Ethics and Morality Relationship Essay

Introduction.

Over the years, ethics and morality have often been used synonymously. Although the two terms are closely related both in conceptual and ideal meaning, they have both differences and similarities. This paper, therefore, discusses the relationship between ethics and morality, giving examples of each, and also explores the ethical choices available for human resources managers.

Ethics is a term used to refer to the body of doctrines that guide individuals to behave in a way that is ideologically right, fine, and appropriate. Guidelines or principles that constitute do not at all times lead an individual towards just a solitary moral but act as a way to direct the individual to follow a set of codes of conducts whose objective is to foster overall desirable behaviors in an individual or a group of people (George, 2006).

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ethics are regulations that are clearly stipulated and that guide individuals in determining what to do and what not to. In many organizations, ethics are guided by sets of written laws and regulations that guide the way individuals within them should behave (Conroy & Emerson, 2004).

For example, there could be written principles that guide the way customer service should be undertaken in the organization, rules guarding salespeople against selling inappropriate products to the customers, rules guarding against corruption or undue extortion of money from the customers, principles that direct employees to behave in the highest level of professionalism, integrity, honesty, and humility while serving customers and which are well written down in the organization’s code of conduct.

According to Peterson et al (2005), ethics are a set of rules that direct individuals to decide to act in a correct way. The latter asserts that ethics are embedded in and guided by laws that redirect individuals from doing what their conscience directs them to do and do what is morally correct i.e. they help an individual to avoid doing what he or she wants to but rather do what is correct in moral standards. For instance, someone’s conscience tells him to climb up a neighbor’s apple tree to eat his apples without the latter’s consent, but he shrugs off his personal selfish feelings and abstains from doing such a thing and which he has the power to do due to the respect for the neighbor and his property. The person will make a decision not to eat the neighbor’s apples hence he will have acted in an ethical way.

Ethics leads to honesty, a show of respect for others, and behavior that is consistent with one’s obligation as a member of the organization or a citizen to a country (Conroy & Emerson, 2004). According to the latter, ethics are not innate in an individual but are mainly exotically controlled by laws and regulations are set and enforced by human beings or authority. For example, ethics in marketing are controlled by laws that restrict marketers from engaging in business malpractices such as unhealthy competition, poor product prices, overpricing, and hoarding among other business vices.

George (2006) defines morality from two main perspectives. From an individuals’ perspective, morality is a set of individual’s standards, principles, or customs that greatly shapes an individual’s character trait and way of behavior or the level of which an individual is able to willingly uphold the generally accepted standards of behaviors within a society that he lives in at a specific instance in time. On the other hand, George asserts that societal morals are the universally acceptable code of conduct in a certain society at a specific point of time, and which autonomously guides the behavior of its members.

For instance, stealing is generally not acceptable in society at any one time. As such, it is immoral to steal. In the same way, if the society holds that it is moral to belong to a religion in the 21 st century, it would be immoral according to such a society for a member to be without religion. Similarly, in a society that prostitution is rebuked, it would be immoral for an individual within it to engage in prostitution. Societal standards/ principles change rapidly over time. Similarly, moral standards within a society will vary with time. For example, it was moral to hold slaves in the past. However, this is no longer acceptable in modern society hence it would be immoral for an individual to hold a slave today.

Relationship between Ethics and Morality

Ethics are guidelines for proper behavior or conduct and they are absolutely not pegged to the specified period in time. As a result, they usually have limited variations overtimes. On the other hand, morality is the acceptable standard within a society at a given point in time (Peterson et al, 2005).

As a result, they change over time. Ethics are more basic and permanent than morality; hence morality is a subset of ethics. Similarly, ethics lead to morality whereas vice versa is not applicable. Moreover, a change in ethics is likely to generate a change in morality. In circumstances where a society or institution amends its code of ethics, the moral standards will obviously be altered (Peterson et al, 2005).

For example, the ethical code of conduct led to the alteration of the slavery law in the eighteenth century which led to slavery being regarded as immoral since then. Unlike the ethical code of conduct which is entrenched in the written artificial laws, morality is more or less entrenched in and controlled by the individual’s personality. As a result, a change in a person’s character trait for the better will make him or her more moral and vice versa. However, the similarity between ethics and morality is that they are all geared towards enhancing the desirable relationship between individuals in the organization, institutions, or society in which they live (Peterson et al, 2005).

Ethical choices available to HR managers

There are several ethical choices that are available to human resource managers. These include:

Equity in opportunities and neutrality

Employment takes place in a multifaceted environment. As a result it is ethical for the human resource managers involved in the employment or appointment of personnel in the organization to give equal opportunity for various individual interested in the job to compete on a level ground and pick the most suitable for the job without any discrimination whatsoever(University of Western Australia, 2007). For instance, the recruitment process should be devoid of nepotism, corruption, undue charges to the candidates, bias and prejudices. Employment should be carried out via an open, fair and due process. In addition, HR managers should desist from taking positions that appears to favor one side during dissolution of employees disputes (Lowry , 2006).

Fairness in the treatment of employees and quietism

HR manager will be ethical if they establish an organizational environment in which all employees are treated in a just manner. For instance, the managers should ensure equitable reward system for all employees, just promotions and a system that is without favoritism based on any aspects. In addition, employees need to be treated like people with rights to be honored and defended by the HR manager (Lowry , 2006).

Sexual harassment of employees

The human resources managers will be ethical if they desist from gender stereotypes and sexual harassment of employees. Cases of sexually mistreating of employees by human resources managers are not only unethical but absolutely unacceptable and illegal (University of Western Australia, 2007). For instance, some manager demand for sexual relations with female employees as a leeway to giving them a favor, promotion, salary increment or even initial employment which is against the HR ethical code of conduct (Lowry , 2006).

Privacy and Confidentiality

Human resources code of ethics requires that employee privacy and personal life be respected at all times. For instance, it will be in breach of the ethical code of HR to force the employee to reveal his sexual life information (University of Western Australia, 2007). In addition it is the duty of the manager to safeguard the information given to him by the employees, by treating it with the highest level of confidentiality (Lowry , 2006). For example, if the HR has the information of the employee’s health profile, such information must not be released to the outside without the consent of the employee.

Poaching of employees

In industry HR managers may tend to poach competitors employees so as to lessen their competitive power. In doing this they entice the competitors employees in order to gain undue advantage over rivals which is unethical (University of Western Australia, 2007). In addition ethical human resource managers should be ethically assertive. Remain neutral in resolving employee’s disputes, ethical in dealing with errant employees and should be ethically reactive.

Ethics and morality are two terms that are closely related and which individuals often tend to refer to synonymously. However, the two are different in that while ethics are sets of principles that guide desirable behavior or conducts, morality is the generally acceptable behavior within a society at a given period of time. In addition, morality unlike ethics keeps on changing from time to time as societal values change (Peterson et al, 2005).

Conclusively, it can be held that morality is a subset of ethics since ethics shapes morality while ethics is bigger than morality. Finally, the ethical choices available for HR managers includes, offering equal opportunities in employment, treating all employees fairly, respecting the employees, avoiding ill-led poaching of competitors employees to gain undue advantage over them, respecting employees privacy and confidentiality of information and not sexually mistreating employees. Breaching any of these will be unethical on the part of the HR manger.

Bibliography

Conroy, S.J. and Emerson, (2004) “Business Ethics and Religion: Religiosity as a Predictor of Ethical Awareness among Student Inc Journal of Business Ethics 50 (4):247-258.

George Desnoyers (2006), the relationship between ethics and morality: Inc the Journal of behavioral psychology. Vol. 11 167-186.

Lowry , 2006, Ethical Choices for HR Managers Inc Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources; 44; p.171.

Peterson, et al (2005) Ethics vs. Morality – The Distinction between Ethics and Morals. Web.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy- The Definition of Morality. Web.

University of Western Australia (2007), code of ethics and code of conduct for human resources. Web.

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How to Write an Ethics Paper: Guide & Ethical Essay Examples

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An ethics essay is a type of academic writing that explores ethical issues and dilemmas. Students should evaluates them in terms of moral principles and values. The purpose of an ethics essay is to examine the moral implications of a particular issue, and provide a reasoned argument in support of an ethical perspective.

Writing an essay about ethics is a tough task for most students. The process involves creating an outline to guide your arguments about a topic and planning your ideas to convince the reader of your feelings about a difficult issue. If you still need assistance putting together your thoughts in composing a good paper, you have come to the right place. We have provided a series of steps and tips to show how you can achieve success in writing. This guide will tell you how to write an ethics paper using ethical essay examples to understand every step it takes to be proficient. In case you don’t have time for writing, get in touch with our professional essay writers for hire . Our experts work hard to supply students with excellent essays.

What Is an Ethics Essay?

An ethics essay uses moral theories to build arguments on an issue. You describe a controversial problem and examine it to determine how it affects individuals or society. Ethics papers analyze arguments on both sides of a possible dilemma, focusing on right and wrong. The analysis gained can be used to solve real-life cases. Before embarking on writing an ethical essay, keep in mind that most individuals follow moral principles. From a social context perspective, these rules define how a human behaves or acts towards another. Therefore, your theme essay on ethics needs to demonstrate how a person feels about these moral principles. More specifically, your task is to show how significant that issue is and discuss if you value or discredit it.

