WHEREVER human beings live there are problems of conduct, decisions to be made, and right and wrong ways of acting. If there is to be any orderly social life men must have agreements, understandings, or what the sociologist calls "definitions of the situation." These agreements, rules, or principles of procedure may be taken for granted and be largely unconscious or they may be more conscious and deliberate.
Life thus confronts us continuously with alternatives and there is the ever-present necessity of making what are called "moral judgments." This problem of conduct which is ever before us as human beings has taken the name morality. The study of problems of morality and an elaboration of the principles involved has been called ethics. Ethics is thus one branch of the general field of values (axiology).
Morals and ethics are closely related concepts. The term moral comes from the Latin mos (plural mores) which meant the custom or way of life. The related term ethics comes from the Greek ethos which meant custom or character. In origin the terms are thus closely related in meaning and are sometimes used as if they were synonyms. In present usage, however, morals usually refers to the conduct itself, whereas ethics more frequently refers to the study of moral conduct or to the system or code which is followed. We speak of an ethical code and a moral act. Ethics is a normative study which deals with the principles by which we discriminate between right and wrong.
The terms right and good and their opposites are also central in discussions of moral problems. Right comes from the Latin rectus meaning "straight" or "in line." Thus in general or popular usage it implies conformity to some standard -- any standard which has been accepted. Right, as we use the term in a moral sense, refers to conduct which is conducive to good or which is believed to bring about the greatest possible value in the situation under consideration. Right conduct is conduct which is in