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Morality and Ethics Concepts

What is Morality?

Gert (2011), cites two definitions of morality; the first being descriptive in nature, whereas the second is normative. Descriptive morality refers to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or some other group such as a religion or accepted by an individual through his or her behavior and beliefs. Normative morality on the other hand, refers to a code of conduct that given specific conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

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This latter definition forms a basis for individual behavioral patterns. Gert (2011), does point out that those different moral theories vary in defining a rational person and their subsequent application of code of conduct as a moral code. He explains that the term morality is rarely used in solitude; rather a qualification is attached to it, for example Christian morality. He also explains that most anthropologists compare morality to law, which gets relevance only within a society. He further expounds that etiquette forms part of morality and in this case he is not referring to manners, rather good qualities that promote harmonious living with other mankind.

Touching on law and legal systems, he says that though it is distinguished from morality, there is a mutual relationship, since morality forms the basis for the evaluation and interpretation of laws. He further distinguishes religion from morality which he describes as being inclusive of past events, discussing the supernatural and is used to justify behavior that it (religion) prohibits or requires.

What is ethics?

Ethics is the study of what is good and bad according to Adrignola (2009). He goes on to say philosophical ethics concerns itself with discovering a system through which one may use to determine who or what is good, or with evaluation systems that others have proposed. Virtue components refer to good habits, characteristic traits. According to Scott (n.d), these include the four cardinal virtues, which are prudence (practical wisdom); justice; fortitude (courage) and temperance (moderation). He says prudence is the first cardinal virtue as it enables one to judge right from wrong in any situation they find themselves. Since man is to error, seeking advice from others is vital.

Adrignola (2009), highlights that the theory of consequentialism accommodates John Stuart’s utilitarian theory, which focuses on the outcomes of an individual’s actions. General consequentalism advocated the need to help people since this brings about better results than not assisting them. Utilitarianism tends to quantify the utility which can be described as an emotion like happiness, resulting from a given action.

According to Adrignola (2009), deontology is also a common ethical theory. It is the study of obligations, which human beings have by virtue of being rational beings and the obligation to treat others well. The branch of normative ethics on the other hand, attempts to address questions on what human beings ought to do, what is viewed as goods things to do. For instance, it queries whether murder is morally acceptable, especially for self defense like in a war; whether women, animals or children should have rights, whether it is alright to condemn the cultural practices of other societies.


Adrignola, W. (2009). Introduction to philosophy/ what is ethics? Web.

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Gert, B. (2011). The definition of morality. Web.

Scott, R. (n.d). The cardinal virtues: The four hinges of the moral life. Web.

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