Purpose of an Essay on Ethics

The primary purpose of an ethics essay is to initiate an argument on a moral issue using reasoning and critical evidence. Instead of providing general information about a problem, you present solid arguments about how you view the moral concern and how it affects you or society. When writing an ethical paper, you demonstrate philosophical competence, using appropriate moral perspectives and principles.

Things to Write an Essay About Ethics On

Before you start to write ethics essays, consider a topic you can easily address. In most cases, an ethical issues essay analyzes right and wrong. This includes discussing ethics and morals and how they contribute to the right behaviors. You can also talk about work ethic, code of conduct, and how employees promote or disregard the need for change. However, you can explore other areas by asking yourself what ethics mean to you. Think about how a recent game you watched with friends started a controversial argument. Or maybe a newspaper that highlighted a story you felt was misunderstood or blown out of proportion. This way, you can come up with an excellent topic that resonates with your personal ethics and beliefs.

Ethics Paper Outline

Sometimes, you will be asked to submit an outline before writing an ethics paper. Creating an outline for an ethics paper is an essential step in creating a good essay. You can use it to arrange your points and supporting evidence before writing. It also helps organize your thoughts, enabling you to fill any gaps in your ideas. The outline for an essay should contain short and numbered sentences to cover the format and outline. Each section is structured to enable you to plan your work and include all sources in writing an ethics paper. An ethics essay outline is as follows:

  • Background information
  • Thesis statement
  • Restate thesis statement
  • Summarize key points
  • Final thoughts on the topic

Using this outline will improve clarity and focus throughout your writing process.

Ethical Essay Structure

Ethics essays are similar to other essays based on their format, outline, and structure. An ethical essay should have a well-defined introduction, body, and conclusion section as its structure. When planning your ideas, make sure that the introduction and conclusion are around 20 percent of the paper, leaving the rest to the body. We will take a detailed look at what each part entails and give examples that are going to help you understand them better.  Refer to our essay structure examples to find a fitting way of organizing your writing.

Ethics Paper Introduction

An ethics essay introduction gives a synopsis of your main argument. One step on how to write an introduction for an ethics paper is telling about the topic and describing its background information. This paragraph should be brief and straight to the point. It informs readers what your position is on that issue. Start with an essay hook to generate interest from your audience. It can be a question you will address or a misunderstanding that leads up to your main argument. You can also add more perspectives to be discussed; this will inform readers on what to expect in the paper.

Ethics Essay Introduction Example

You can find many ethics essay introduction examples on the internet. In this guide, we have written an excellent extract to demonstrate how it should be structured. As you read, examine how it begins with a hook and then provides background information on an issue. 

Imagine living in a world where people only lie, and honesty is becoming a scarce commodity. Indeed, modern society is facing this reality as truth and deception can no longer be separated. Technology has facilitated a quick transmission of voluminous information, whereas it's hard separating facts from opinions.

In this example, the first sentence of the introduction makes a claim or uses a question to hook the reader.

Ethics Essay Thesis Statement

An ethics paper must contain a thesis statement in the first paragraph. Learning how to write a thesis statement for an ethics paper is necessary as readers often look at it to gauge whether the essay is worth their time.

When you deviate away from the thesis, your whole paper loses meaning. In ethics essays, your thesis statement is a roadmap in writing, stressing your position on the problem and giving reasons for taking that stance. It should focus on a specific element of the issue being discussed. When writing a thesis statement, ensure that you can easily make arguments for or against its stance.

Ethical Paper Thesis Example

Look at this example of an ethics paper thesis statement and examine how well it has been written to state a position and provide reasons for doing so:

The moral implications of dishonesty are far-reaching as they undermine trust, integrity, and other foundations of society, damaging personal and professional relationships. 

The above thesis statement example is clear and concise, indicating that this paper will highlight the effects of dishonesty in society. Moreover, it focuses on aspects of personal and professional relationships.

Ethics Essay Body

The body section is the heart of an ethics paper as it presents the author's main points. In an ethical essay, each body paragraph has several elements that should explain your main idea. These include:

  • A topic sentence that is precise and reiterates your stance on the issue.
  • Evidence supporting it.
  • Examples that illustrate your argument.
  • A thorough analysis showing how the evidence and examples relate to that issue.
  • A transition sentence that connects one paragraph to another with the help of essay transitions .

When you write an ethics essay, adding relevant examples strengthens your main point and makes it easy for others to understand and comprehend your argument. 

Body Paragraph for Ethics Paper Example

A good body paragraph must have a well-defined topic sentence that makes a claim and includes evidence and examples to support it. Look at part of an example of ethics essay body paragraph below and see how its idea has been developed:

Honesty is an essential component of professional integrity. In many fields, trust and credibility are crucial for professionals to build relationships and success. For example, a doctor who is dishonest about a potential side effect of a medication is not only acting unethically but also putting the health and well-being of their patients at risk. Similarly, a dishonest businessman could achieve short-term benefits but will lose their client’s trust.

Ethics Essay Conclusion

A concluding paragraph shares the summary and overview of the author's main arguments. Many students need clarification on what should be included in the essay conclusion and how best to get a reader's attention. When writing an ethics paper conclusion, consider the following:

  • Restate the thesis statement to emphasize your position.
  • Summarize its main points and evidence.
  • Final thoughts on the issue and any other considerations.

You can also reflect on the topic or acknowledge any possible challenges or questions that have not been answered. A closing statement should present a call to action on the problem based on your position.

Sample Ethics Paper Conclusion

The conclusion paragraph restates the thesis statement and summarizes the arguments presented in that paper. The sample conclusion for an ethical essay example below demonstrates how you should write a concluding statement.  

In conclusion, the implications of dishonesty and the importance of honesty in our lives cannot be overstated. Honesty builds solid relationships, effective communication, and better decision-making. This essay has explored how dishonesty impacts people and that we should value honesty. We hope this essay will help readers assess their behavior and work towards being more honest in their lives.

In the above extract, the writer gives final thoughts on the topic, urging readers to adopt honest behavior.

How to Write an Ethics Paper?

As you learn how to write an ethics essay, it is not advised to immediately choose a topic and begin writing. When you follow this method, you will get stuck or fail to present concrete ideas. A good writer understands the importance of planning. As a fact, you should organize your work and ensure it captures key elements that shed more light on your arguments. Hence, following the essay structure and creating an outline to guide your writing process is the best approach. In the following segment, we have highlighted step-by-step techniques on how to write a good ethics paper.

1. Pick a Topic

Before writing ethical papers, brainstorm to find ideal topics that can be easily debated. For starters, make a list, then select a title that presents a moral issue that may be explained and addressed from opposing sides. Make sure you choose one that interests you. Here are a few ideas to help you search for topics:

  • Review current trends affecting people.
  • Think about your personal experiences.
  • Study different moral theories and principles.
  • Examine classical moral dilemmas.

Once you find a suitable topic and are ready, start to write your ethics essay, conduct preliminary research, and ascertain that there are enough sources to support it.

2. Conduct In-Depth Research

Once you choose a topic for your essay, the next step is gathering sufficient information about it. Conducting in-depth research entails looking through scholarly journals to find credible material. Ensure you note down all sources you found helpful to assist you on how to write your ethics paper. Use the following steps to help you conduct your research:

  • Clearly state and define a problem you want to discuss.
  • This will guide your research process.
  • Develop keywords that match the topic.
  • Begin searching from a wide perspective. This will allow you to collect more information, then narrow it down by using the identified words above.

3. Develop an Ethics Essay Outline

An outline will ease up your writing process when developing an ethic essay. As you develop a paper on ethics, jot down factual ideas that will build your paragraphs for each section. Include the following steps in your process:

  • Review the topic and information gathered to write a thesis statement.
  • Identify the main arguments you want to discuss and include their evidence.
  • Group them into sections, each presenting a new idea that supports the thesis.
  • Write an outline.
  • Review and refine it.

Examples can also be included to support your main arguments. The structure should be sequential, coherent, and with a good flow from beginning to end. When you follow all steps, you can create an engaging and organized outline that will help you write a good essay.

4. Write an Ethics Essay

Once you have selected a topic, conducted research, and outlined your main points, you can begin writing an essay . Ensure you adhere to the ethics paper format you have chosen. Start an ethics paper with an overview of your topic to capture the readers' attention. Build upon your paper by avoiding ambiguous arguments and using the outline to help you write your essay on ethics. Finish the introduction paragraph with a thesis statement that explains your main position.  Expand on your thesis statement in all essay paragraphs. Each paragraph should start with a topic sentence and provide evidence plus an example to solidify your argument, strengthen the main point, and let readers see the reasoning behind your stance. Finally, conclude the essay by restating your thesis statement and summarizing all key ideas. Your conclusion should engage the reader, posing questions or urging them to reflect on the issue and how it will impact them.

5. Proofread Your Ethics Essay

Proofreading your essay is the last step as you countercheck any grammatical or structural errors in your essay. When writing your ethic paper, typical mistakes you could encounter include the following:

  • Spelling errors: e.g., there, they’re, their.
  • Homophone words: such as new vs. knew.
  • Inconsistencies: like mixing British and American words, e.g., color vs. color.
  • Formatting issues: e.g., double spacing, different font types.

While proofreading your ethical issue essay, read it aloud to detect lexical errors or ambiguous phrases that distort its meaning. Verify your information and ensure it is relevant and up-to-date. You can ask your fellow student to read the essay and give feedback on its structure and quality.

