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Hermes
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For what follows, I assume Objectivism as defined by the works of Ayn Rand. Therefore, I will not prove what has been established already.

The words "morality" (moral) and "ethics" (ethical) are commonly employed as synonyms, even by philosophers. (See, for example, "Introduction to the Objectivist Ethics," which is in fact an essay on morality.) They are, however, different. Morality is personal. Ethics is (are) social.

Morality is a human problem. Animals typically behave ethically by their nature (and most often can do nothing else) but can within limits make choices that seem unethical, but cannot (by definition) be immoral. For us humans, the individual has no moral obligations toward others, but, by our social nature, as we mature, we acquire ever more ethical obligations.

As contradictions do not exist, there can be no moral dilemmas. However, ethical dilemmas abound and we humans attempt to resolve them by appeal to moral principles. By disintguishing between morality and ethics, we can better understand and solve problems in what is commonly called (as here in this topic space) "Ethics" but which is in fact "Morality."

The words derive from different roots and in their native languages they had similar meanings, as philosophy was not yet well developed. "Ethos" ("ethnos") is a Greek word and refers to the population so that ethical behavior is that which is good within society. Aristotle was not the first or last to use the word in his attempt to define the good life for the individual, as in The Nichomachean Ethics. As Greek philosophy matured and developed from the Ionians through the Peripetitics and further, it became clear that a person could be moral or immoral (ethical or unethical) independent of what happened around him. Morality is a Latin word and means simply manners, again, social custom as the standard for right action.

However, this is not the ancient world. Our vocabulary has greatly expanded to allow us to grasp new concepts. For example, a television is not a telescope, even though the root words are synonyms.

Ethnologists study the social behaviors of people. Ethologists study the behaviors of animals. For examples of animals behaving unethically browse for headlines such as "Dog adopts kittens" and "Cat adopts squirrel." Such actions are outside the normal range of behaviors, but cannot be immoral.

The list of ethical problems in society is endless. We face them every day. Many such challenges can be resolved strictly within the bounds of ethics. A clerk hands you back too much money... You find an extra item in your bag ... A cheaper paint is delivered for a job you bid on... You see a co-worker pilfering... Your shopping cart rolls into a car... Your customer asks for the second-best alternative...

Attempting to resolve every ethical problem as if it were a moral problem limits our choices. Solving a problem within its ethical domain reduces effort and reduces risks.

For humans, morality is the science of choice. If an ethical problem is not readily solvable within the ethical domain, you can always increase the level of abstraction and seek a moral principle.

It is possible to act unethically, but morally and immorally, but ethically.

Edited by Hermes
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For what follows, I assume Objectivism as defined by the works of Ayn Rand. Therefore, I will not prove what has been established already.

The words "morality" (moral) and "ethics" (ethical) are commonly employed as synonyms, even by philosophers. (See, for example, "Introduction to the Objectivist Ethics," which is in fact an essay on morality.) They are, however, different. Morality is personal. Ethics is (are) social.

Morality is a human problem. Animals typically behave ethically by their nature (and most often can do nothing else) but can within limits make choices that seem unethical, but cannot (by definition) be immoral. For us humans, the individual has no moral obligations toward others, but, by our social nature, as we mature, we acquire ever more ethical obligations.

As contradictions do not exist, there can be no moral dilemmas. However, ethical dilemmas abound and we humans attempt to resolve them by appeal to moral principles. By disintguishing between morality and ethics, we can better understand and solve problems in what is commonly called (as here in this topic space) "Ethics" but which is in fact "Morality."

The words derive from different roots and in their native languages they had similar meanings, as philosophy was not yet well developed. "Ethos" ("ethnos") is a Greek word and refers to the population so that ethical behavior is that which is good within society. Aristotle was not the first or last to use the word in his attempt to define the good life for the individual, as in The Nichomachean Ethics. As Greek philosophy matured and developed from the Ionians through the Peripetitics and further, it became clear that a person could be moral or immoral (ethical or unethical) independent of what happened around him. Morality is a Latin word and means simply manners, again, social custom as the standard for right action.

However, this is not the ancient world. Our vocabulary has greatly expanded to allow us to grasp new concepts. For example, a television is not a telescope, even though the root words are synonyms.

