Ethics and Morals — Are They the Same?



We live in an age when politics is twisting the meanings of words. Every year, communication becomes more confused.

Perhaps the most important examples are the words ethics and morals.

Ethics is from the Greek word ethos, which means the essential nature or character of something. Four legs, a head and a tail are part of the essential nature of a cat. The cat cannot change this.

Morals is from the Latin word mos, meaning mores, customs, habits. These can and do change. Rosie the Riveter in World War II made it okay for women to work outside the home in jobs that formerly went only to men.

Ethics refers to a higher law than any human law. To be ethical is to be in sync with the principles of right and wrong built into human nature.

Morals are not built in. They are the result of opinion, which can change with the wind.

We are born with limits based on ethics. If we choose to be ethical, life gets better, and if we don't, life gets worse; it's automatic.

Morals, again, are just opinions.

Ethics is doing what is right even if every other person on earth is doing what is wrong.

To be moral, on the other hand, is to behave in ways that are popular, customary or in sync with the behavior of the majority. If most others do it, it's okay.

The rules of ethics are fact, unchanging and scientifically provable. Anyone can verify these rules, by doing a simple experiment. (This is explained in our ethics course handbook The 17-Word Solution™.)

Here's the big problem: today's politicized language treats the word ethics as a synonym for morals. Majority rule is what is ethical. If the majority does it, it's the right thing to do.

Check almost any current dictionary and you are likely to find something such as, "Ethics. A set of moral principles."

This redefinition of ethics is so common that we should not be surprised if someday we learn that practically everyone who thinks he or she is teaching ethics is really teaching morals.

Ethics Solutions® strongly disagrees with the redefinition of ethics, and warns of its dangers. This is why we teach ethical behavior not moral behavior.

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