Ethics Essay Examples

Writing an essay is challenging without the right steps. There are so many ethics paper examples on the internet, however, we have provided a list of free ethics essay examples below that are well-structured and have a solid argument to help you write your paper. Click on them and see how each writing step has been integrated. Ethics essay example 1

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Ethics essay example 2

Ethics essay example 3

Ethics essay example 4

College ethics essay example 5

Ethics Essay Writing Tips

When writing papers on ethics, here are several tips to help you complete an excellent essay:

  • Choose a narrow topic and avoid broad subjects, as it is easy to cover the topic in detail.
  • Ensure you have background information. A good understanding of a topic can make it easy to apply all necessary moral theories and principles in writing your paper.
  • State your position clearly. It is important to be sure about your stance as it will allow you to draft your arguments accordingly.
  • When writing ethics essays, be mindful of your audience. Provide arguments that they can understand.
  • Integrate solid examples into your essay. Morality can be hard to understand; therefore, using them will help a reader grasp these concepts.

Bottom Line on Writing an Ethics Paper

Creating this essay is a common exercise in academics that allows students to build critical skills. When you begin writing, state your stance on an issue and provide arguments to support your position. This guide gives information on how to write an ethics essay as well as examples of ethics papers. Remember to follow these points in your writing:

  • Create an outline highlighting your main points.
  • Write an effective introduction and provide background information on an issue.
  • Include a thesis statement.
  • Develop concrete arguments and their counterarguments, and use examples.
  • Sum up all your key points in your conclusion and restate your thesis statement.

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Ethics and Morality

Morality, Ethics, Evil, Greed

Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff

To put it simply, ethics represents the moral code that guides a person’s choices and behaviors throughout their life. The idea of a moral code extends beyond the individual to include what is determined to be right, and wrong, for a community or 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. 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. It's a subjective concept, and many people have strong and stubborn beliefs about what's right and wrong that can place them in direct contrast to the moral beliefs of others. Yet even though morals may vary from person to person, religion to religion, and culture to culture, many have been found to be universal, stemming from basic human emotions.

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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 of as wicked, sinful, or even criminal. Morality was a key concern of Aristotle, who first studied questions such as “What is moral responsibility?” and “What does it take for a human being to be virtuous?”

We used to think that people are born with a blank slate, but research has shown that people have an innate sense of morality . Of course, parents and the greater society can certainly nurture and develop morality and ethics in children.

Humans are ethical and moral regardless of religion and God. People are not fundamentally good nor are they fundamentally evil. However, a Pew study found that atheists are much less likely than theists to believe that there are "absolute standards of right and wrong." In effect, atheism does not undermine morality, but the atheist’s conception of morality may depart from that of the traditional theist.

Animals are like humans—and humans are animals, after all. Many studies have been conducted across animal species, and more than 90 percent of their behavior is what can be identified as “prosocial” or positive. Plus, you won’t find mass warfare in animals as you do in humans. Hence, in a way, you can say that animals are more moral than humans.

The examination of moral psychology involves the study of moral philosophy but the field is more concerned with how a person comes to make a right or wrong decision, rather than what sort of decisions he or she should have made. Character, reasoning, responsibility, and altruism , among other areas, also come into play, as does the development of morality.

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The seven deadly sins were first enumerated in the sixth century by Pope Gregory I, and represent the sweep of immoral behavior. Also known as the cardinal sins or seven deadly vices, they are vanity, jealousy , anger , laziness, greed, gluttony, and lust. People who demonstrate these immoral behaviors are often said to be flawed in character. Some modern thinkers suggest that virtue often disguises a hidden vice; it just depends on where we tip the scale .

An amoral person has no sense of, or care for, what is right or wrong. There is no regard for either morality or immorality. Conversely, an immoral person knows the difference, yet he does the wrong thing, regardless. The amoral politician, for example, has no conscience and makes choices based on his own personal needs; he is oblivious to whether his actions are right or wrong.

One could argue that the actions of Wells Fargo, for example, were amoral if the bank had no sense of right or wrong. In the 2016 fraud scandal, the bank created fraudulent savings and checking accounts for millions of clients, unbeknownst to them. Of course, if the bank knew what it was doing all along, then the scandal would be labeled immoral.

Everyone tells white lies to a degree, and often the lie is done for the greater good. But the idea that a small percentage of people tell the lion’s share of lies is the Pareto principle, the law of the vital few. It is 20 percent of the population that accounts for 80 percent of a behavior.

We do know what is right from wrong . If you harm and injure another person, that is wrong. However, what is right for one person, may well be wrong for another. A good example of this dichotomy is the religious conservative who thinks that a woman’s right to her body is morally wrong. In this case, one’s ethics are based on one’s values; and the moral divide between values can be vast.

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Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg established his stages of moral development in 1958. This framework has led to current research into moral psychology. Kohlberg's work addresses the process of how we think of right and wrong and is based on Jean Piaget's theory of moral judgment for children. His stages include pre-conventional, conventional, post-conventional, and what we learn in one stage is integrated into the subsequent stages.

The pre-conventional stage is driven by obedience and punishment . This is a child's view of what is right or wrong. Examples of this thinking: “I hit my brother and I received a time-out.” “How can I avoid punishment?” “What's in it for me?” 

The conventional stage is when we accept societal views on rights and wrongs. In this stage people follow rules with a  good boy  and nice girl  orientation. An example of this thinking: “Do it for me.” This stage also includes law-and-order morality: “Do your duty.”

The post-conventional stage is more abstract: “Your right and wrong is not my right and wrong.” This stage goes beyond social norms and an individual develops his own moral compass, sticking to personal principles of what is ethical or not.

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Essay on Ethics for Students and Children

500+ words essay on ethics.

Essay on Ethics – Ethics refers to the concepts of right and wrong conduct. Furthermore, ethics is basically a branch of philosophy dealing with the issue of morality. Moreover, ethics consist of the rules of behavior. It certainly defines how a person should behave in specific situations. The origin of ethics is old and it started from the Stone Age . Most noteworthy, over the centuries many religions and philosophers have made contributions to ethics.

Branches of Ethics

First of all, comes the descriptive branch of ethics. Descriptive ethics involve what people actually believe to be right or wrong. On the basis of this, the law decides whether certain human actions are acceptable or not. Most noteworthy, the moral principles of society keep changing from time to time. Therefore, descriptive ethics are also known as comparative ethics. This is because; it compares the ethics of past and present as well as ethics of one society and another.

Normative ethics is another important branch of ethics. Moreover, Normative ethics deals with certain norms or set of considerations. Furthermore, these norms or set of considerations dictate how one should act. Therefore, normative ethics sets out the rightness or wrongness of actions or behaviours. Another name for normative ethics is prescriptive ethics. This is because; it has principles which determine whether an action is right or wrong.

Meta-ethics consists of the origin of the ethical concepts themselves. Meta-ethics is not concerned whether an action is good or evil. Rather, meta-ethics questions what morality itself is. Therefore, meta-ethics questions the very essence of goodness or rightness. Most noteworthy, it is a highly abstract way of analyzing ethics.

Applied ethics involves philosophical examination or certain private and public life issues. Furthermore, this examination of issues takes place from a moral standpoint. Moreover, this branch of ethics is very essential for professionals. Also, these professionals belong to different walks of life and include doctors , teachers , administrators, rulers.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Applications of Ethics

Bioethicists deal with the ethical questions that arise in the relationships among life sciences, biotechnology, medicine, politics, and philosophy. Furthermore, Bioethics refers to the study of controversial ethics brought about by advances in biology and medicine .

Ethics also have a significant application in business. Moreover, business ethics examines ethical principles in relation to a business environment.

Military ethics involve the questions regarding the application of ethos of the soldier. Furthermore, military ethics involves the laws of war. Moreover, it also includes the question of justification of initiating military force.

Public sector ethics deals with a set of principles that guide public officials in their service. Furthermore, the public sector involves the morality of decision making. Most noteworthy, it consists of the question of what best serves the public’s interests.

In conclusion, ethics is certainly one of the most important requirements of humanity. Furthermore, without ethics, the world would have been an evil and chaotic place. Also, the advancement of humanity is not possible without ethics. There must be widespread awareness of ethics among the youth of society.

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Morals and Ethics, Essay Example

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Introduction

Immanuel Kant established the concept of categorical imperative which the categorical means unconditional, without exceptions and is ultimately definitive in nature (Grenberg, 103). What is right is clearly right and must be followed. The rules, once established, must always be followed no matter how arduous or extreme the measures that must be taken in order to follow the rule. The concept of categorical imperative relies upon the adherence and conformity to the established rules and the consistent application of those actions. This moral order would yield the opportunity for successful application to modern problems which ethics, morality and values become variables in the decision making process. The British Petroleum’s (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred during the spring of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico resulting in the largest oil spill in history. The categorical imperative to remedy the situation by BP, the moral and ethical action would be to clean up the oil spill and negate the potential hazards of the oil on the environment. The ethical dilemma begins with placing the accountability, acting on moral and ethical beliefs and remaining accountable for the established rules in which they must follow through no matter how difficult the task is.

