What are Ethics?
Ethics represent a set of moral values which guide how a person or a group of people will distinguish right from wrong and good from bad. Most people come across this term in the sense of work ethics, which is basically a codex that tells how someone approaches his/her work and deals with different situations and scenarios. The Hippocratic Oath, for example, is a type of work ethics, since it consists of several principles which every physician swears to follow – the most common topics addressed here are how a doctor should act in difficult moral dilemmas. Another term often used is the so-called “moral compass” – or how you orient your moral values depending on your culture, religion, and other local social determinants. This means that, ultimately, ethics depend on the location and profession, aren’t completely universal and there is no direct punishment for those that don’t follow the work ethics.
What is Law?
The law is something we’re all familiar with. It’s a set of rules that can apply either internationally, or locally, in a country. Depending on where and how they are applied, they can be categorized into:
- International law
This type of law concerns the relationships between sovereign nations, along with any possible disputes they might have, or incompatibility between the laws that are applied in those countries. International law is something that, for example, European Union applies.
- Constitutional and administrative law
These laws combined govern the affairs of the state, meaning the relationships between individuals and institutions, institutions and institutions, or individuals and individuals. It’s the kind of law that everyone is most familiar with.
- Criminal law
Another very famous type of law is criminal law, which defines what is legal and what is not, and states what the punishments are for breaking the law and performing criminal acts, depending on the background and further behavior in the court.
- Contract law
This is the law that “ensures promises are kept”. When a party signs a contract or a similar act with another party, contract law protects both sides and ensures that the contract is respected and the agreement is fulfilled in its entirety.
- Property law
Whether it’s real estate or personal property, how you or another institution or individual is going to handle it is defined by the property law.
There are, of course, many other types of laws, but they all have the same fundamental aspects – they’re a set of rules that are designed so that the community it is applied in shows mutual respect and respects equality. It should such behavior that is beneficial for the individual, everyone else involved in his actions, and the country itself.
Similarities between Ethics and Law
Since the main difference between laws and ethics is the fact that nobody would be punished directly for violating ethics – it’s a subjective matter that varies from person to person. But violating laws is a criminal offense which will be immediately punished. Considering that, laws would just be a universal, widely accepted form of ethics that is enforced by the police or some similar security institution. Also, there are forms of law that are international, while ethics highly depend on the profession, region, culture or religion, making them a more local form of the law. Apart from that, fundamentally, both ethics and laws are sets of rules which define how a person should act in different situations.
Summary of Ethics and Law
Briefly explained, laws would represent minimal ethical behaviors that a person is required to follow, or otherwise be sanctioned in an appropriate manner. Ethics are a more flexible topic, as it depends on an individual or institution’s moral values – there are many different professional and personal ethics around the globe. As long as it’s not in conflict with the law, any system of moral values is legitimate. There are, of course, certain jobs and professions that require a certain work ethic to be respected and followed, but overall, you won’t be directly punished for not following a certain ethic. You will be, though, if you break the law.
Author: Dr. Howard Fields
Dr. Howard is a Clinical Psychologist and a Professional Writer and he has been partnering with patients to create positive change in their lives for over fifteen years. Dr. Howard integrates complementary methodologies and techniques to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each patient.