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Morals and Ethics - Essay Example

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Discussions on morals and ethics abound. All around us we hear talk of professional ethics, universal morals and, increasingly, the decline in both. We, ourselves, are constantly engaged in the making ethical decisions and the passing of moral judgments…
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Morals and Ethics
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Download file to see previous pages Understanding the ways in which ethics and morals may conflict and converge and, how actions may be judged as moral but not ethical, and vice-versa, it is important to define these two concepts. According to the Webster dictionary, the term ethics refers to a set of moral principles whose application allow for the differentiation between right and wrong. On the basis of this definition, it would seem that ethics and morals are inseparable, whereby that which is ethical is, by definition, also moral. This is not true. Once again referring to the Webster dictionary, one finds that moral systems tend to be universal while ethical principles tend to be specific. That is, while morals refer to universal understandings of right and wrong, good and bad, ethics refer to particular understandings, which derive from professional or cultural codes of conduct, among others. Therefore, even though the concepts of ethics and morals are interrelated, they are ultimately distinct.
On the basis of the definitions resented, it is evident that the colonial officer's actions were ethical but they were not moral. Within the bounds of his professional duties and his responsibility to protect the Burmese, his shooting of the elephant was an ethical act. The elephant, who suffered an "attack of must" (Orwell, para. 6), had wreaked havoc upon the market and the hut dwellers, not to mention the fact that it had stomped upon an old man and killed him by partially burying him, head down, in the mud. The elephant had proved himself dangerous and his owner, the only person who could control him, was not in the vicinity. Given the officer's profession and its associate responsibilities and duties, shooting and killing the elephant was ethical insofar as it meant terminating the danger which this beast represented to the defenseless.
While it may have been an ethical act, the shooting of the elephant was not a moral one. There are several reasons why his action was immoral. In the first place, the officer did not shoot the beast because he represented a danger at that time but, because the crowd expected him to. In the second place, the shooting was not inspired by a sense of professional responsibility towards the safety and the welfare of the villagers but by the desire not to be laughed at. In the third place, the officer shot the elephant even though his moral instincts told him that this was wrong. Consequently, in acting as he did, Orwell's colonial officer did not just disregard his own moral judgment but his actions were not motivated by any sense of professional ethics or notion of responsibility towards the villagers. Indeed, he even expressed happiness/satisfaction that the elephant had killed a coolie so that his shooting of the elephant may be morally and ethically justifiable. It is on this basis that his actions must ultimately be judged as immoral even though they are seemingly consistent with his professional ethics.
The doctor, or medical resident's actions are a complete reversal of those of Orwell's officer as they comply with morality but not with professional ethics. The doctor was, to all intents and purposes, trapped in a situation wherein morals and ethics collided. On the one hand, he was confronted with an injured man who, if he did not try to ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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