Moral Order

Ethical and moral principles are critical guides to how an individual acts and performs in their environment. These contributing factors help facilitate decision making and provides a sense of guidance in difficult scenarios. Kant was a systematic philosopher and believed that a rigorous approach to moral philosophy would contribute to the overall depiction of good and evil or what is right and wrong. To fully understand the basis of Kant’s theory it is important to understand how the foundation is built and then proceed into how the rules or imperatives are determined and implemented. The entire basis is established based on the fact that there is an inherent good that does not need to be quantified. Good will is not dependent upon the results but is produced as a result of human action. The actions that humans take are morally right by virtue of the intrinsic good of their motive (Silber, 126). Morality is tested when duty of the individual is challenged by the person’s self-interest. The way the person acts is based upon their duty and the ethics that is built from repeated and learned cultural behaviors.

Overall, the principle of moral law would be so definitive that no matter the circumstance the law would guide the individual toward the right action not matter how it was applied in any scenario. The actions taken are acting in accordance to the moral laws often lead to intended results. This duality of action and purpose is called a hypothetical imperative. If an action leads to an intended result the person making the action is also confined to ensuring a specific result occurs. This would be difficult to maintain because the results of taking specific actions may or may not happen dependent upon factors outside of the control of the person taking the action. The categorical imperative focuses on the action of the person. This constraint defines the action. Kant’s focus was that the action should only be taken if the action can, at the same time, become a universal law. Each action should be made in such a fashion that at any time the same action could be made without moral or ethical dilemma. These actions for the theory of the categorical imperative and allows for concrete and practical method for evaluation of ethical and moral issues.

Morals and Ethics

Morals and ethics are the basis for all of humanities actions. They are key catalysts in the decisions that are made and the actions that are taken. Values and ethics are the epicenter of each person’s moral fiber. Those two aspects of humanity have guided leaders to greatness and caused entire empires to crumble. Values are those things that have a certain value or importance to someone. They embody what the person stands for and are the basis for their behavior. Values provide the foundation for judgment about what is important. Ethics or to behave ethically is to act in a manner consistent with morally based actions of the society in which the person resides. Ethics is a set of principles of a culture or by a particular class or group of society (Barsky,56).

The complexity comes when determining the relationship between values and ethics as well as how they balance individually as well as in a group.Ethics encompasses decisions between polar opposites and can be summated down to a decision of right or wrong. Ethics is a universal concept among a group of people in which a broad notion is accepted and is not up for interpretation or variance from central focus. Values although an important input to ethical behavior is held by the individual at the lowest level in which a decision is made. Values are not determined solely by a committee or group but by the individual and gravitates its basis around feelings, religious beliefs, societal influences and personal experience. In reality, ethics and values are somewhat confusing contexts due to the ambiguity and gray areas of decision making. Values relay up to ethics but ethics do not necessarily influence values. For example it is not ethical to commit murder. Committing the crime of murder is unethical and impacts a universal group. Values come into play when determining right or wrong on the issues of abortion. The interpretation on whether abortion is murder or it is not is based on the individual’s values. This is an extreme instance of values, what core concepts are worth to an individual, and ethics, what is right, and how they relate to each other.

Values become part of a complex and evolving attitude which influence a person’s behavior and interactions with others in their society. A key aspect of values is that it guides personal choices but also determines a person’s self-worth and the worth of others in their culture. This is a judgment of a person based on his or her sole actions in relation with the values held by the person viewing and interpreting the other person’s actions. Values measure the importance of the action and ethics represent the judgment of right or wrong (Shockley-Zalabak, 199). These examples are showing the extreme variability between one side and the other and these two could potentially be easier to separate between what is right and considered a categorical imperative to act in a specific fashion. The difficulty lies within the decision to act when the decision to act is diverted by placing blame or responsibility on a second or third party. This shift in responsibility diverts the activity of taking the responsibility and making the decisive action to remedy the situation.

In the case of the BP oil spill there are many factors that led to the oil leak. It ranged from single point of failure for prevention, multiple points of failure for reaction and multiple facets on the failure points for cleanup and mitigation. Each of these causes pointed to a different entity to maintain accountability. The focus of finding the responsible party ultimately led to increased duration of the entire situation and a difficult task in following Kant’s categorical imperative to act on the universal law of how to act. This practical method for evaluating a specific incident was not easily implemented because the individual acting on the incident did not take specific responsibility for the actions. Therefore the individuals did not have a specific and defined category to act.

This plays a significant role in the process of engaging ethical and moral behavior based on Kant’s evolution from good will to universal law. The relationship between values and ethics are interconnected but not necessarily bi-directional when it comes to interpretive areas. Values are held by each individual and are based upon the inputs and influences of their experiences. Ethics are what are right or wrong held by the culture or society. Values motivate a person to act a certain way and ethics constrain the activities of that same person. In conjunction they push a person to achieve their values without overstepping the ethical bounds of their society. The first step is to assign the accountability of the oil spill so that the issues of morals, ethics and assignment of accountability can progress through the imperatives for action.

Application to BP Oil Spill

The inherent weakness of Kant’s application of the categorical imperative is ensuring there is a person or entity to implement the principle. During the BP oil spill there are distinct parties involved, a significant issue that must be addressed and a series of actions that must be addressed to ensure the mitigation of the issue. The single point of failure is the issuance of the accountability of taking the action that would follow the categorical imperative. The BP oil spill left multiple parties to blame and each party tried to force blame on either the other entities or to just away from them. The cause of the spill was defective cement which damaged the integrity of the well. The rig operator, as well as the contractor, was also blamed in the incident. Ultimately, the United States government had to step in and determine who was at fault. The inherent problem with Kant’s philosophy was that there was an assignable party to make the action. Through the results of a governmental judicial action, BP was blamed for majority of the ramifications from the oil spill. The corporate ethics and moral obligations were put on hold as the entire situation had to be overseen and ruled upon by an outside entity. The spill itself was a horrific event that will have long lasting ramifications. While Kant’s philosophy is not necessarily in its best form in terms of retroactive actions it could have led to the prevention of the spill itself. When determining the many cost cutting activities, outsourcing critical components and activities to the lowest and less than qualified vendors and making risky decisions the values and guidance outlined under the critical imperative and ensuring the decisions were constrained by the principle of universalizability would have prevented the inadequate actions of BP.

Works Cited

Barsky, Allan Edward. Ethics and Values in Social Work, An Integrated Approach for a Comprehensive Curriculum. Oxford University Press, USA, 2009. Print.

Grenberg, Jeanine.  Kant and the Ethics of Humility: A Story of Dependence, Corruption and Virtue . Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010. Print.

Silber, John.  Kant’s Ethics: The Good, Freedom, and the Will . Boston: Walter De Gruyter, 2012. Print.

Shockley-Zalabak, P. (1999) Fundamentals of OrganisationalCommunication: Knowledge, Sensitivity, Skills, Values. Longman: New York, 1999. Print.

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Home — Essay Samples — Philosophy — Ethics — The Role of Moral and Ethics in Our Lives: Why It Matters

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The Role of Moral and Ethics in Our Lives: Why It Matters

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Who should have good morals, who determines that we should follow good morals, do we have to practice all the values to be morally good.

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Essay on Moral Values And Ethics

Students are often asked to write an essay on Moral Values And Ethics in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Moral Values And Ethics

What are moral values.

Moral values are the rules that tell us what is right and wrong. They guide us to be good people. Think of them as the signposts that help us choose the right path in life. Examples include being honest, kind, and respectful to others.

Understanding Ethics

Ethics is like a big umbrella that covers all our moral values. It’s a set of principles that societies and people follow. Ethics help us decide what we should do in tough situations and how to live with other people peacefully.

Why They Matter

Moral values and ethics are important because they create harmony. When everyone follows the same good rules, we can trust and help each other. This makes our families, schools, and communities better places to live.

Learning and Living Them

We learn moral values from our families, schools, and friends. It’s not enough to just know them; we must also act on them. When we live by good values and ethics, we make the world a nicer place for everyone.

250 Words Essay on Moral Values And Ethics

Understanding moral values and ethics.

Moral values are the standards we use to judge what is right and wrong. They are like invisible rules that guide our behavior. Ethics is a bit like a tree that grows from these values, giving us a way to think and talk about how we should act in different situations.

Why Moral Values Matter

Moral values are important because they help us live together in peace. They are like the glue that holds society together. For example, being honest means people can trust each other. Being kind means that we help each other out. When everyone follows these values, it makes the world a better place.

Learning About Ethics

Ethics is all about asking questions like, “What should I do?” or “Is this fair?” It helps us look at our choices and decide if they match our moral values. It’s like having a conversation with ourselves about what is the best thing to do.

Moral Values in Our Lives

We use moral values and ethics every day without even knowing it. When we share our toys, that’s being generous. When we tell the truth, even if we might get in trouble, that’s being honest. These choices shape the kind of person we become.

Moral values and ethics are very important. They are the tools we use to make good decisions and to live well with others. By understanding and using them, we can make sure that we do what is right and good for everyone.

500 Words Essay on Moral Values And Ethics

Moral values are the standards of good and bad, which guide our actions and decisions. They are like invisible rules that tell us how to behave in different situations. For example, being honest, kind, and respectful are all moral values. These values help us live together in peace and make sure we treat each other fairly.

Ethics is like a big tree that has moral values as its leaves. It is the study of what is right and wrong in how we act and live. Ethics helps us decide what we should do in tough situations. It’s like having a wise friend inside our heads, helping us choose the best path when we’re confused.

Why Moral Values and Ethics Are Important

Moral values and ethics are important because they keep society running smoothly. Imagine a world where no one cared about right and wrong. It would be full of chaos and sadness. That’s why we need moral values and ethics. They make sure we help each other, share, and live in a world where people can trust one another.

