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Morality (from the Latin moralities "manner, character, proper behavior") is a system of conduct and ethics that is virtuous. Morality has three principal meanings.
In its "descriptive" sense, morality refers to personal or cultural values, codes of conduct or social mores that distinguish between right and wrong in the human society. Describing morality in this way is not making a claim about what is objectively right or wrong, but only referring to what is considered right or wrong by people. For the most part right and wrong acts are classified as such because they are thought to cause benefit or harm, but it is possible that many moral beliefs are based on prejudice, ignorance or even hatred. This sense of term is also addressed by descriptive ethics.

In its "normative" sense, morality refers directly to what is right and wrong, regardless of what people think. It could be defined as the conduct of the ideal "moral" person in a certain situation. This usage of the term is characterized by "definitive" statements such as "That act is immoral" rather than descriptive ones such as "Many believe that act is immoral." It is often challenged by a moral skepticism, in which the unchanging existence of a rigid, universal, objective moral "truth" is rejected, and supported by moral realism, in which the existence of this "truth" is accepted. The normative usage of the term "morality" is also addressed by normative ethics.

Morality may also be defined as synonymous with ethics, the field that encompasses the above two meanings and others within a systematic philosophical study of the moral domain. Ethics seeks to address questions such as how a moral outcome can be achieved in a specific situation (applied ethics), how moral values should be determined (normative ethics), what morals people actually abide by (descriptive ethics), what the fundamental nature of ethics or morality is, including whether it has any objective justification (meta-ethics), and how moral capacity or moral agency develops and what its nature is (moral psychology).

A key issue is the meaning of the terms "moral" or "immoral". Moral realism would hold that there are true moral statements which report objective moral facts, whereas moral anti-realism would hold that morality is derived from any one of the norms prevalent in society (cultural relativism); the edicts of a god (divine command theory); is merely an expression of the speakers' sentiments (emotivism); an implied imperative (universal prescriptivism); or falsely presupposes that there are objective moral facts (error theory). Some thinkers hold that there is no correct definition of right behavior, that morality can only be judged with respect to particular situations, within the standards of particular belief systems and socio-historical contexts. This position, known as moral relativism, often cites empirical evidence from anthropology as evidence to support its claims. The opposite view, that there are universal, eternal moral truths are known as moral universalism. Moral universalists might concede that forces of social conformity significantly shape moral decisions, but deny that cultural norms and customs define morally right behavior.


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