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Personal ethics is a category of philosophy that determines what an individual believes about morality and right and wrong. This is usually distinguished from business ethics or legal ethics. These branches of ethics come from outside organizations or governments, not the individual's conscience. These branches of ethics occasionally overlap. Personal ethics can affect all areas of life, including family, finances and relationships.
There is some disagreement on where ethics originate from. Some philosophers use man's sense of morality to support the existence of God. These philosophers typically agree that a divine power instilled personal morality in humankind, creating a basic universal system of right and wrong.
Evolutionists might explain humanity's personal ethics through survival of the fittest. They might teach that a species that did not place value on life could have kill itself off gradually, while a species with an ethical system that frowns upon violence and murder would be given a greater chance to reproduce and evolve, thus passing their peaceful ethics onto new generations. Evolutionists might conclude that modern humanity now genetically inherits the ability to discern between rights and wrongs that benefit the community.
Other philosophers argue that ethics are not inherent at all and that children learn right and wrong solely from social conditioning. This could be the cause of the differing personal ethics found throughout the world. These philosophers typically suggest that a person's ethics are learned from families, friends and teachers. Some ethics might also be adapted from individual experiences.
The purpose of personal ethics is often debated. Ideas can range from pleasing a personal god to creating a thriving community to learning the best way to please oneself. Religion inspires a large portion of ethics. Many devoted followers are willing to adhere to a specific morality system on faith alone.
Others are motivated by humanitarian interests. These personal ethics can breed lofty goals. Some people shape their actions and priorities around ending world hunger, slowing global warming or encouraging world peace. Humanitarian efforts can also be more subtle, such as random acts of kindness for a neighbor or volunteering as a tutor. Sometimes different motivations can blend together. A religious person might make personal ethical choices that simultaneously please her god while also helping her community.
Another possible motivation for personal ethics is to serve the individual. Philosophers might argue that a child will learn to share, tell the truth and work hard because he sees that these actions benefit him. For example, when a child chooses to break the rules of a game, he is creating conflict and building a barrier between himself and his peers. On the other hand, the child who plays by the rules enjoys friendship and intimacy with his peers, ultimately benefiting himself.