How We Learn Moral Values

We learn moral values from our families, schools, and the world around us. When we are young, our parents teach us to say “please” and “thank you,” which are parts of being polite. Schools teach us about being fair and not cheating on tests. We also see moral values in action when we watch our favorite heroes in stories do the right thing, even when it’s hard.

Moral Values in Daily Life

Every day, we use moral values without even thinking about it. When we wait for our turn in a game, we are being patient. When we tell the truth, even if we might get in trouble, we are being honest. These small actions are the building blocks of a kind and fair world.

Challenges to Moral Values and Ethics

Sometimes, it’s hard to stick to our moral values and ethics. We might be tempted to lie to get out of trouble or to be selfish and not share. That’s why it’s important to practice being good, just like we practice a sport or an instrument, so that when things get tough, we know what to do.

Moral values and ethics are like the secret ingredients that make our lives better. They help us know how to act, make tough choices, and live in a world where people care about each other. By learning and practicing these values, we can all help make the world a nicer place to live. Remember, every time we choose to do the right thing, we are spreading goodness in the world, just like planting seeds that grow into beautiful trees.

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What Is Morality?

Morality is the behavior and beliefs that a society deems acceptable

Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.

morals and ethics essay

How Morals Are Established

Morals that transcend time and culture, examples of morals, morality vs. ethics, morality and laws.

Morality refers to the set of standards that enable people to live cooperatively in groups. It’s what societies determine to be “right” and “acceptable.”

Sometimes, acting in a moral manner means individuals must sacrifice their own short-term interests to benefit society. Individuals who go against these standards may be considered immoral.

It may be helpful to differentiate between related terms, such as immoral , nonmoral , and amoral . Each has a slightly different meaning:

  • Immoral : Describes someone who purposely commits an offensive act, even though they know the difference between what is right and wrong
  • Nonmoral : Describes situations in which morality is not a concern
  • Amoral : Describes someone who acknowledges the difference between right and wrong, but who is not concerned with morality

Morality isn’t fixed. What’s considered acceptable in your culture might not be acceptable in another culture. Geographical regions, religion, family, and life experiences all influence morals. 

Scholars don’t agree on exactly how morals are developed. However, there are several theories that have gained attention over the years:

  • Freud’s morality and the superego: Sigmund Freud suggested moral development occurred as a person’s ability to set aside their selfish needs were replaced by the values of important socializing agents (such as a person’s parents).
  • Piaget’s theory of moral development: Jean Piaget focused on the social-cognitive and social-emotional perspective of development. Piaget theorized that moral development unfolds over time, in certain stages as children learn to adopt certain moral behaviors for their own sake—rather than just abide by moral codes because they don’t want to get into trouble.
  • B.F. Skinner’s behavioral theory: B.F. Skinner focused on the power of external forces that shaped an individual’s development. For example, a child who receives praise for being kind may treat someone with kindness again out of a desire to receive more positive attention in the future.
  • Kohlberg’s moral reasoning: Lawrence Kohlberg proposed six stages of moral development that went beyond Piaget’s theory. Through a series of questions, Kohlberg proposed that an adult’s stage of reasoning could be identified.

What Is the Basis of Morality?

There are different theories as to how morals are developed. However, most theories acknowledge the external factors (parents, community, etc.) that contribute to a child's moral development. These morals are intended to benefit the group that has created them.

Most morals aren’t fixed. They usually shift and change over time.

Ideas about whether certain behaviors are moral—such as engaging in pre-marital sex, entering into same-sex relationships, and using cannabis—have shifted over time. While the bulk of the population once viewed these behaviors as “wrong,” the vast majority of the population now finds these activities to be “acceptable.”

In some regions, cultures, and religions, using contraception is considered immoral. In other parts of the world, some people consider contraception the moral thing to do, as it reduces unplanned pregnancy, manages the population, and reduces the risk of STDs.

7 Universal Morals

Some morals seem to transcend across the globe and across time, however. Researchers have discovered that these seven morals seem somewhat universal:

  • Defer to authority
  • Help your group
  • Love your family
  • Return favors
  • Respect others’ property

The following are common morality examples that you may have been taught growing up, and may have even passed on to younger generations:

  • Have empathy
  • Don't steal
  • Tell the truth
  • Treat others as you want to be treated

People might adhere to these principles by:

  • Being an upstanding citizen
  • Doing volunteer work
  • Donating money to charity
  • Forgiving someone
  • Not gossiping about others
  • Offering their help to others

To get a sense of the types of morality you were raised with, think about what your parents, community and/or religious leaders told you that you "should" or "ought" to do.

Some scholars don’t distinguish between morals and ethics. Both have to do with “right and wrong.”

However, some people believe morality is personal while ethics refer to the standards of a community.

For example, your community may not view premarital sex as a problem. But on a personal level, you might consider it immoral. By this definition, your morality would contradict the ethics of your community.

Both laws and morals are meant to regulate behavior in a community to allow people to live in harmony. Both have firm foundations in the concept that everyone should have autonomy and show respect to one another.

Legal thinkers interpret the relationship between laws and morality differently. Some argue that laws and morality are independent. This means that laws can’t be disregarded simply because they’re morally indefensible.

Others believe law and morality are interdependent. These thinkers believe that laws that claim to regulate behavioral expectations must be in harmony with moral norms. Therefore, all laws must secure the welfare of the individual and be in place for the good of the community.

Something like adultery may be considered immoral by some, but it’s legal in most states. Additionally, it’s illegal to drive slightly over the speed limit but it isn’t necessarily considered immoral to do so.

There may be times when some people argue that breaking the law is the “moral” thing to do. Stealing food to feed a starving person, for example, might be illegal but it also might be considered the “right thing” to do if it’s the only way to prevent someone from suffering or dying.

A Word From Verywell

It can be helpful to spend some time thinking about the morals that guide your decisions about things like friendship, money, education, and family. Understanding what’s really important to you can help you understand yourself better and it may make decision making easier.

Merriam-Webster. A lesson on 'unmoral,' 'immoral,' 'nonmoral,' and 'amoral.'

Ellemers N, van der Toorn J, Paunov Y, van Leeuwen T. The psychology of morality: A review and analysis of empirical studies published from 1940 through 2017 . Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2019;23(4):332-366. doi:10.1177/1088868318811759

Curry OS, Mullins DA, Whitehouse H. Is it good to cooperate? Testing the theory of morality-as-cooperation in 60 societies . Current Anthropology. 2019;60(1):47-69. doi:10.1086/701478

What's the difference between morality and ethics? Encyclopædia Britannica. 

Moka-Mubelo W. Law and morality . Reconciling Law and Morality in Human Rights Discourse. Philosophy and Politics - Critical Explorations . 2017;3. Springer, Cham. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-49496-8_3

By Amy Morin, LCSW Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.

morals and ethics essay

Ethics in the Real World

  • Peter Singer

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Ethics in the Real World: 90 Essays on Things That Matter – A Fully Updated and Expanded Edition

Provocative essays on real-world ethical questions from the world's most influential philosopher

morals and ethics essay

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Peter Singer is often described as the world’s most influential philosopher. He is also one of its most controversial. The author of important books such as Animal Liberation , Practical Ethics , Rethinking Life and Death , and The Life You Can Save , he helped launch the animal rights and effective altruism movements and contributed to the development of bioethics. Now, in Ethics in the Real World , Singer shows that he is also a master at dissecting important current events in a few hundred words. In this book of brief essays, he applies his controversial ways of thinking to issues like climate change, extreme poverty, animals, abortion, euthanasia, human genetic selection, sports doping, the sale of kidneys, the ethics of high-priced art, and ways of increasing happiness. Singer asks whether chimpanzees are people, smoking should be outlawed, or consensual sex between adult siblings should be decriminalized, and he reiterates his case against the idea that all human life is sacred, applying his arguments to some recent cases in the news. In addition, he explores, in an easily accessible form, some of the deepest philosophical questions, such as whether anything really matters and what is the value of the pale blue dot that is our planet. The collection also includes some more personal reflections, like Singer’s thoughts on one of his favorite activities, surfing, and an unusual suggestion for starting a family conversation over a holiday feast. Provocative and original, these essays will challenge—and possibly change—your beliefs about a wide range of real-world ethical questions.