Ethnologists study the social behaviors of people. Ethologists study the behaviors of animals. For examples of animals behaving unethically browse for headlines such as "Dog adopts kittens" and "Cat adopts squirrel." Such actions are outside the normal range of behaviors, but cannot be immoral.

The list of ethical problems in society is endless. We face them every day. Many such challenges can be resolved strictly within the bounds of ethics. A clerk hands you back too much money... You find an extra item in your bag ... A cheaper paint is delivered for a job you bid on... You see a co-worker pilfering... Your shopping cart rolls into a car... Your customer asks for the second-best alternative...

Attempting to resolve every ethical problem as if it were a moral problem limits our choices. Solving a problem within its ethical domain reduces effort and reduces risks.

For humans, morality is the science of choice. If an ethical problem is not readily solvable within the ethical domain, you can always increase the level of abstraction and seek a moral principle.

It is possible to act unethically, but morally and immorally, but ethically.

(As a btw, Michael, I think there's a comma missing from that last sentence - "It is possible to act unethically, but morally, and immorally, but ethically." Is that right? )

I think your reasoning is sound, and this is potentially very critical.

I just don't know if your hypothesis will carry weight Objectively speaking.

The basic problem is that dictionary definitions of ethics and morality give each as a subset of the other - iow, they are interchangeable by common use.

For what it's worth, I have always used each in the sense you have outlined, and believe they should be clearly differentiated, philosophically.

What does O'ism say about (social) ethics? Apart from good will, respect and honesty, that is?

When the two contradict, or appear to contradict, is the problem.

Edited by whYNOT
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If you want, morality is what you should do, ethics is defined by the boundary of what you can do (by right). Generally though, people would differentiate those by "personal morality" and "political ethic/ethics", it seems. In general, people use them interchangeably, and when they want to make the differentiation between what can be done by right and what is moral, they use the aforementioned phrases (at least once, and then move to use "morality" for personal morality, and "ethics" for political ethics). I don't know necessarily if their should be much of a difference between "moral" and "ethical" though, in non-technical discussions, as the entire field encompassing both should be called ethics, as morals influence and are indeed the basis for rights (and thus the "political ethic").

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I think your reasoning is sound, and this is potentially very critical. ... For what it's worth, I have always used each in the sense you have outlined, and believe they should be clearly differentiated, philosophically. ...

Thanks! It is interesting that you already differentiate the two. I just stumbled on this myself. My recent degrees are in criminology (BS) and social science (MA). As often as ethics and morality came up through all of that, I actually started and ended with classes in ethics: Ethics for Law Enforcement; and Ethics in Physics. My school, Eastern Michigan University, is a middle range, mid-western American public institution -- we offer very few doctorates; our motto is "Education first" because our professors teach -- there are no teaching assistants. The point is, I had the library I had and read what I found and no philosophers seem to have specifically made this distinction and all books seem to use the words interchangeably.

Ayn Rand used the words interchangeably, as most people do. So, Objectivism has no position on this.

Instead of a comma, how about a semi-colon:

"It is possible to act unethically, but morally; and immorally, but ethically."

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You are attempting to assert the existence of a separate concept for ethics, unfortunately these are the only example referents you provide:

A clerk hands you back too much money... You find an extra item in your bag ... A cheaper paint is delivered for a job you bid on... You see a co-worker pilfering... Your shopping cart rolls into a car... Your customer asks for the second-best alternative...

I would say that many of these deal with knowingly accepting the unearned, and as such would be immoral.

However, your example of seeing someone do something wrong could certainly lend itself to a separate concept called "ethics", and would simply be those actions you choose to take to make society a safer place for you and your loved ones to live in. By developing relationships with others and building a more supportive and trusting community, you make your own life more secure and stable.

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If you want, morality is what you should do, ethics is defined by the boundary of what you can do (by right). ... though, in non-technical discussions ...

Well, I look to one specific discussion. In the "Playboy Interview" Ayn Rand spoke to the need for morality if alone on an island. Throughout her writings, she used the term Ethics as commonly used even in technical philosophy, again, "The Nicomachean Ethtics" is never called "Nicomachean Morality."

Is there any reason not to have a technical discussion here?

The problem with defining ethics as what you can do by right is that the concept of "right" has a specific meaning. Ethical acts often have nothing to do with "rights" as Objectivists understand that term.

