Similarities and differences between laws and ethics

Similarities and differences between laws and ethics


Ethics and law are two related terms but with different meaning and application. Ethics is a moral philosophy which requires individuals to make decisions based on moral standards. It basically means having the discretion to choose between what is right and wrong. On the other hand, laws are set of rules and procedures that govern the behaviors of the people in a country.


Some of the similarities between laws and ethics are that they are both used to guide the individuals from behaving in a certain manner.  They are also aimed at promoting better lives among the people in the society and ensuring that people live together in unity without any criminal activities. They ensure that people respect each other as they live together.

Laws and ethics have some differences. One of the differences between the terms is that laws are not universal as every country or society has its own laws that they abide by where as ethics are universal and are expected to be demonstrated by every human brings regardless of the place.

Other differences are that any individual that violates ethics is not punishable. But breaching laws is punishable through penalties, fines, and imprisonment.  Another difference is that it is immoral when ethics are ignored but when laws as violated it is rated as a crime and the individual is  tried and persecuted in the court of the law (Schulte, 2012). Ethics is judged by moral standards while laws are judged by established judicial standards set by the authority as an individual has the discretion to agree or follow to the ethical standards while laws must be adhered to without compromise. Ethics are also used to guide behavior while laws are meant to control how people behave. Example of a situation where an individual behaves unethical is using computer in the office for personal things. On the other hand, hacking into other people’s database is treated as breaking the law.


Schulte, P. (2012). The Difference Between Moral and Rational ‘Oughts’: An Expressivist            Account, Ethical Theory & Moral Practice, 15(2): 159-174.





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