Peter Singer is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University and the recipient of the Berggruen Prize for ideas that shape human self-understanding. His books include Animal Liberation , Practical Ethics , and The Life You Can Save .

morals and ethics essay

"[Singer] is persuasive on so many topics that he makes you wish we could turn the world off, then on again, in an attempt to reset it."—Dwight Garner, New York Times

"A terrific recent book . . . that wrestles with how much we should donate to charity, and whether wearing a $10,000 watch is a sign of good taste, or of shallow narcissism."—Nicholas Kristof, New York Times

"Could well inspire conversations—and arguments—that deepen and complicate the crucial moral and ethical issues that Singer presents."— Kirkus Reviews

"An accessible introduction to the work of a philosopher who would not regard being described as ‘accessible' as an insult. . . . Despite their brevity, the essays do not shirk the big moral questions."— The Economist

"Philosophy should be a more public endeavor, and Singer's work is an excellent entry point. In a fall that will be shaped by a political contest in many ways detached from genuinely pressing moral issues, it might also serve as a refreshingly complex source of ethical questioning."—Talya Zax, Forward

"Singer demonstrates how to write pungently and succinctly about moral philosophy."—Daniel Johnson, Standpoint

"The essays in the present volume address issues well beyond Singer's normal range of commentary. In sum, this book not only provides a broad-based introduction to Singer¹s moral philosophy but also will serve . . . as an excellent textbook for any course in applied ethics. For philosophers, Singer's work provides a model for how to transition from the ivory tower to the domain of public philosophy."— Choice

"Singer is a provocative, well-informed and hands-on philosopher, with a lucid and engaging writing style. The collection provides a comprehensive and accessible overview of themes that are central to Singer's ethics. . . . His essays are well-structured, engaging, and exemplarily clear. Moreover, his arguments tend to be nuanced and non-dogmatic, in spite of his well-known ethical agenda: here is an ethicist not looking for arguments to support a preconceived conclusion, but sincerely pondering the implications of his utilitarian stance."—Jeroen Hopster, Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics

"Inspiring and enlivening; each essay is an easily digested nugget of acute, inventive reasoning and moral urgency, focused on practical, achievable results and the resistance of lazy, dogmatic thinking. . . . Any reader will find the book accessible; every reader will find it both thought-provoking and challenging."—Shane N. Glackin, Quarterly Review of Biology

"The way Singer approaches his subject matter is awesome and instructive. He picks up news, anniversaries, but also personal encounters, and—within three or four sentences—shows the deeper ethical questions that lie behind these snippets."—Jan Friedrich, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

"This is a lovable book which deserves to be read and discussed."—Tommi Lehtonen, European Legacy

"This book of clear analysis and challenging thinking encourages readers towards radical shifts of thinking and action."—David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer

"Quick, punchy and clear. . . . [Singer] has an enviable mastery of his form, and the book provides a representative introduction to the breadth of his public thought."—Simone Gubler, Times Literary Supplement

"Peter Singer is among the most vital moral voices of our time. He urges us to confront not only the question of what we should not do, but also the harder and larger questions of what we should do, and how much we owe to others."—Larissa MacFarquhar, author of Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help

"Read this book. Every chapter will make you think. Some hopefully will make you think differently."—Dean Karlan, coauthor of More Than Good Intentions: Improving the Ways the World's Poor Borrow, Save, Farm, Learn, and Stay Healthy

"Peter Singer might well be the most important philosopher alive. He is certainly one of the most enjoyable to read, and it's a joy to browse through this collection of his smart short essays. This is public philosophy at its best—clear, controversial, and deeply rational."—Paul Bloom, author of Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil

"Peter Singer has done more good for the world than any other living philosopher, with ideas that have helped fight poverty, transform medical ethics, and protect animals. In this collection of popular essays, his intellect, courage, humanity, good sense, and good humor shine through. This is practical philosophy at its very best, stripped of all pretense and wisely applied to the most important questions of our time."—Joshua Greene, author of Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them

"Peter Singer, one of the world's best-known and most significant philosophers, addresses some profoundly important issues in this book. He presents the issues and arguments with a lucidity, accessibility, and sharpness reminiscent of Bertrand Russell, another philosopher who sought to have a serious social impact. Ethics in the Real World will undoubtedly be a force for the good."—Bart Schultz, University of Chicago

"Perhaps more than any modern philosopher, Peter Singer has focused on the question of how to live a better life. If you want a philosophy that can directly alleviate human and animal suffering, read this wonderful book."—Sam Harris, author of the New York Times bestsellers The End of Faith , The Moral Landscape , and Waking Up

“I started reading Ethics in the Real World when I was arrested for blocking the entrances of petrol terminals, as part of a Just Stop Oil protest, and finished it when I was in custody for a protest with the animal rights and climate group Animal Rebellion. When I am expecting to be arrested after a protest, I bring a book to read while being held in police custody. This made a fantastic custody book!”—Oliver Clegg, activist

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Ethics and Morality: Similarities and Differences

Ethics and morality are two closely related concepts, albeit with particular distinctions. Morality can be defined as the ability to determine what is right and acceptable and to act accordingly. Morals can be shared by a group of people, but they remain highly individual, personal, and ultimately internal. Meanwhile, ethics can be viewed as a set of moral principles recognized and established by a group in society. Ethics are rooted in morals but are essentially an external and social system imposed on individuals in a separate social group. For example, the behavior considered legal and ethical throughout the country, such as the death penalty, can be viewed as immoral by individuals residing there. Moreover, ethics, as principles of a specific group, are uniform in nature as they correspond to the needs of individuals in that group. Whereas morals are highly diverse as the principles of individuals are influenced by a variety of unique factors.

Nevertheless, both notions relate to the distinction between what is deemed “good” and “bad” or “acceptable” and “unacceptable.” However, it is vital to be able to understand the differences between ethics and morals as an action viewed as valid and appropriate in ethics can be regarded as morally wrong and vice versa. Sport is one of the areas of life in which ethical behavior is often expected. Professional and amateur athletes alike are required to act with integrity, fairness, and respect for others. Above all, sportspeople are mandated to follow certain rules, and breaking them is considered highly unethical. For example, marathon and race runners should be mindful of other competitors and not intentionally impede their progress. Thus, it can be stated that a person who follows these rules behaves ethically and within the set standards of the sport. However, a runner who helps a collapsed athlete in front of them cross the finish line behaves beyond the expected ethical principles as no rules are broken by ignoring a fellow participant. It is the personal moral code that states that helping a competitor is right.

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180 Ethics Topics & Ethical Questions to Debate

Our code of ethics is derived from what we think is right or wrong. On top of that, we have to agree to the moral standards established by the society we live in. Conventional norms generally label theft, murder, or harassment as bad. However, there are many influences that impact our considerations and understanding of ethics.

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Ethics is a branch of philosophy that studies moral issues. This article outlines the three different types of ethics and presents a list of compelling ethics topics for essays and research papers, as well as ethical questions to debate.

You don’t know how to write about ethics or which ethical argument topic to choose for your paper? Maybe your assignment deadline is dreadfully looming over you? Our custom writing service is happy to help you craft a fantastic essay on ethics whenever the need arises.

🔝 Top 10 Ethical Topics

  • 🧑🤝🧑Types of Ethics
  • 🤔 Ethical Issues
  • 🖥️ Computer Ethics
  • 🧬 Bioethics
  • 🚓👮 Criminal Justice
  • ⚖️ Ethical Dilemmas

⭐ Top 10 Ethics Topics to Debate

😈 ethical questions to debate, 🔍 references.

  • Religious beliefs vs. medical care
  • Issues behind unpaid internships
  • Toxic environment at the workplace
  • The dilemma of reporting an accident
  • Should one’s political leanings be private?
  • The limits of doctor-patient confidentiality
  • Is it ethical to pay children for good grades?
  • Ethics at the workplace and discrimination
  • Should social media be allowed at the workplace?
  • Promotion of environmental responsibility in business

🧑🤝🧑 Types of Ethics

Modern philosophy splits ethics into three groups: metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics.

  • The core question of metaethics is: “What is morality, and where does it come from?” It is also concerned with the emergence of human values, motivation, and reasoning.
  • Normative ethics seeks to answer the question, “How should I act?” An example of a normative moral theory is Kant’s Categorical Imperative: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law . In other words: be kind.
  • Applied ethics seeks to apply moral considerations into real-life controversial subjects. Its contents can vary greatly and touch bioethics as well as criminal justice. It studies specific actions and practices from the point of moral acceptance.

Virtues are necessary.

However, ethics does not end with these three types. Over the centuries, philosophers have proposed various ethical theories. Their four general categories are deontological, utilitarian, right, and virtue ethics.

  • A deontologist is a person with a set of moral duties from which they will not adhere. When faced with an ethical conflict, they will always act according to their self-proclaimed obligations.
  • For a utilitarian , a decision needs to yield the greatest benefit for the majority.
  • If rights are the root of an ethical theory, these are the highest priority. A person’s rights can either be established in a society by law or bestowed from one individual upon another.
  • Judging someone by virtue means considering a person’s character rather than their actions. Here, an individual’s reputation, motivation, and ethics play a crucial role.

Now that you know the basics, you have the perfect ground to start your ethics essay.

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🤔 Ethical Topics for an Essay

Ethical issues are situations in which an individual needs to evaluate which course of action is morally right. Essays on this topic shine a light on difficult questions. Therefore, students need to defend their position convincingly.

  • Discuss what we should do about climate change . 
  • What are the moral problems surrounding abortion ? 
  • Can we still justify eating meat? 
  • Investigate the use of plastic in the beauty industry. 
  • Is it unethical to be extremely rich? 
  • Should you buy Nestlé products despite the fact that the company privatizes water? 
  • Is the unequal distribution of wealth unethical? 
  • Discuss how workplace ethics should take sexism into account. 
  • What can we do to combat racism ? 
  • Why are LGBT + people discriminated against? 
  • Should euthanasia be legal? 
  • Can war be ethical? 
  • Should schools punish students for attending the Fridays for Future protests? 
  • Would drug use be unethical if it were legal? 
  • Explain the moral problems that come with automating jobs . 

The Ten Commandments.

  • Is it ethical to hire someone to do assignments for you? 
  • How far should everyone’s right to privacy go? 
  • Is using animals for scientific testing unethical? 
  • How should governments deal with refugees ? 
  • Discuss the carbon impact of having children. 
  • Can modern societies still be held accountable for what their nation did in the past? 
  • Analyze the benefits and disadvantages of universal income . 
  • How much control should the state have on the press? 
  • Should schools teach religion ? 
  • What are ethical concerns regarding downloading media from the internet? 