Edited by Hermes
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Do you have any evidence to support your claim (about the meaning of "morality" and "ethics")?

You sent me back to my Greek and Latin dictionaries, but what I said still stands. What specifically are you referring to and what exactly do you request in terms of evidence? If you have some other facts, feel free to present them.

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I would say that many of these deal with knowingly accepting the unearned, and as such would be immoral.

That's fine, but if you return to the store to hand back the money, you inconvenience yourself, running losses of time fuel, etc., beyond what is in your pocket, and consider that the clerk may need to reconcile her till now on her own time, off the clock. She might be better off, logging the shortage as is typical, and just pocketing the money to avoid the hassle. It depends on how much money is involved and how much value that much money might hold for the two of you. If it is Mary at Mary's Hardware and you shop there often enough, it is worth the expense to you in goodwill. If it is "Hi! I'm Bill" at the unionized MegaBox store, you are the only one who cares ... and, as you say, you prefer not to be immoral, so suit yourself. The essential point here is that if these details of how much money and how the clerk relates to the store define the problem, then this is likely a problem in ethics and has nothing to with morality.

However, your example of seeing someone do something wrong ... you choose to take to make society a safer place for you and your loved ones ... By developing relationships ...

Again, whether this is Ethics or Morality is becoming confused. If we limit "Morality" to personal choices and "Ethics" to social choices, the confusion is much less. I said above: "For humans, morality is the science of choice. If an ethical problem is not readily solvable within the ethical domain, you can always increase the level of abstraction and seek a moral principle." The extent to which your actions make your community a marginally better place may not be calculable and as a matter of personal preference -- how you live with yourself -- your choices would be based on morality, even though ethically you are under no such obligations.

A good example comes from the social convention of "tipping." Whether you tip at all or tip 15% or much more depends on very localized and immediate contexts. If your dinner comes to $36.19, then 15% is $5.43 and whether you leave $5 or $5.43 or $6 depends on factors that may not be calculable and certainly not universal or even "objective." Maybe you did not like the food or the service, but ethically, even if you are dissatified, you should still leave 10%. Not tipping would be unethical. You might argue that. It would be a discussion of ethics, not morality.

Edited by Hermes
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What specifically are you referring to and what exactly do you request in terms of evidence? If you have some other facts, feel free to present them.
You're making a claim about what these words mean, especially denying the identification ("recognition of indentity") performed not only by Rand but also by philosophers, generally. But I deny that the words "ethics" and "morality" refer to different things. So I am asking you to give your evidence that this is a fact. Anyone can just make stuff up, so I am trying to determine whether you are just making up a distinction within ethics and trying to assign it to these synonyms. In light of the fact that individuals who actually spend their lives studying the matter do not accept your distinction should cause you to at least defend your claim.

If you want to go the route of saying "I'm a fluent speaker of English, and I say that it is perfectly self-evident that 'ethics' and 'morality' refer to different things, and Rand was just wrong", I would respond "I'm a fluent speaker of English, and I say that it is perfectly self-evident that 'ethics' and 'morality' refer to the same thing, and Rand was right".

Needless to say, there are many specific claims that you make which are false. For example, you claim that an animal can behave unethically (your hedges will be held against you until you repudiate that bizarre implication). The claim that an animal cannot by definition be immoral is a non sequitur since you've given no definition of morality that this could follow from.

It is false that individuals have no moral obligations toward others: they have a negative obligation to not initiate force. There are no moral dilemmas and there are no ethical dilemmas. There are choices, and if you grasp the facts of reality, you will be able to make those choices. You claim "Many such challenges can be resolved strictly within the bounds of ethics. A clerk hands you back too much money...." -- since accepting the unearned is immoral, morality resolves these matters. (Note that I identify a moral principle -- you don't give any hint why you think that morality is incapable of guiding your choices in life, nor do you give any indication how separate ethics can. Hopefully you understand why this is quite problematic).

Since it is false that it is possible to act unethically but morally, or to act immorally but ethically, then your argument in general kind of falls apart. Thus, I am inviting you to defend the foundation of your argument, namely the claim that ethics and morality refer to different things in the English language. Show us facts that prove that the meaning of the words are what you think they are.

