Ethics vs. Morals: Informed Judgments

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Difference between Ethics and Morals

Legally speaking, it is quite difficult to establish a clear line between right and wrong or good and evil because of the particular aspects of each case. For instance, should a person who steals medicine in order to live another day be charged with a jail sentence?

Religious teachers and theoreticians of ethics and morals have tried to elaborate codes which may be used as guidance. Still, the ever changing world brings into question new issues related to racial discrimination, drug usage or corporate responsibility for climate change. As more seminars and other public discussions are held on regular bases, ethics and morals can change and adapt to modern times if adopted at the right pace.



Ethics is a branch of philosophy which addresses moral questions related to concepts of good versus evil, justice, and right versus wrong.

Morals refer to a set of behavioral codes according to what is generally accepted by a particular religion, culture or philosophical system.


Ethics include the following sub branches: meta-ethics, normative ethics, applied ethics, moral psychology and descriptive ethics. Meta-ethics study the theoretical meaning of moral propositions and their truth value. Normative ethics include practical means to determine moral outcome. Applied ethics refer to ways to use ethics in everyday life situations. Moral psychology studies the nature of moral capacity and how an individual can develop it. Descriptive ethics refer to values which are considered moral by most people.

Morals can be divided in territorial or tribal morals, in-group and out-group morals. Territorial morals refer to a set of behavioral codes to be followed as to not interfere with a person’s sense of propriety. Tribal morals refer to collective morals imposed upon the members of a group. In-group morals are the behavioral codes which apply in a group. This gives moral grounds to extremists such as nationalists who perceive other moral codes as threats. Group morals refer to the exclusions of individuals from a group on the basis that they do not share the same beliefs. This type of morals has traditionally been the foundation of racial discrimination.


Ethics and morals are better illustrated in the legal system. According to the law, it is ethical to defend a murderer on the basis that each person should be considered innocent until evidence is brought beyond any reasonable doubt of the person’s guilt. Personal morals are to be left aside in favor of sticking to ethical principles ensuring that each person has to receive a fair trial. The basis of the justice system rests upon this.

Similarities and Differences

  • Ethics are a branch of philosophy which addresses moral questions. Morals refer to a set of generally accepted codes of behavior.
  • Types of ethics include meta-ethics, normative ethics, applied ethics, moral psychology and descriptive ethics. Types of morals include in territorial and tribal morals, in-group and out-group morals.
  • According to the law, which is based on ethical principles, each man should have a fair trial. Personal morals must subordinate to this rule.

Which set of guidelines weighs heavier in most business decisions?
  • Ethics
  • Morals

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