Ethics and Morals Essay

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Ethics and Morals

Quite frequently, people use the terms ethics, values and morals interchangeably. Although doing so is fine in most situations, there actually are subtle differences in the denotations and connotations of each of these terms. Perhaps the biggest point of distinction between these terms pertains to the term values when this word and its meaning are contrasted with those for morals and ethics. Values are generally extrinsic qualities that a person or an organization considers important. On the contrary, morals and ethics are usually different means of determining what acceptable behavior is and what specific principles make such behavior defensible or not. Values, then, are character traits, ideas, or a "fundamental beliefs" (Navran, 2010) that a person or a collective esteems, whereas morals and ethics are principles upon which behavior and even values are based.

Examples of values include general concepts that can apply to people. Typical values include honesty, integrity, hard work, etcetera. In this respect values are somewhat akin to virtues. Conventional virtues such as patience and kindness are oftentimes valued by people in their specific interactions with one another. Exhibiting patience may be moralistic or ethical in numerous situations, but patience itself
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is not a principle of ethics or of morals. It is a quality, a type of attribute that people can choose to value or esteem. Values are oftentimes found in the specific literature that contemporary organizations have to describe their companies and their company culture, and are readily found alongside documents such as mission statements. Values, then, are the specific attributes that a person or a group of people hold important, whereas morals and ethics are used to describe principles behind types of behavior that people or groups condone.

The finest difference of these three terms pertains to the distinction between morals and ethics. In respect to values, both of these concepts relate to notions of goodness or right, as opposed to characteristics that one thinks are desirable. However, when contrasting morals and ethics the principle difference is that despite the fact that both of these words relate to concepts of righteousness and goodness, ethics does so from a more personal (or collective) behavioral standpoint whereas morals does so from a decidedly more abstract, impersonal set of beliefs. The difference between these two terms, then, is certainly subtle. How one acts is either ethical or unethical because it relates to the concepts of…

Sources Used in Documents:


Harper, S.J. (2009). Ethics vs. morality: a problematic divide. Philosophy Social Criticism. 35(9), 1063-1077.

Navran, F.J. (2010). Defining values, morals and ethics. Retrieved from

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