The words "ethical," "moral," and "legal" are often misunderstood and misused. The terms are similar in that each refers to a human behavioral code. The terms are similar in that each refers to a human behavioral code. Human behavior is complex and thus no one term is sufficient to describe it. Ethical, moral, and legal issues also intertwine to create our entire understanding of behavior as it relates to our sense of right and wrong.
To further complicate matters, each civilization and culture (past and present) has its own notion of what is ethical, moral or legal. Therefore, one cannot arrive at a simple, clear definition of what each term means. The "meaning" often is dependent upon who is defining them.
Many people who write about ethics use the term when referring to the most general codes by which humankind lives; that is, those codes of behavior that, for the most part, transcend time, culture, and geography.
In simple terms, ethics is the study of people's concept of right and wrong.
Therefore, we use the word "ethical" when we are speaking of that general code of right and wrong recognized by enlightened civilizations from the beginning of time. When we ask the question "Was that an act or decision ethical?" we are asking if it meets the test of what is accepted as universally right. Writers suggest that we consider such basic concepts as honestly, fairness, and compassion as universal ethical values.
The term "moral" speaks to issues that concern a community of people rather than humankind in general. The study of morals also concerns itself with right and wrong but more directly in terms of specific groups of people. One may consider morals as specific groups of people. One may consider morals as specific rules...