Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Morality, Ethics and Law (Simplified)

Morality is the product of individual choices of action concerning other people, synthesized into a whole that is endorsed (either in practice or in breach) by a larger group. Where these individual choices of action come from, and how they are synthesized into a whole, and how they are endorsed, and by what groups — these are all important questions.

Ethics is the other way around: a group with a commonality decides to set out a common code of how they ought to behave collectively in view of that commonality. This commonality can be as general as 'we are all human, hence we base our ethics on human rights, howsoever defined' — or as specific as 'we are all doctors, hence we base our ethics on our commonly agreed view of our profession'.

Law is when a code is a) converted into explicitly worded formulae with penalties for breach (and rarely, rewards for observance) of the rules expressed by these formulae; b) the formulation is based on some form of jurisprudence; and c) special authority is created for the interpretation and execution of these formulae.

There you go...

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