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10.1: Ethics vs. Morality

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    There’s no standard distinction between the ‘ethical’ and the ‘moral.’ Which are ethical questions? Which are moral questions? Who knows?

    I like to think about them the following way:

    The ethical (from Greek ethos) is a really broad category encompassing questions about everything we do. The ethical is about your relationship with yourself (and if you’re a theist about your relationship with God).

    The moral (from Latin mores or customs) is a narrower category encompassing only questions about our relations with one another. Moral questions are like the morality of abortion, murder, theft, lying, etc. They’re about how we interact with other agents/actors.

    A sub-set of moral questions are political: how should we govern our society? What taxation schemes are fair/just/moral? What is a moral policing strategy? Etc.

    On this conception, the ethical encompasses the moral and political because ethical questions are questions about the good life and what we ought to do, whereas moral questions are about what we ought to do to and with one another.

    It’s important to note, though, that this isn’t an authoritative way to draw the distinction. There are other ways to do so. In this class, I tend to just use ‘moral’ and ‘ethical’ interchangeably.

    This page titled 10.1: Ethics vs. Morality is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Andrew Lavin via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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