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A good example comes from the social convention of "tipping." Whether you tip at all or tip 15% or much more depends on very localized and immediate contexts. If your dinner comes to $36.19, then 15% is $5.43 and whether you leave $5 or $5.43 or $6 depends on factors that may not be calculable and certainly not universal or even "objective." Maybe you did not like the food or the service, but ethically, even if you are dissatified, you should still leave 10%. Not tipping would be unethical. You might argue that. It would be a discussion of ethics, not morality.

It seems that you are arguing that ethics refers to what is "right" to do regarding social convention, which is not really important. I haven't heard of anyone who has ever used ethics to mean that unless they already labeled morality to be what is right regarding social convention as well. You'd be better off just making up a new word, since I see no reason to think that ethics is defined wrong.

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You'd be better off just making up a new word, since I see no reason to think that ethics is defined wrong.
First, one has to figure out if there is a real need for a sub-division of the concept of morality, in order to focus on a specific aspect of it. Hermes has hinted at a perceived need, when he spoke about applying "(social-)ethical" principles without having to constantly check back for the derivation from "(broader-)moral" principles.

However, he has not shown that a sub-division is really required, rather than it being a case of multiplying concepts beyond what is required. After all, any science has principles that can be organized from more abstract to more particular. So, one could take the particular ones and view that set of principles as a separate science. Similarly, one could take 100 types of tables and give them each a specific name. However, one must have a real epistemological need to do so. Such a need has not been demonstrated above.

Edited by softwareNerd
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A case in point where a subdivision of morality is required, and well-understood, is the concept of "rights". A bright line needs to be drawn between bad acts which the government should properly prohibit or punish, versus bad acts w.r.t. other people which decent people should not engage in. Notice that there is a clear, positive need to identify bad acts w.r.t. other people which the government prohibits (i.e. initiation of force), but no need to identify the complement of that set, thus there is no concept "anything that isn't initiation of force". I don't even see a reason to invent a concept for "immoral acts which do not involve violation of rights".

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A case in point where a subdivision of morality is required, and well-understood, is the concept of "rights". A bright line needs to be drawn between bad acts which the government should properly prohibit or punish, versus bad acts w.r.t. other people which decent people should not engage in. Notice that there is a clear, positive need to identify bad acts w.r.t. other people which the government prohibits (i.e. initiation of force), but no need to identify the complement of that set, thus there is no concept "anything that isn't initiation of force". I don't even see a reason to invent a concept for "immoral acts which do not involve violation of rights".

That is an excellent epistemological point!!

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You're making a claim about what these words mean ... not only by Rand but also by philosophers, generally. But I deny that the words "ethics" and "morality" refer to different things. So I am asking you ...

As I said the beginning, I investigated several codes of ethics for national and international professional societies. They are called "Codes of Ethics." I found no Code of Morality. Ethics are specific social actions and it seems that what is ethical or unethical for a geographer is not what matters for good conduct among physicists or counselors.

I also just checked the words in German, my second language; I know several others. I choose German because it is Indo-European, culturally very close to us and not given so readily to Latin. There, "die Sitte" (plural: die Sitten) ambiguously means morals, ethics, or customs. Thus, at that level, when the primitives toss the virgin into the volcano, they are behaving morally. I trust that you would disagree.

In English -- the common second language of our planet -- we have two different words. They sound different. We lost their roots over time. Yet, we use them interchangeably... except when we do not: no "Codes of Morals" for geographers.

Even Ayn Rand used the words ambiguously... except when she did not. So, all I seek to do here and now is to identify how in common English we do, indeed, differentiate ethics from morals. I find that most often, we mean social behavior by "ethics" and personal standards by "morals."

Needless to say, there are many specific claims that you make which are false. For example, you claim that an animal can behave unethically (your hedges will be held against you until you repudiate that bizarre implication). The claim that an animal cannot by definition be immoral is a non sequitur since you've given no definition of morality that this could follow from.

My purpose in discussing animal behavior was only to show that ethnologists and ethologists describe behavior without needing to consider its morality. I also said at the top that I was assuming familiarity with the works of Ayn Rand. So, no, I did not quote her definition of morality or her essays on it. According to Objectivism, animals are incapable of moral choices. However, I showed that they do make unethical decisions, as when a cat adopts a squirrel. I am not interested in discussing animals here, only to show that descriptions of behavior are not prescriptions of right action.

