What are the Differences between Ethics and Morals?

The Difference between morality and ethics More important is that one is the basis of the other. Morality is the foundation of ethics, so ethics does not become a changing ideology according to external conveniences and factors.

Ethics refers to rules that come from outside sources, for example workplaces or religious principles; While morality is related to an individual's own principles as to what conduct is right or wrong.

What are the Differences between Ethics and Morals?

Definitions of ethics and morals


It is said that morality is the foundation of ethics. In morality we find all the principles or habits concerning bad or good behavior. Morality is what indicates what is right or wrong, and what we can and can not do.

It is an exclusive concept of each person, individual and internal and relates to their behavioral principles and beliefs.

Morality is usually consistent and only changes if the individual's personal beliefs change. Their concepts often transcend the cultural norms of different societies.

Morality is a set of principles and rules that can be derived from a code of conduct obtained from a particular religion, philosophy, culture or family group.

The moral usually has the same concept as the"accepted"or the"good." Usually, it is not objective in relation to what is right or wrong, but simply there are actions and things considered appropriate and others inadequate.


On the other hand, ethics are the rules of conduct recognized in relation to a particular type of actions, culture or human group. For example, conduct in the work environment, in places of study, in different professions, among others.

Ethics are part of the social system and are behaviors external to the individual. That is why it depends on others for its development and definition and may vary depending on context and situation.

Application of concepts

In all societies and throughout the ages of the world, the codes that are established by societies are but moral codes in their most descriptive sense. Therefore, the moral codes of society change according to the criterion.

Some even consider that certain rules of etiquette also correspond to a moral code that facilitates the coexistence of people. According to the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679),"decency in behavior"is also part of morality, which includes greeting another person or how an individual should brush his teeth before being in the company of others .

This shows that in societies morality can also be very descriptive. However, it is almost impossible to choose the"right rules"that suit all types of human beings.

Morality, on the other hand, differs from the law because the latter has explicit written rules, specific and official sanctions that can interpret its codes to apply these sanctions. However, laws can also have their basis on moral grounds.

The same thing happens in the case of religion. While the morals of a society or group may derive from the codes of conduct of their religion, they are not the same. Morality is simply a guide to behavior, while religion justifies its behavioral style and prohibitions using the presence of supernatural beings and forces.

There are, however, moral precepts that are common in all their manifestations. One is the one that involves preventing and avoiding hurting others, even some standards of honesty as well.

This implies that morality is inherent in the human being - even social animals from ants to elephants - as a way of avoiding immediate selfishness to improve the group's well-being and thus increase the chances of survival and evolution.

Moral behaviors that strengthen cooperation would be necessary to perpetuate the species, therefore they are part of a biological structure and a range of actions including empathy , Altruism, cooperation and a sense of justice.

That is, morality would be related to empathy as biological behavior and also to the development of self-perception and self-identity, according to psychology.

Morality develops in relation to common concepts and beliefs and these are codified in agreements to regulate the behavior of a culture or a community. However, the successful evolution of a culture is related to its capacity for adaptability and to modify these codes of behavior according to external changes.

While morality has its basis in our biology, psychology and even religion, ethics is a system of moral principles, which affects the decisions that people make in relation to their society. Ethics could be considered a type of philosophical morality, and was defined by the Greeks as habits or dispositions.

Ethics, unlike morality, is concerned with concrete dilemmas rather than defining what is right or wrong. These areas are:

  • Rights and responsibilities of individuals.
  • Language of right and wrong.
  • Moral decisions, what is bad and what is good?
  • How to live a good life.

Ethics serves us in daily life as it relates directly to the behavior of people. Ethics provides a more rational and analytical view of how to solve problems that have a moral aspect, such as in medical cases, accepting or not euthanasia, or freedom from practices such as abortion.

Ethics does not provide correct or incorrect answers, it only provides principles that can be applied to particular cases to deliver clear solutions, eliminating the confusion that can bring the emotions involved in issues that require concrete decisions.

Ethics can deliver several correct answers, or at least less bad answers, that people can choose. It concerns people in general rather than individuals in particular, such as the interests of society.

Even some researchers have considered that ethics could be a science. This does not imply that it works in a scientific way, but that ethics receives all the arguments of the natural sciences about human nature and other aspects, to establish its precepts. This demonstrates continued cooperation between ethics and science.


  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from merriam-webster.com.
  2. Ethics vs. Morals. Diffen. Retrieved from diffen.com.
  3. Wikipedia. Retrieved from Wikipedia.com.
  4. The Definition of Morality. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Recovered from plato.stanford.edu.
  5. Thomas Hobbes: Moral and Political Philosophy. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from iep.etm.edu.
  6. Ethics: A general introduction. Ethics guide. Retrieved from bbc.co.uk.
  7. Is Ethics the Science. Science. Retrieved from philosophynow.org.

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