Monday, 31 August 2015

Comparing Terms.

Somebody once asked me what I saw as the difference between morality and ethics. It was in response to a post I made in which I said that I had no regard for one, but the greatest regard for the other. That was some years ago, and so I think it warrants another little note. And I think it best to explain the view by telling a story from my own experience. I’m assured that it is true, and I have no reason to doubt that it’s at least mostly true.

Once upon a time there was a young woman who had a young daughter. The mother was not averse to making a little money on the side, if you get my meaning. Her behaviour would have been considered highly immoral at the time, and would still be largely frowned upon today. And yet I feel that I have neither the right nor the inclination to judge her for it.

But she also had another habit. She would coerce her young daughter into doing jobs for neighbours, and when the child came home with the few pennies she’d been given in recompense, the mother would take it off her not to buy food or clothes or to pay the rent, but to spend in the pub carousing. I have no problem with the fact that she spent her evenings in the pub; I have no problem with her spending money carousing. What I have a problem with is the fact that she took the money for which her child had laboured in order to do so. To me that’s unethical, and that’s the difference.

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