Since it is false that it is possible to act unethically but morally, or to act immorally but ethically,...

Over on RoR, I gave the example of coming to a theater and finding a long line. You have many options that are fully moral, but unethical. You can just take the first place. There is nothing inherent in the nature of human action that mandates time-preference as the only standard of economic choice. We might as readily reorganize ourselves as people arrive better or less dressed-up. (If you did not care to dress up, then getting in must not be important to you.) You might pay the first person in line to step in front. You might pay off anyone else who complains. You might offer the cashier $100 to take you first. In many clubs, hoi poloi wait in line while VIPs get special treatment. Standing in line at the movie theater is the ethical action, even though for you and me as Objectivists, creative solutions would not be immoral.

Attempting to do business with Japanese or Greeks, pressing them for decisions while socializing is unethical, though fully moral for an Objectivist. Conversely, forcing an American to string along for dinner after dinner until you sign or until you allow them to, just so you can get to know them is unethical, but may be moral if you have a rational self interest to pursue by this.

Again, tipping: If you don't like the waitress, don't tip her. It would not be immoral. She did not meet your expectations. That is your right. However, that is unethical. Even if I am dissatisfied, a modest 10% tip meets my obligations and sends the message I intend. You might feel differently. We have different ethics. I trust that we have the same morality. By our shared standards, we arrive at different solutions, thus ethics is different from morality.

... you don't give any hint why you think that morality is incapable of guiding your choices in life, nor do you give any indication how separate ethics can.

Again, see the works of Ayn Rand on the importance of morality. You seem to have an aversion to "the unearned." Myself. I pick up money off the ground all the time. In being observant, I earned it. Even "luck" (so-called) is earned. As I said before (twice), when solutions do not obtain in the ethical sphere, then identifying and applying a moral principle is required.

Edited by Hermes
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As I said the beginning, I investigated several codes of ethics for national and international professional societies. They are called "Codes of Ethics." I found no Code of Morality.
What you will have presumably also discerned is that professional societies have -- quite shockingly, in my opinion -- severed the connection between ethics and philosophy. This is a deliberate and conscious attempt to reduce "ethics" to arbitrary emotional claims which cannot be evaluated as true or false, and to deny the objective basis for moral evaluation.

But if we play along with them, notice that your understanding and discussion of ethics -- let's call this 'Neo-ethics' to be clear that we are not actually talking about actual ethics -- actually misses an important generalization. Neo-ethics is an arbitrary code of conduct, established by an authoritative body, governing the behavior of an individual in the pursuit of his profession. Thus Neo-ethics has a very limited domain of applicability. It has no relevance to ordinary conduct as you've been discussing (such as benefitting from clerical errors).

Thus, at that level, when the primitives toss the virgin into the volcano, they are behaving morally. I trust that you would disagree.
I do in fact understand "acting morally" as meaning "acting according to a moral code". Contextually, we assume that that moral code is a proper, rational moral code.
In English -- the common second language of our planet -- we have two different words. They sound different. We lost their roots over time. Yet, we use them interchangeably... except when we do not: no "Codes of Morals" for geographers.
Do you find this puzzling? Maybe the problem is that you don't know the historical cause of this fact. The word "ethics" is Greek, and "morals" is Latin. The language of the Roman Catholic church was Latin, not Greek; and therefore discussion "morality" has for over a thousand years been in terms of religious morality. Now that it has become relatively acceptable, at least in the realm of philosophy, to not presuppose Christianity, it is little wonder that the term "morality" which used to have the stench of Catholicism hanging around it has fallen into disfavor.

I think, then, that you've fallen victim to the distinction between denotation and connotation. The literal meaning and "things that the term refers to" of "ethics" and "morality" are identical -- that is the denotation. "Morality" has gained a connotational air of religiousness (or subjectivity).

I find that most often, we mean social behavior by "ethics" and personal standards by "morals."
I do not find that to be the case.
Attempting to do business with Japanese or Greeks, pressing them for decisions while socializing is unethical, though fully moral for an Objectivist.
No, that is mistaken. It would be immoral, under Objectivist ethics, to knowingly work against your own ends.
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The words "morality" (moral) and "ethics" (ethical) are commonly employed as synonyms, even by philosophers. (See, for example, "Introduction to the Objectivist Ethics," which is in fact an essay on morality.) They are, however, different. Morality is personal. Ethics is (are) social.