🖥️ Computer Ethics Essay Topics

The advent of information technology has altered every aspect of our lives. Computer ethics applies traditional moral theories to everything surrounding computers and cyber security. The list below contains enthralling ethical topics concerned with the realm of computing.

  • How much work should we leave entirely to computers? 
  • Discuss the dangers of storing vulnerable data online. 
  • Are computers secure enough to contain so much information about our lives? 
  • Discuss if hacking can be morally justified. 
  • Examine privacy-related concerns regarding computers . 
  • Should all software be free? 
  • How can you legitimize the possession of a computer algorithm patent? 
  • What can be done to prevent cyberbullying ? 
  • Investigate the moral effects anonymity has on internet users. 
  • Whose laws apply if you wish to protect your rights online? 
  • Discuss how the necessity to own a computer impacts poorer nations and people. 
  • Which ethical problems can people face due to the internet’s possibilities? 
  • When is sabotaging another person’s computer justified? 
  • Analyze the social responsibility that comes with developing new software. 
  • Are computer crimes less harmful than crimes against humans? 
  • Who owns information that is distributed online? 
  • What is more important: easy accessibility or privacy? 
  • Investigate the moral problems associated with AI . 
  • If a computer makes a critical mistake, whose fault is it? 
  • Discuss the importance of netiquette. 
  • How should tech companies deal with ethical problems? 
  • Can AI algorithms ensure ethical behavior? 
  • Why do tech companies need ethics boards? 
  • Which ethical conflicts appear when using drones ? 
  • Investigate racial bias in facial recognition systems. 

🏅 Sports Ethics Topics for a Paper

Morality in sports is based on integrity, respect, responsibility, and fairness. Often, this puts athletes into a dilemma: do I want to be ethical, or do I want to win? Answering these questions is not always easy. The following list compiles sports topics for a research paper on ethics.

  • What are moral complications when using enhancement drugs? 
  • Is gamesmanship unethical? 
  • How important is ethics in sports? 
  • Discuss the moral responsibilities of athletes . 
  • What are ethical reasons to pay college athletes ? 
  • Investigate the ethical implications of kneeling for the national anthem . 
  • Can college sports and the principles of higher education go hand in hand? 
  • Investigate the sexist bias in sports. 
  • Was it selfish when the American female soccer team went to court to demand equal pay? 

Thomas A. Edison quote.

  • What moral obligations do universities have towards their athletes? 
  • When can you justify cheating ? 
  • Concerning the environment, how can professional sports events be ethical? 
  • Which ethical issues do healthcare workers have concerning sportspeople? 
  • Which moral duties do teams’ coaches have? 
  • Are the extremely high salaries of sports professionals justified? 
  • In 2003, the Olympics abolished the wild card system. Was that fair? 
  • Because of the Paralympics, disabled athletes cannot take part in the real Olympics. Is that discriminatory? 
  • Discuss how money influences the fairness of a sport. 
  • Debate if and how children are exploited to become elite athletes. 
  • Which moral duties should a good sport follow? 
  • How much should parents get involved in their child’s physical education ? 
  • Investigate if everyday codes of ethics should apply to sports. 
  • Discuss the ethical implications of motorsports. 
  • Who is responsible if a player gets injured? 
  • Are referees always fair? 

🧬 Bioethics Topics for an Essay

Bioethics comes into play when we talk about life and health. It expands from genetics to neurology and even plastic surgery. In the name of the common good, researchers often find themselves in conflicting positions. This makes bioethics an especially exciting topic to write about.

  • Discuss the moral conflicts of genetic engineering . 
  • What are the ethical responsibilities associated with using CRISPR ? 
  • Investigate the problems of stem cell research . 
  • When can humans be used for drug testing ? 
  • Should vaccinations be mandatory for everyone? 
  • Investigate the ethics that apply to a medical worker. 
  • Discuss the harmful effects of plastic surgery . 
  • Should a person who is brain dead be kept alive? 
  • Is it just that medical care is linked to an individual’s ability to pay? 
  • Should everyone be an organ donor by default? 
  • What is more important: a person’s right to privacy or the information of at-risk relatives? 
  • Is prenatal invasive testing ethical? 
  • Should neuroenhancement drugs be legal? 
  • Discuss ethical conflicts concerning Disclosure and Barring Service. 
  • Is it ethical to improve memory functions with brain stimulation ? 
  • Analyze the ethical issues concerning precision medicine. 
  • What are the problems of surrogacy ? 
  • Should medical personnel collect healthy tissues of a deceased person without their consent? 

Bioethics is closely connected with the fields of technology, medicine, politics, philosophy, and law,

  • What should be done with the child of a brain-dead pregnant woman? 
  • How important is a subject’s anonymity during research? 
  • Discuss the ethics of shared decision-making . 
  • How much responsibility do mentally challenged people carry for their actions? 
  • Was Sweden right not to impose strict lockdown rules during the COVID-19 pandemic? 
  • To what extent are businesses responsible for their employees’ health? 
  • Should universal healthcare be free? 

🚓👮 Criminal Justice Ethics Topics to Write About

Law enforcers should always act ethically. Unfortunately, it is not always the case. Police officers and attorneys often end up in morally ambiguous situations. In many cases, they don’t do what the public deems the right thing. Below are the examples of criminal justice ethics topics.

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  • When is it legitimate for a police officer to use violence? 
  • How can an officer remain impartial? 
  • Should law enforcement visibly wear guns in public? 
  • How much force is too much? 
  • Investigate possible ethical implications associated with true crime podcasts. 
  • Should prostitution be legal in the US? 
  • How ethical is interrogation ? 
  • Can torture be justified? 
  • Discuss the ethical consequences of lying when working in criminal justice . 
  • Is working undercover deception? 
  • Debate whether it is an American citizen’s moral duty to participate in jury duty. 
  • Should the police be allowed to access everyone’s data? 
  • Discuss the moral complications of “innocent until proven guilty.” 
  • Should convicted pedophiles be allowed to see their children? 
  • Can teaching ethics at schools prevent crime? 
  • Analyze ethical problems of the Stanford Prison Experiment . 
  • Should NATO have become involved in America’s Afghan war ? 
  • What are the ethical implications of shooter drills at school? 
  • Was Edward Snowden morally in the wrong? 
  • How should we deal with child soldiers ? 
  • Discuss if the prosecution of Julian Assange is justified. 
  • Examine the ethical problems of private prisons . 
  • What moral obligations should someone consider when granting prisoners the right to work? 
  • When is capital punishment justified? 
  • Is it ethical to incarcerate juvenile offenders ? 

⚖️ Ethical Dilemma Topics to Write About

An ethical issue becomes a dilemma when different moral standards clash with each other. In this situation, it is impossible to find a path to an ethically permissible solution that is unambiguous. The following sample topics are a solid base to start a discussion on morals.

  • Should parents watch over what their children do on the internet? 
  • Would you report an accident you caused if there are no witnesses? 
  • What should a doctor do if a patient refuses life-saving treatment for religious reasons? 
  • Should you turn down a client if their political views do not match yours? 
  • Would you promote something you are not convinced of to get money? 
  • Should you lie to land a job that gets you out of poverty? 

Ethical dilemmas.

  • Your partner cheated on you. Now, you get the chance to take your revenge with someone you really like. Would you do it? 
  • Should students use automated writing tools like free thesis generators , summarizers, and paraphrasers? 
  • Your teacher is continuously mocking your classmate. You are a teacher’s pet. Would you speak up? 
  • Your son likes to wear dresses. One day, he asks if he can wear one to school. Will you let him? 
  • You are very religious. Your daughter wants to get married to another woman and invites you to her wedding. What will you do? 
  • Prenatal testing showed that your unborn child has a disability. Would you terminate pregnancy? 
  • You are in a long-term relationship. Suddenly, your partner gets a job offer in another part of the world. What would you do? 
  • You have a terminal illness . This makes you a financial burden to your relatives. Are you obliged towards them to quit your treatment? 
  • You have a red and a blue candy bar. Blue is your favorite, but you also know that it’s your friend’s favorite. Will you give it to them? 
  • A friend asked you for a loan. Since then, they have not given you anything back. They are still not wholly stable financially. Will you ask them to return the money? 
  • Your grandma passed away and bequeathed her favorite mink coat to you. You are a vegan. What do you do? 
  • A few years ago, you borrowed a gun from a friend. Now, they ask for it back, but their mental state seems to be rapidly deteriorating. This makes you scared they are going to shoot someone, or themselves. What do you do? 
  • You find out that your friend cheats on their spouse. You are close friends with their family. Will you tell on them? 
  • For your birthday, your friend gave you a sweater they’ve made themselves. You think it’s ugly. Do you tell them? 
  • You are a vegan . Should you buy vegan products which are highly problematic to produce? 
  • You are in a restaurant. Your order arrives too late. The waitress looks stressed. Will you make her take it back? 
  • You went to the store and bought a new, expensive item. The clerk gives you too much change. Do you give it back? 
  • You are walking with a friend and find $50 on the floor. Would you share it with them? 
  • Your child firmly believes in Santa Claus. One Christmas , they start suspecting that he is not real. What do you do? 
  • Is having pets ethical?
  • Can eating meat be justified?
  • Should we defund the police?
  • Should atomic bombs be banned?
  • Can discrimination be justified?
  • Is it ethical to ask someone’s age?
  • Should children get paid for chores?
  • Is it unprofessional to send voice messages?
  • Should children be allowed to vote?
  • Should influencers promote products they don’t use?
  • Should there be any limitations to doctor and patient confidentiality?
  • Should physician-assisted suicide be allowed?
  • Can teenagers get plastic surgery?
  • What to do when you find out that your relative has committed an offense?
  • What to do when you see your friend cheating on the exam?
  • Should sportsmen be paid more than teachers?
  • Should gender quotas be used during parliamentary elections?
  • Do companies have the right to collect information about their customers?
  • Can politicians appeal to religious issues during electoral campaigns?
  • Should fake news be censored in a democratic society?

