Difference Between Ethical and Moral

Ethical vs Moral


The difference between ethical and moral is very confusing for some people. At first glance, the two concepts may even appear synonymous. In general, most people consider morals and ethics as the sense of right and wrong. This is only a very simple and overall definition, which does not capture the individual differences. First let us comprehend ethics as the codes of conduct that have been approved and practiced by individuals in a society. Morals, on the other hand, can be viewed as the individual sense of right and wrong.  This difference between the two stem from ethics being collectively agreed upon whereas morals differ from one individual to another.

What is Ethical?

First let us understand what is meant by Ethical. Ethics or Being ethical refers to abiding by the socially accepted codes of conduct. In every society, individuals are expected to behave in a particular manner. Ethics dictates these codes of conduct for individuals. As a child grows up, the child becomes accustomed to these ethical demands of the society through the socialization process. Sometimes the formal and informal education of a child is also important in providing an awareness of ethics to the child. However, ethics is not universal. A pattern of behavior that is considered as right and approved by one society may not be approved by another. Let us take an example in understanding this phenomenon.

Abortion is one subject that was considered as a taboo a few decades ago. There are religions around the world that consider it as a sin against humanity even today. However, to give parents the ability to limit their family and also to control the booming population that puts pressure on resources, abortion has been legalized in many countries. If anyone in a country that has legalized abortion decides to go for an abortion, it is approved of in the eyes of the law and may even be ethical in the eyes of the society. However, in some countries, abortion is considered as a crime, because it engages in the killing of another human being. In such countries, abortion is not only unethical but also a criminal offence. This highlights the context plays a significant role when speaking of ethics.

Difference Between Ethical and Moral - Is abortion Ethical and Moral

What is Moral?

Now let us pay attention to what is meant by morals. This refers to the individual sense of what is right and wrong. Morals are internalized by an individual through his upbringing. The family, religion and even the society at large has a tremendous role in this matter. Let us take the same example of an abortion. Even if a country legalizes abortion there maybe people who consider it immoral to kill a fetus as they think it is tantamount to killing. This is where the difference between morals and ethics becomes transparent. Ethical is what a society considers to be good or approved whereas moral is a personal belief system that is at a much deeper level.

Now let us pay attention to another topic that highlights the difference between ethics and morals. There are many countries where societies have finally accepted that there are people who have sexual tendencies towards same sex, and they have even made provisions to the effect that such people are not discriminated. This means that societies have finally yielded and consider it ethical and legal to engage in homosexuality. However, there are lots of people in these very societies who are, vociferous against such behaviors as they think it is immoral to indulge in homosexuality, and they abhor it. This highlights that while ethical refers to the overall societal view, moral refers to the individual view.

Difference Between Ethical and Moral - Is Homosexuality Ethical and Moral

What is the Difference Between Ethical and Moral?

  • Moral and ethical sound similar but they are different.
  • Ethical are those codes of conduct that are dictated by the society. However, they may still be immoral for people at a deeper level where his personal belief system resides.
  • Personal belief systems are referred to as morals. These differ from one individual to another.

Image Courtesy:

1.800px-Donald_Spitz_holds_anti-abortion_sign by RevSpitz [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2.”Anti gay San Francisco” by Jenny Mealing  [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons