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Ethics and Morality

What Is Morality?

To put it simply, ethics consists of the moral code that guides a person’s choices and behaviors throughout their life. The idea of a moral code extending beyond the individual to include what is right, and what is wrong, for the community and society at large. Ethics is concerned with rights, responsibilities, use of language, what it means to live an ethical life, and how people make moral decisions.

For a topic as subjective as morality, people certainly have strong and stubborn beliefs about what's right and wrong that can be in direct contrast to the moral beliefs of others. Yet even though morals can vary from person to person, religion to religion, and culture to culture, many are universal as they stem from basic human emotions. We may think of moralizing as an intellectual exercise, but more frequently it's an attempt to make sense of our gut instincts and reactions.

The examination of moral psychology involves the study of moral philosophy. However, moral psychology is more concerned with how a person makes a right or wrong decision, rather than what sort of decisions should be made. Character, reasoning, responsibility, altruism, among other areas, also come into play, as does the development of morality. Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg established a theory of stages of moral development. The levels include pre-conventional, conventional, post-conventional.

Pre-conventional

Obedience and punishment: How can I avoid punishment?
Self-interest orientation: What's in it for me?

Conventional
Social norms and the good boy and nice girl orientation: Do it for me
Law and order morality: Do your duty

Post-Conventional
Social contract orientation: The consensus of thoughtful men
Universal ethical principles: What if everybody did that?

This framework had led to further inquiry into moral psychology.

The Science of Being Virtuous

Those who are considered morally good are said to be virtuous, holding themselves to high ethical standards, while those viewed as morally bad are thought to be wicked, sinful, or even criminal. Morality was a key philosophical issue for Aristotle, who first studied questions such as “What is moral responsibility?” As well as “What does it take for a human being to be virtuous?” And it was the poet Dante Alighieri who named the seven deadly vices: Vanity, jealousyanger, laziness, greed, gluttony, and lust. People associated with vices, or immoral behaviors, are thought to have poor character. Yet some say that virtue often disguises a hidden vice. It just depends on where we tip the scale from a virtue to a vice.

CONNECTED TOPICS

Altruism, Philosophy, Deception

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