What Makes Us Moral Or Immoral?

What Makes Us Moral Or Immoral?

In our previous article (Journey from Relationship Dynamics to Universal Moral Law), we discussed why morality is an individual journey. In short, everyone has their own right and wrong. All of us have relationships and rules that we follow according to these relationships. However, members of every relationship do not adopt the same moral rules. For example, to give an example from our previous article, let’s consider a couple. This couple has some ground rules for maintaining their relationship. Situations such as cheating are not welcome on either side, but in some cases, we see that this act destroys a relationship, and in some cases, the relationship continues despite this. The reason for this does not come only from the strength of the bond of love. It also comes from the difference between the two sides of the moral place of the act of deception. In other words, after cheating, some people forgive the cheater while others don’t, because cheating does not have the same moral burden on all cheaters.

Let’s express this numerically. Let each action earn you a point in the relationship. When your score drops to negative, your relationship ends. For some, the act of cheating is -500 points, while for others it is -100 points. The reason for this is that everyone’s understanding of ethics is different. Well, you will say, “ You said ethics, you said morality, brother. Which is which?

What is the Difference Between Ethics and Morals?

Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, they actually mean different things. Morality is a general understanding that does not change. A person is born with this moral understanding and develops rules suitable for it. These rules determine his/her ethical understanding. While ethics are moral rules imposed by societies, morality is an understanding that varies from person to person.

Let’s think of justice as law. While justice is something that varies for everyone, the law is clear and precise. But there is a problem, right? The law is sometimes not just for everyone and therefore the law is not always just. Ethics is just like that. Ethics is not always in accordance with morals. Therefore, ethical rules are also falsifiable. For example, the moral value of slavery is always the same, but the ethical values ​​of slavery have changed as societies progressed.

Moral Visual

How Will We Solve Our Problems?

“You say nice things, but what should we do now? Should we stand empty-handed because morality differs from person to person? Shall we turn a blind eye when someone kills someone?” I can hear you say. My answer to that is absolutely no. Of course, we will prepare ethical systems in line with morality. However, aiming for 100% success will be nothing but a dream. If you ask why I suggest you return to this article. Now let’s go through a little history of philosophy. Moral philosophy has so far offered three main ways to solve moral problems: “ Virtue Ethics, Utilitarianism, and Deontology

Virtue Ethics

Aristotle came out centuries ago and told us that people can become more moral by improving themselves. So how do we become more moral? The answer is very simple: by working.

According to Aristotle, being virtuous is something that leads us directly to morality. When we adopt virtuous behavior, we will directly transform into moral and happy individuals. For example, suppose that being brave is a virtue. Aristotle’s suggestion would be: “Well brother, you are not brave, are you? You are afraid. My suggestion to you is this. Get over your fears. Act like a brave person, imitate him and you will be brave in the end.”

This is the general proposition of virtue ethics. In other words, he says, you will turn into a moral individual as you practice moral and virtuous behaviors. But the question is, are we really adopting or imitating this behavior? How will we understand this? Or how many virtues do we have within ourselves, and do we turn into moral individual?


Utilitarians offer an idea that is relatively easy to disprove but even easier to operate. They say: we can understand the moral value of a move by looking at the benefit and harm it creates. Let’s go to one of the most famous examples of ethics: the tram experiment.

The trolley experiment is this. The trolley is running and there are two ways it can go. There is a single old man on one side and five young people on the other. Which one should the trolley crush? To this question, the utilitarians say very clearly, “Let’s crush the one old man.” As you can see, utilitarians usually don’t have a hard time finding solutions because they take what works best for the majority. But there is a problem, don’t we always ignore the minority team? Or worse yet, is every wish of the majority reasonable and good? For example, slavery. For the majority of people in the past, slavery was a useful activity and indeed economically beneficial. Then, according to utilitarianism, inhuman activities such as slavery can also be placed on good moral grounds.


Finally, there is Deontology. Welcome to the ethical system of which Immanuel Kant was the inventor and divided moral philosophers. I think this is the easiest to explain. Deontology is putting morality into ethical rules within the framework of clear and strict rules, just as we put justice into law. How, you might ask?

Kant will say that lying is wrong under all circumstances. If you do this, you will be adopting immoral behavior. It doesn’t matter if you save someone with your lie. In other words, the positive or negative result of your action does not concern Kant. According to him, what is ethical is not to break this clear rule no matter what. But there are two main problems with this. Sometimes lying or killing serves a higher purpose. For example, if two uncanny types of men come to your door and ask where your friend is, and you tell them, you will be doing your friend a disservice and helping the criminals. Is it bad to lie in this situation?

Let’s come to the second main problem. According to Kant, being satisfied with the good you do is also problematic. Because then your motivation to do good will be poisoned. According to Kant, you will only be doing these things to enter heaven or to catch the good feeling that comes from doing good. But the problem is, which of us doesn’t feel good after doing good? According to Kant, our motivation has to be to do good, but we also need to be happy after we provide this motivation and do good. Don’t you think this is problematic?

Immanuel Kant

So What Should We Do?

Let’s try to answer this difficult question. We have seen that all three main ethical systems have problematic aspects in terms of sustainability. It should not be forgotten that it is the job of the law to determine and punish the criminal. So you look at the law and punish anyone who is harmful to society. But we don’t have to find the ones who are ethically immoral. We are responsible for ourselves and in this sense, we must understand whether we are walking on the right path. We will examine a new system that can be used to understand this in our next article. That’s all for now. Take care.

Meteye Not: Felsefe terimlerin doğruluğuna bakılması lazım. esen kalın yerine take care yazdım.

References and Further Readings

Researchers from Sandiego University. (n.d.). Morality and Moral Theories.

Researchers from the Mesa Community College. (n.d.). Ethics: How do I know what is right and wrong? Introduction to Ethics.

Sloan, M. (2018, June 8). Is there a universal morality? This View Of Life.

University, S. C. (n.d.). Ethical Relativism. Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

You can access the sources of the images used by clicking on the images.

The proofreading has been done by Asu Pelin Akköse and Mete Esencan.

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Tufan Özdemir

Hello there! I'm Tufan Özdemir. I am a philosophy student at METU. Philosophy has been a big part of my life and my life. For this reason, most of my articles on this site are on philosophy.

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