Morality is a human problem. Animals typically behave ethically by their nature (and most often can do nothing else) but can within limits make choices that seem unethical, but cannot (by definition) be immoral. For us humans, the individual has no moral obligations toward others, but, by our social nature, as we mature, we acquire ever more ethical obligations.

Ethics is a branch of philosophy, morality is not.

Ethics derives from a Greek root, morality from a Latin root.

Greece was known for its philosophy, Rome for its law.

The synonym analysis at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/moral makes the following distinction:

MORALS, ETHICS refer to rules and standards of conduct and practice. Morals refers to generally accepted customs of conduct and right living in a society, and to the individual's practice in relation to these: the morals of our civilization. Ethics now implies high standards of honest and honorable dealing, and of methods used, esp. in the professions or in business: ethics of the medical profession.

The essential difference is between the personal scope of morality and the universal scope of ethics (not merely social). Ethics applies to all men, or all professionals of a certain type whereas morality accommodates non-universal elements that are ethically optional or contextual. One can say it is ethical to be polite, but standards of etiquette that determine what 'polite' means often differ across cultures in ways that are not obviously unethical. As the saying goes "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Morality naturally accommodates some subjectivism.

Ethics is simply inapplicable to animals because they do not contemplate what they should do. Ethology (from Greek: ἦθος, ethos, "character"; and -λογία, -logia) is the scientific study of animal behavior, and a sub-topic of zoology. Equivocating the study of the character of animals with the character of men is inexcusably fallacious.

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Attempting to do business with Japanese or Greeks, pressing them for decisions while socializing is unethical, though fully moral for an Objectivist.

This is ridiculous. It wrongly asserts that it is impossible for a Japanese or a Greek to be an Objectivist. It wrongly asserts that Objectivism has anything to say about conducting business while socializing.

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The only difference I have found, in any practice or common use, is that morals refers to a religious based view of what is right or wrong, and ethics refers to a secular view... almost all, whether the one or the other, refer to a cultural viewing of right/wrong, even if in part there may be objective basis involved...

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I am having trouble with your argument because you have vaguely defined morality and ethics. You say that they are (respectively) "personal" and "social" but in all of your examples you resort to subjectivity regarding the situation and/or some presupposed "social duty." Your tipping example, in which it's "moral" to tip a lesser amount than a presupposed (by social custom) 15% of the check but "unethical" for unspoken reasons (I'm assuming because waitresses generally make most of their pay through tips from customers, or so I hear). This resorts to subjectivity because, simply put, "it's good for me (the tipper) and bad for her (the waitress)." Since the standard by which the ethical situation is undefined (and slightly reminiscient of whichever theory advocates "the 'ethical' is the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people") it is devoid of objectivity, and anything goes.

This does seem to be your point, as you have implicitly stated in a later post (or at least that different ethical standards can be reached through different individuals), but even if this is the case, an objective definition would be required to fully establish this.

As for the differentiation between the two in application to a sub-branch of philosophy, I think DavidOdden had a brilliant point several posts back.

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Ayn Rand used the words interchangeably, as most people do. So, Objectivism has no position on this.

The position is obvious.

"Morality" and "ethics" are the same thing. "Ethical" and "moral" are used interchangeably by Objectivists, and properly so.

Any distinction is superfluous.

By your definition of "moral" (not social) moral questions would apply only to man's dealings with nature, which is completely ridiculous.

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Despite the many disagreements that have been raised to the very worthwhile original post - throughout my own readings and debates I've often run into a lot of trouble due to the ambiguity of both morality and ethics. The most widespread and most offensive form of secular altruism I've encountered (utilitarianism) almost entirely views ethics as actions which are within the social domain. Whether or not people agree on the difference between the terms ethical and moral - I think it is important that a distinction be made. In the same way Ayn Rand saw it necessary to redefine the meaning of selfishness I think it would be useful to draw a distinction between a personal code of conduct and universally appropriate behaviors. I see this post as an attempt to accomplish this differentiation.

