the conclusion of the contract is that the other party less well informed is as this and cannot observe his actions. The better informed contract partner takes advantage of this ignoranceknowing that the risk will not come back on him. This creates additional costs for the ignorant party and the general public. This minimizes the incentive to behave correctly and promotes opportunistic or appropriately adapted behavior.

A clear example from the original context is the conclusion of a car insurance:

A person buys a new car and is initially very careful and only parks it in the monitored parking garage, instead of on the side of the road. Now that person takes out insurance for the car that covers all damage. Now the person is less cautious, so is more risky, and from now on parks the car on the street as well. She knows that the insurance will pay for any damage that occurs.

The moral risk is that the insured person's willingness to take risks increases, which also increases the likelihood that costs will be incurred for the insurance, which leads to higher contributions from all members of the insurance.

Examples of morality

As the definition of morality shows, it describes the totality of values ​​and the corresponding norms that prevail in a society. examples for common values ​​and norms are:

  • Honesty: "You shouldn't lie!"
  • Freedom: "You shouldn't deprive anyone of freedom and opportunities!"
  • Peace: "You should solve conflicts without violence!"
  • Justice: "You should treat everyone equally!"
  • Life: "You shouldn't kill!"

Check out this article for more examples of values ​​and norms.

Morality in stories

In the context of morality, this phrase will surely sound familiar to you:

And the moral of the story': …!

It originally comes from history The bath on Saturday evening by Wilhelm Busch and reads there: "And the moral of the story’: Bad ’two in one tub’. The story is about two boys who are bathed together in a bathtub and who do nonsense. So morality has arisen from experience within the story and closes the story.

According to this scheme, numerous stories, fairy tales and fables have been constructed that are aimed at the reader to convey certain forms of behavior and customs.

Below are some examples of stories with the specific morals they convey:

"And the moral of the story': …"

  • The Frog Prince:
    "It is worthwhile not to judge others on their appearance, but on their inner values."
  • The golden goose:
    "Good-naturedness is rewarded."
  • Hans in hapiness:
    "Possession alone does not make you happy - and can even be a burden."
  • Little table set you up:
    “Hard work is rewarded. Lies fly up at some point. "
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