Monday, April 21, 2008

I was doing some pondering on a newspaper article of the pope encouraging world leaders to either be moral or promote moral values or both. My immediate thought was that it would be better to be ethical. Then I wondered about the difference between the two and....
Morals:
  • Motivation based on ideas of right and wrong (definition from WordWeb)
  • 1a. concerned with goodness or badness of human character of behaviour, or with the distinction between right and wrong. b. concerned with accepted rules and standards of human behaviour.... (The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary)

Ethics:

  • Motivation based on ideas of right and wrong (definition from WordWeb)
  • 1.The science of morals in human conduct. 2a. Moral principles; rules of conduct b. a set of these (medical ethics). (The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary)
But I don't know about you but these things seem quite different from each other to me. After all, on what do we base our ideas of right and wrong. Morals seem to come from a Christian based culture whereas to me ethics are better stated as conduct that harms none. I suppose from an academic point of view this would seem quite simplistic an argument. And I don't want to get bogged down in suppositions with regard to the law of the land or hypothetical situations. I want to talk about choices that individuals make with regard to their conduct.
Whilst reading Jay Griffiths "Wild: an elemental journery" earlier this year, I was appalled to learn that there are still Christian missionaries in search of uncontacted tribes in South America to "spread the word" knowing full well that when they do so they will bring death and disease to these people. Now they may feel morally correct in doing so but their conduct is far from ethical. According to Griffiths conversion leads to a rendering of these tribes connection to their environment which results in depression, suicide, drug abuse. Apparently this is all okay because when they die they will be received into heaven. Has anybody yet identified the location of this place?!!!! I feel heaven (or hell for that matter) are what we make of our lives depending on the choices we make.
Recently, we had a change of government from what I and many considered a very small minded Liberal (an oxymoron if ever there was one)/National coalition to a Labor government. The previous government had refused to make any apology to the indigenous stolen generation however one of the first things the new government did was to formally say sorry, openly with no excuses, justifications or qualifications. It was a beautiful moment in our history that took a lot of courage given the possible legal ramifications. (Let's hope this government continues to act as morally and ethically.)
Given the panic over the peak oil issue, I can understand why an oil dependent country may wish to invade and control an oil rich country. They may even think they had moral grounds to do so but ethical?
To look at ethics in the broader sense with regard to big business and the community is to open such a can of worms that is just too big for me to consider here.
Do no harm! I started to consider the ways in which we do harm. There is the most obvious - physical, emotional, mental. The immediate thought is of harm done to others but how many of us think of harm in relation to ourselves? The most insidious form of harm coming from our thoughts and attitudes. For anyone who is interested, I suggest looking at Dr Masaru Emoto's idea in his book The Message of Water or researching psychoneuroimmunology.
Hmmmm.......

2 comments:

Yvonne said...

Yes, I agree that morals and ethics are two different things (I think I may have written about it somewhere but can't put my finger on it at the moment).

syren said...

yvonne, if you find it, I would be very interested in reading it.