Moral Standards vs. Non-Moral Standards

Moral Standards vs. Non-Moral Standards
Copyright 2013 by Jensen DG. Mañebog
Morality may refer to the standards that a person or a group has about what is right and wrong, or good and evil. Accordingly, moral standards are those concerned with or relating to human behavior, especially the distinction between good and bad (or right and wrong) behavior.
Moral standards involve the rules people have about the kinds of actions they believe are morally right and wrong, as well as the values they place on the kinds of objects they believe are morally good and morally bad. Some ethicists equate moral standards with moral values and moral principles.
Non-moral standards refer to rules that are unrelated to moral or ethical considerations. Either these standards are not necessarily linked to morality or by nature lack ethical sense. Basic examples of non-moral standards include rules of etiquette, fashion standards, rules in games, and various house rules.
Technically, religious rules, some traditions, and legal statutes (i.e. laws and ordinances) are non-moral principles, though they can be ethically relevant depending on some factors and contexts.
The following six (6) characteristics of moral standards further differentiate them from non-moral standards:
a. Moral standards involve serious wrongs or significant benefits.
Moral standards deal with matters which can seriously impact, that is, injure or benefit human beings. It is not the case with many non-moral standards. For instance, following or violating some basketball rules may matter in basketball games but does not necessarily affect one’s life or wellbeing.
b. Moral standards ought to be preferred to other values.
Moral standards have overriding character or hegemonic authority. If a moral standard states that a person has the moral obligation to do something, then he/she is supposed to do that even if it conflicts with other non-moral standards, and even with self-interest.
Moral standards are not the only rules or principles in society, but they take precedence over other considerations, including aesthetic, prudential, and even legal ones. A person may be aesthetically justified in leaving behind his family in order to devote his life to painting, but morally, all things considered, he/she probably was not justified. It may be prudent to lie to save one’s dignity, but it probably is morally wrong to do so. When a particular law becomes seriously immoral, it may be people’s moral duty to exercise civil disobedience.
There is a general moral duty to obey the law, but there may come a time when the injustice of an evil law is unbearable and thus calls for illegal but moral noncooperation (such as the antebellum laws calling for citizens to return slaves to their owners).
c. Moral standards are not established by authority figures.
Moral standards are not invented, formed, or generated by authoritative bodies or persons such as nations’ legislative bodies. Ideally instead, these values ought to be considered in the process of making laws. In principle therefore, moral standards cannot be changed nor nullified by the decisions of particular authoritative body. One thing about these standards, nonetheless, is that its validity lies on the soundness or adequacy of the reasons that are considered to support and justify them.
d. Moral standards have the trait of universalizability.
Simply put, it means that everyone should live up to moral standards. To be more accurate, however, it entails that moral principles must apply to all who are in the relevantly similar situation. If one judges that act A is morally right for a certain person P, then it is morally right for anybody relevantly similar to P.
This characteristic is exemplified in the Gold Rule, “Do unto others what you would them do unto you (if you were in their shoes)” and in the formal Principle of Justice, “It cannot be right for A to treat B in a manner in which it would be wrong for B to treat A, merely on the ground that they are two different individuals, and without there being any difference  between the natures or circumstances of the two which can be stated as a reasonable ground for difference of treatment.” Universalizability is an extension of the principle of consistency, that is, one ought to be consistent about one’s value judgments.
e. Moral standards are based on impartial considerations.
Moral standard does not evaluate standards on the basis of the interests of a certain person or group, but one that goes beyond personal interests to a universal standpoint in which each person’s interests are impartially counted as equal.
Impartiality is usually depicted as being free of bias or prejudice. Impartiality in morality requires that we give equal and/or adequate consideration to the interests of all concerned parties.
f. Moral standards are associated with special emotions and vocabulary.
Prescriptivity indicates the practical or action-guiding nature of moral standards. These moral standards are generally put forth as injunction or imperatives (such as, ‘Do not kill,’ ‘Do no unnecessary harm,’ and ‘Love your neighbor’). These principles are proposed for use, to advise, and to influence to action. Retroactively, this feature is used to evaluate behavior, to assign praise and blame, and to produce feelings of satisfaction or of guilt.
If a person violates a moral standard by telling a lie even to fulfill a special purpose, it is not surprising if he/she starts feeling guilty or being ashamed of his behavior afterwards. On the contrary, no much guilt is felt if one goes against the current fashion trend (e.g. refusing to wear tattered jeans). (Copyright 2013 by Jensen DG. Mañebog)


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