Home   Publications   Glossary                
 Home >  Glossary  > Ethics and values
Ethics and values
Ethics is the moral code as a set of mutually coherent precepts that ought to be obeyed by any moral person. Ethics, as a framework of rules of conduct, is based on negotiated and shared values within and by societal structures (the individual as well as larger entities) and influence individual and collective behaviours. In this sense, ethics is a cultural phenomenon. As Abraham Edel specified, since culture is relative, also ethics is relative. The conclusion is that the social management of ethics is complex. In fact, ethics is a combination of partness and wholeness; it is reciprocal and cyclical; it is cause and effect at the same time. A paradox emerges which implies socio-cultural risks. If ethics is utilised as a way to foster rationality and universalisation of social order, it creates only the destruction of societies and cultures. There are historical examples (the Holocaust and other types of genocide) which show how ethics can substitute morality, to the extent that a code substitutes the moral self, and heteronomy substitutes autonomy.

Values are the patterns of moral principles and thoughts (philosophy of life). Values refer to the autonomous responsibility of the individual and his morality. Values (and morality) are and remain irrational; they concern the individual sphere, which combines autonomy and responsibility. It is this moral capacity of human beings that make it possible to form society as a complex system, that is the unity of diverse social interrelationships and meanings.

Values and ethics are visible in social action, underline the key role of the actors and of the relationships between them. Paraphrasing Edel, only human beings create and grow values, use their knowledge to broaden, refine, and achieve their human aims and to distinguish increasingly the spurious from the genuine. They see themselves at every point as active creators out of the past and into the future.