We hope that in this list you’ve found the ethics topic that fits you the best. Good luck with your assignment!

Further reading:

  • 430 Philosophy Topics & Questions for Your Essay
  • 226 Research Topics on Criminal Justice & Criminology
  • 512 Research Topics on HumSS (Humanities & Social Sciences)
  • 204 Research Topics on Technology & Computer Science
  • What’s the Difference Between Morality and Ethics?: Britannica
  • What is Ethics?: Santa Clara University
  • Ethics: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Metaethics: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Ethical Issues: Idaho State University
  • The Problem with AI Ethics: The Verge
  • Sports Ethics: Santa Clara University
  • What Is Bioethics?: Michigan State University
  • Ethics in Criminal Justice: Campbellsville University
  • Kant’s Formula of Universal Law: Harvard University
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How to Make Tough Choices in a Morally Exhausting World

Determined, ambitious woman holding globe with wind turbines and green trees overhead

M odern life is morally exhausting. And confusing. Everything we do seems to matter. But simultaneously: nothing we do seems to matter. My friend, an outspoken environmentalist, recently posted to social media a picture of herself on a beautiful beach, celebrating a moment of quiet with nature. And predictably—the internet being what it is—within a few moments of posting it, one of the first comments came in: “How much carbon did you emit to go on your vacation ?” The implication, of course, being that she’s a hypocrite, preaching environmentalism for thee, but not for me. And despite the comment seeming like a childish jab, she—like most of us—cares about justifying her actions, and so she responded, citing all of the ways that she minimizes her carbon footprint and arguing that never getting to enjoy her life seems like an unreasonable standard.

This sort of debate plays out in my head, with me playing both sides, regularly—many times a day, if I let it. This morning at breakfast, I poured almond milk on my cereal, which is the result of a judgment I made years ago when I decided that cow milk is too environmentally expensive to justify. In general, animal-based foods have a higher carbon footprint than their plant-based counterparts, and so I have, to varying degrees over the years, reduced or eliminated them from my diet. But while working on a recent food ethics project, I learned that almond milk might not be a great substitute. Although it does have a lower carbon footprint, almond trees require huge amounts of water—like, over three gallons of water to produce a single nut—and more than 80% of the world’s almonds are grown in California, which suffers from severe drought. Switching from cow milk to almond milk thus traded a high carbon footprint for high water use.

I also drove to the gym today, which reflects many ethically relevant decisions I’ve made about my life. I live in the suburbs, which means I have to own a car and drive most places I want to go. Making this choice supports a lifestyle popular in America that is very bad for the environment—one of spread-out individualism, in which so many of us live in big houses, with big, mono-crop lawns, driving our private cars to do every minor task. My drive to the gym or my 45-minute commute to campus is a reminder that I’m part of a radically unsustainable cultural choice.

I do, however, try to minimize the effect of this lifestyle by owning an electric vehicle and driving it rarely. I work from home when I can, and most trips are less than 10 or 15 miles. So I’ve responded to the sense of being implicated in a problematic structure by trying to minimize my participation in it. But I know it’s not a perfect response, and so I feel moderately guilty about my suburban home and my private car.

Even our entertainment decisions are not left untouched by such moralizing. In recent years, there have been extensive debates about the appropriateness of “ deplatforming ,” or boycotting problematic artists. Should we stop consuming their products? If I stream a stand-up comedy special through Netflix, it’s not likely that an artist (or their financial backers) would notice that I viewed their product, nor would my refusal to watch have any measurable impact on them. But watching does seem to support them in some way, even if they wouldn’t notice, and that support feels morally problematic.

We could continue digging up cases. But the basic context that makes up the confusing ethics of today is the following: many of us feel an individual responsibility to address massive, collective problems, despite an inability to act in ways that have a meaningful impact on those problems. The problems are too big, and my contribution too small, to make a difference. I’m torn between the pull of a kind of purity (that I should keep my hands clean by withdrawing from problematic activities) and a sense of nihilism (that it doesn’t matter what I do, so I should get over myself and just live my life). 

So what is each of us to do? How do we live a morally decent life when we can’t even get our arms around the problems? This is where what I call “catastrophe ethics” fits in. While traditional ethics may harbor ambitions for telling us precisely what we are morally required to do (don’t lie, don’t murder, keep your promises), catastrophe ethics aims to answer a slightly different question: what sort of life can you justify in the face of today’s threats?

The psychologist and philosopher Joshua Greene thinks the human brain is like a camera : it has an automatic (fast, easy to use, not very versatile) setting and a manual (slow, effortful, but versatile) setting. Greene thinks that this leads us to make different kinds of judgments in different situations, and that this extends to moral judgments as well. Just like we have fast intuitions about danger (snakes!) and utilize slow deliberation in other situations (how do you determine the volume of a sphere, again?), we have both types of judgments about moral problems. Our automatic moral camera is often in charge, making judgments quickly and unthinkingly, helping us to navigate the world without constantly slowing down and deliberating. And like with its non-moral counterpart, the fast judgments it makes are often correct. I don’t typically need to deliberate about whether to lie or keep my promises, and I never have to wonder about whether I should cause random violence. Our auto setting is helpfully efficient.

To get reliable fast judgments, however, our automatic cameras must be calibrated. Greene tells us we can get such calibration through genetic transmission, cultural transmission, or effortful learning. Genetic transmission likely explains some of our deepest fast judgments (Snake! Danger!), and we learn many of them through cultural absorption as well (Look out! A gun!). But many of our automatic settings were calibrated through personal experience (A stove! Hot!).

But sometimes we find ourselves in a novel situation—one that neither our ancestors nor our culture nor our personal experience has prepared us for—and yet we have a moral intuition about what to do. Should we trust this fast, automatic judgment? Greene says no, because there’s no reason to think it’s gotten the case right. 

Many of the moral problems of today are unfamiliar. They are so different from the ones that humans have faced before that we shouldn’t assume our moral cameras have been trained on a reliable set of data. Greene himself notes climate change as a paradigmatic instance of an unfamiliar moral problem , but there are others—catastrophes to which we can make small contributions through simply living our normal lives.

Humans evolved in fairly small groups, where the effects of our actions could largely be witnessed or inferred. The moral rules that humans developed to regulate their actions thus made sense as they responded to the most salient ethical considerations of the world around them. These rules focused on concepts such as harm to individuals or the rights of individuals. Over the past two centuries, however, the scale and complexity of the world has grown almost unimaginably. In the year 1800, there were still fewer than 1 billion people alive , and they were spread around the world, without direct or easy access to one another. Now there are more than 8 billion people, with an information and communications revolution in recent decades that made the world, so much bigger in terms of people, feel so much smaller in terms of reachability.

It is in this context that the question of my individual contribution to catastrophic problems arises. Our ancestors’ morality did not prepare us for climate change. And we as individuals or as a culture have not yet figured out how to respond to the moral demands of problems so grand in scope. The ethical questions raised by massive, structural problems are unfamiliar, and so our intuitions require calibration.

The first step in answering what sort of life to live is to realize is to resist the seductive pulls of both purity and nihilism. A purity ethic commands us to stop contributing to harmful systems; but following that dictate is likely impossible, and certainly unreasonable. Each of us will emit greenhouse gases because consumption is part of living. And we will emit more than we might otherwise because society has made certain choices for us (American society, for instance, is car-centric —a fact that no one of us chose). So it’s both unreasonable to expect that everyone cut their emissions to zero, and it’s unfair, because individuals are trapped within a system that limits their realistic choices.

But this is where the nihilist makes a mistake. From the claim that one is not ethically required to withdraw from all bad structures, they move to the claim that nothing one does matters. But this doesn’t follow. While it’s not plausible that I’m obligated to keep my hands clean, it is good when I reduce my participation in bad systems and positively contribute—even if in minor ways.

That means that, in a world where nearly everything we do implicates us in various systems and structures, there are a lot of opportunities to participate in good and bad, and so a lot of careful reasoning to do. The bad news is that this can feel overwhelming: everything we do seems to matter. But the good news is that we get to matter . The moral work is constant and creative, as we need to (get to!) decide constantly how to structure our lives so as to respond to the threats around us.

Of course, not all ways of organizing one’s life are morally equal. There are all sorts of strategies for responding to catastrophe, and the real work begins when each of us steps back and takes the time to identify how we can contribute to the many moral projects available. The question here is: how do I fit in? With my interests, talents, and privileges, where can I best serve? That means that there is no single right way to fight climate change, or any other major problem for that matter. Rather, there are various justifiable lives for each of us. 

Choosing one of these lives is not about moral purity. And it avoids nihilism. What it allows is an ethic of conscientiousness .

This is an adapted excerpt from Catastrophe Ethics by Travis Rieder, published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright (c) 2024 by Travis Rieder.

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