Ethics and Morals

Definitions

    Morals: Morals are principles that define personal character. For example, killing someone may be considered immoral. Moral principles are commonly defined in the context of the practice of sex, religion, gambling, drinking, and generally affecting the lives of other people. Morals tend to be different for different groups of people. More commonly, varied groups embrace similar sets of moral principles but the priorities given to those principles can be wildly different. For example, it is probably safe to say that the most important moral principle for most people in Berkeley, California is that the individual is free to define his or her own morality. That is in great contrast to the morality of most Ohioans who might conclude (and some have) that Californians have no moral principles.
  
    Ethics: Ethics are a system of rules that promote morally correct conduct. Adherence to the rules by all people tends to lessen chaos and that is why ethics are considered a good idea. Many laws may be regarded to be rules of ethics. However, these laws generally carry penalties for violation which make them a means to enforce rules of ethics. Since morals may vary by group, and rules of ethics generally apply to everyone, there is sometimes a conflict between the two - this is especially the case in professional ethics which is discussed below.
  
    Professional Ethics: Professional ethics are a system of rules that promote what is regarded to be professional conduct by workers in the field. Professional ethics may be at odds with morals. For example, many people may consider abortion immoral but currently it is professionally ethical for a doctor to perform one. A lawyer may suppose a client is guilty of an immoral act (say by killing someone) but may be ethically bound to vigorously defend that client (perhaps the lawyer is a court appointed attorney). The practice of corporate management making millions of dollars while laying off lower level personnel may be considered immoral by many but it is not unethical. Homosexuality is considered immoral by many yet it is not ethical to discriminate against such individuals in the workplace.
  
    Cheating: Cheating is a breach of every known system of ethics. Cheating usually works well, at first, for the individual doing it. With time and continued cheating a condition develops whereby the cheater becomes dependent on cheating and is forced to continue doing it. Eventually, without a basis of truth, the individual's status is compromised and the individual ends up in a situation that is worse than if a non-cheating path had been taken. If too many people become compulsive cheaters the society in which they live may be adversely affected as well. A dramatic example is given later under the heading "Largest non-nuclear explosion seen from space".
  
    Lies: Lies are a breach of every known system of ethics. Truth is a constant: you cannot change it no matter how hard you try. We rely on truth to build our lives and our society. Lies undermine that structure. Too many lies surely causes collapse.