Conflict between Ethical and Moral Obligations

What is Ethics?

Ethics can be defined as a system of moral principles and a branch of philosophy which specifies what right for individuals and society. In a simpler term, ethics is the branch of study dealing with what is the right form of action for humans. It answers the question, “What do I do?” It is the study of right and wrong in human endeavours. Ethics can also be described as moral philosophy, as it is concerned with what is good individual and society.

Yet, in the current environment, (the concept among the masses) is somewhat confusing between morals and moral philosophy.  Both morals and ethics relate to “right” and “wrong” conduct.

Morals refer to an individual own’s code and principles regarding right and wrong, whereas Ethics refers to the series of rules provided to an individual by an external source, for example, their religion ethics, profession ethics, family ethics and cultural ethics. Hence, morals define personal character, while ethics, stress a social system in which those morals are enforced.

The conflicts between morals and ethics can be identified by these scenarios;

“Suppose a lawyer of an organization is defending a case where his company is being sued for polluting the river of the nearby city by environmental agencies. Though the lawyer’s personal moral code for pollution is considered to be as immoral and reprehensible, but his ethical demand that his company should be defended as vigorously as possible, even when the lawyer knows that his company is guilty and that if the case is succeeded it will lead to more water pollution in which life of the nearby residence could be at risk.”

In this event, legal ethics must override personal morals for the greater good of upholding a justice system in which the accused is given a fair trial and the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Similarly, another area in which ethics and moral can clash is at the workplace, where company ethics can play against personal morality. Corporations can direct stressful, demanding and consuming work ethics for their employee, and these can result to impact on family obligations which are seen as a moral obligation to spouse and children. Conversely, people lose jobs every day because of poor personal morals, employee theft being a common reason for dismissal.

There is an ongoing argument over the clash of ethics and moral in different societies and culture, however, there is no sound conclusion of whether a person chose his moral obligation over ethics, or ethics of moral obligation. These events have contributed to many inappropriate outcomes, and the example stated above descriptively the actual face of when ethical obligation and moral obligation collides. The world is striving to overcome these current challenges and hopefully, in the coming years, there will be some productive and peaceful solutions.

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