Philosophically I think a distinction may be made since structurally universal egoism in society follows from the rational egoism of the individual. Since we utilize morals to evaluate what is socially ethical, not the other way around, it seems that these moral/ethical categories should be separated. Morals are not chosen by the 'ethical' demands. The first moral principle is relying on ones own judgment - not a desired social aim. Furthermore, I think such a differentiation would be useful.

As someone who likes to draw pictures and think in terms of arrows, diagrams, lists, and other structures I think having more definitions can be highly useful for clarifying important technical points which would otherwise be obscured by overly general language. In everyday conversation mixing 'moral' and 'ethical' has little effect, but a large portion of the population only thinks of ethics as applicable in social circumstances. It would be a useful didactic tool if one were to differentiate morality and ethics.

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By your definition of "moral" (not social) moral questions would apply only to man's dealings with nature, which is completely ridiculous.

And yet Ayn Rand said that alone on an island is when man needs morality most. Ethical social interactions ultimately depend on such a Crusoe Concept of morality.

"Morality" and "ethics" are the same thing. "Ethical" and "moral" are used interchangeably by Objectivists, and properly so.

Any distinction is superfluous.

[...]

I truly don't see the need to make a distinction. "Ethics" or "morality" both encompassing all matters of choice seems perfectly valid to me.

And yet we do commonly make that distinction, and ambiguously so, which is my point. We use the words interchangeably, except when we do not. For instance, professional societies have codes of ethics, not statements of morals. As I said elsewhere, this is true in English for historical reasons. That richness of vocabulary is perhaps the greatest strength of our language. In German, die Sitte (plural: die Sitten) means customs, habits, usage, and morals. The point of that being that historically, most people in most times and places considered morality (or ethics) to be what everyone does when they do what they are supposed to do. That assumption of implicit social sanction is evidenced also in the ethics statements of professional societies.

Those are my observations of social facts.

Personally, I believe that morality is the source of ethics. A behavior may be ethical or unethical depending on the social context.

  • You work as a research engineer as an employee of a chemical firm. You develop a new adhesive for plastics, but keep it secret and go on with routine assignments given to you. That would be unethical But what if you discovered a plastic eater? Keeping that secret might be unethical, but morality might demand that you do so. Tough choice.
  • You have a farm. A high-tech kind of hayseed, you read about a way to increase the yield of celery. You try it... and fail... a few times... You are pretty sure the researcher made this up (not uncommon, sad to say). Do you report your own findings? Not to do so would be unethical. But there are only 24 hours in a day and you do not see your place in the universe as the policeman of celery research. ... or maybe you do... Tough choice.

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Despite the many disagreements that have been raised to the very worthwhile original post - throughout my own readings and debates I've often run into a lot of trouble due to the ambiguity of both morality and ethics. ... In the same way Ayn Rand saw it necessary to redefine the meaning of selfishness I think it would be useful ...

... I think having more definitions can be highly useful for clarifying important technical points ...

Thanks for your thoughtful and cogent reply. As I said elsewhere, I have had college and university classes in ethics (for law enforcement and for physics), and, as many others of us, have written about the subject for term papers, class themes, etc., (business ethics for a sociology class, e.g.). However, this all came together for me in that final class in physics ethics as I was completing a master's in social science. I agree completely with the general view here and on the other boards when I posted this topic: lack of objective morality is the source of our ethical problems in society.

Professional societies have codes of ethics that are vague feelings of a need to help others and not hurt them. More technical groups also demand (require, request, plead for) honesty in carrying out and reporting experiments.

I think that by recognizing this distinction between morality and ethics, it is possible to reduce the rampant fraud and misconduct in scientific research. The same would apply to corporate culture. Objectivism aside, the first college class I had in ethics was for law enforcement and it is peculiar that police departments have 40-page applications, background checks and psychological evaluations, and still have so much corruption that we no longer speak of rotten apples, but of rotten barrels. The problems of morality and ethics are deeper than the abject inabilities of Sunday schools to make altruisms work.

Thanks, also, for recognizing the power of English to absorb and use words from other languages. A cottage does not need to be dawbed with mud; nor does it need to be in Greece to have an attic; nor does a bungalow need to be in India to have a verandah.

Thanks, finally, for the encouragement to think in pictures. I came to it late in life and if I had learned it as a child, I would be much farther down the road. Public education is oppressed by linear verbal expression and so it our society... one reason among very, very many for our problems.

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