Moral ethics is a subject of frequent discussions, sometimes by great philosophers and sometimes, unknowingly, by a group of people on their front porch. A simple statement like "I can't believe he did that," reveals what members of society think about the decisions of others. Why should we care about what other people do? Researchers believe society needs guidance to alleviate crime and live harmoniously. However, it doesn't take an advanced education to have a common knowledge of right and wrong. Anyone can examine his decisions and what guides them.
What stops a person from stealing? What is that little voice born from conscience that halts a person in their steps? Morals---our interpretation of right and wrong. Morals are learned from an early age and help us distinguish good conduct from bad, both in ourselves and others. When these morals are lumped together as a standard for society's behavior, they're called ethics. A system of morals that are studied, recommended and accepted by society is ethics.
Where do morals come from and who gets to decide what's right and wrong? The answer to that question largely depends on the society and the region. Some areas are steeped in religious beliefs deriving their morals from their religion (Christians obtain morals from biblical and/or church teachings). Regardless of where they came from, once morals are accepted by society, they become an unwritten code of ethics. Morals deemed normal for one society can seem outrageous to another.
Types of Ethics
Why the term moral ethics? What other kinds of ethics exist? It isn't really different ethics, but a different way of looking at ethics. Some study ethics from a normative view. This approach looks at moral standards based on consequences, establishing right from wrong by the outcome. Other ethical theories are Metaethics, which studies the origin of ethical principles, and Applied Ethics, which studies specific societal issues like abortion and the environment.
Use in Daily Life
Without giving it a thought, morals touch every part of our lives. From the simplest decision, such as whether to cut in line to the difficult choices made during relationships, morals step in and guide us. From a very young age, humans rely on morals. Of course, humans don't always adhere to established ethics. Crimes are a good example of morals gone bad---when desire overrides good decisions.
The Future of Moral Ethics
The state of moral ethics greatly depends on whom you ask. Some researchers will declare morals to be in a state of crisis while others will say they're making a come back. One thing is obvious, as society changes, ethics change. Consider the lives of early American pioneers; they seemed to adhere to a stricter code of ethics than today. Future generations will develop their own ethical changes as the world changes around them.
- Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images