What is "ethics?" What is "morality?" To discuss this, there is a free public lecture at Intel Hillsboro on Tue. Oct. 15, 2013. Click here to see all details: http://tinyurl.com/nea29ka .
Some people think "ethics" is different than "morality," and some say it is the same thing; just using different words. For "ethics," Wikipedia says "Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct." For "morality," Wikipedia says: "Morality (from the Latin moralitas "manner, character, proper behavior") is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are "good" (or right) and those that are "bad" (or wrong). The philosophy of morality is ethics."
Regardless of what people call it, this is all about a discussion of "good and bad." What is "good?" The answer depends on which philosophical school-of-though one follows.
Another interesting aspect is the role that 'evolution' plays in understanding morality.Wikipedia says it like this:
"The phenomenon of 'reciprocity' in nature is seen by evolutionary biologists as one way to begin to understand human morality. Its function is typically to ensure a reliable supply of essential resources, especially for animals living in a habitat where food quantity or quality fluctuates unpredictably. For example, some vampire bats fail to feed on prey some nights while others manage to consume a surplus. Bats that did eat will then regurgitate part of their blood meal to save a conspecific from starvation. Since these animals live in close-knit groups over many years, an individual can count on other group members to return the favor on nights when it goes hungry (Wilkinson, 1984) Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce (2009) have argued that morality is a suite of behavioral capacities likely shared by all mammals living in complex social groups (e.g., wolves, coyotes, elephants, dolphins, rats, chimpanzees). They define morality as "a suite of interrelated other-regarding behaviors that cultivate and regulate complex interactions within social groups." This suite of behaviors includes empathy, reciprocity, altruism, cooperation, and a sense of fairness. In related work, it has been convincingly demonstrated that chimpanzees show empathy for each other in a wide variety of contexts. They also possess the ability to engage in deception, and a level of social 'politics' prototypical of our own tendencies for gossip and reputation management."
Others might say morality is learned from their religion's Holy Book (Bible, Quran, Book of Mormon, The Hindu Vedas, etc.). This is called "divine command" theory. Wikipedia explains it like this:
"Divine command theory is a meta-ethical theory which proposes that an action's status as morally good is equivalent to whether it is commanded by God. The theory asserts that what is moral is determined by what God commands, and that to be moral is to follow his commands. Followers of both monotheistic and polytheistic religions in ancient and modern times have often accepted the importance of God's commands in establishing morality. Numerous variants of the theory have been presented: historically, figures including Saint Augustine, Duns Scotus, and Thomas Aquinas have presented various versions of divine command theory; more recently, Robert Merrihew Adams has proposed a "modified divine command theory" based on the omnibenevolence of God in which morality is linked to human conceptions of right and wrong. Paul Copan has argued in favour of the theory from a Christian viewpoint, and Linda Zagzebski's divine motivation theory proposes that God's motivations, rather than commands, are the source of morality."
And then some people claim that they get their morality from simply "what feels right."
If you would like to ask questions to learn more on this subject, then attend the event on Oct. 15 and get your questions answered from a real philosophy professor from Potland State University. This event is sponsored by the Agnostics and Atheists at Intel (AAI), an employee diversity group within Intel. Go here for all the event details: http://tinyurl.com/nea29ka .