The first thing that must be understood in the interpretation of Appiah’s quote is that each and everyone have an ethical task which is personal. The ethical task is reliant of being a rational agent – someone that is capable of self-thought and reasoning. Thus, ethics for Appiah is built on the assumption that human beings are self-determinate and rational beings. As a rational agent, we are all expected to “construct a life” that is good. Although it should be noted that Appiah did not mention the fact that being a rational agent automatically makes a person construct a life that will go well. The best thing a rational agent can do is to “try” to construct a life that will go well. This quote is a prescriptive as it recommends the purpose of ethics.
Morality according to Appiah is voluntary. It is a debt that is “owed” by everybody in the society. There is the need to be indebted to the fellow man in the area of morality in order to have a meaningful social setting. This is because people in the society are interdependent and not independent beings. Morality is part of the essential ingredients of ethics.
Although ethics and morality are confused in usage, they are not terminologies that can be directly substituted for each other. To paint the picture, ethics is like the whole body while morality is like the eyes. Ethics is majorly prescriptive. It talks about how we should behave in the society system. Ethics embraces a universal principle that tells us what conducts are expected of a people. On the other hand, morality is personal. It is about a person’s character and viewpoint. The relationship between these two is that ethics is concerned about the code of conduct that should govern the society in which an individual belong. In the first student’s account of morality, it can be added that without ethics there can be no morality. The morality of an individual is gotten from the social system in which he/she belongs to. Additionally, in the second student’s account, morality is like a breakdown of ethics. It is an integral part of ethics, something that narrows societal values to the individual. Morality is thus an application of ethics in the individual life.