DrPhill wrote:It does complicate matters though. If I took a contract to kill, the taking the contract would be amoral and therefore unethical? But fulfilling the contract would be ethical, though immoral? Failing to fulfil the contract would be moral but unethical?
From your link:
A person strictly following Ethical Principles may not have any Morals at all. Likewise, one could violate Ethical Principles within a given system of rules in order to maintain Moral integrity. A Moral Person although perhaps bound by a higher covenant, may choose to follow a code of ethics as it would apply to a system. "Make it fit"
This is basically what I was driving at.
I'm not entirely satisfied with the link's definition of ethics as being sourced from outside oneself; after all, I learned my morals from the influence of others, didn't I? And my ethical principles might be entirely the result of drawing my own conclusions, while they may be at variance from the norm. It's why I tend to define ethics as being expressed in what
you do, and morals as the reason why
you do them. It's not that I'm invested in being 'right' about it; I don't think anyone can be. It's simply that this model has so far worked very well for me, because I find a certain practicality to it. Another might not be so satisfied with my analysis.
The very fact that the link's definition and mine don't entirely mesh tells us that defining these things enters into the realm of philosophy, and there's always room for debate there, and with no relief in sight; we're still debating the nature of morals and ethics to this day. But that's a good thing, I think.
I would agree that when we start delving into what these things really are, we find ourselves faced more and more with how subjective the whole matter really is. For example, we use terms like 'immoral' and 'unethical' with hardly a thought, but to a sociopath they would have no concrete meaning in themselves. If I were to lie, cheat, or even commit violence to save a life or turn someone away from doing evil, to what degree are my deeds acceptable? The only answer, I think, is that it depends on who's talking. When I call something unethical or immoral, what I'm really doing is comparing it to my own standards. Now these standards might be part of a majority, but a price gouger could honestly believe what he's doing is right and justifiable. I don't see it, but hurling labels doesn't get the job done. All I can do is try and persuade.
The law, however, is based on majority consensus (or at least in principle). And this consensus is mutable; recall how women were once legally chattel, and this was thought right. But now the idea is anathema in the West, and this attitude is spreading elsewhere.