Morality and Ethics

Ethics and Morality

The term ethics comes from Greek word “ethos” which means “way of life, habits and mores of people whereas “Morality” is derived from Latin word “mos” which means customs accepted as a basis of life which is not open to questions. In day today life we use the term interchangeably, thus it require a thorough emphasis on the facets which makes us believe the homogeneity of these two words though having distinct character.

Ethics and law:

Ethics is the morality of organization or group, profession, society. Ethics focuses on “should and ought” aspect of life. The word “ethics” refers to knowing and applying moral values in our daily life. Ethics can be viewed through two perspectives.

From the conventional perspective, it is the branch of philosophy in which we study what is the purpose of life. It is the discipline of philosophy which suggests the means to achieve the purpose of life. Under Hindu mythology similar concept can be traced from Dharma, Artha, Karma and Moksha where they help individuals to procure the true path which leads to ultimate goal.

From behavioural perspective, Ethics consists of learning what is right and what is wrong and doing the right thing. It is mere conduct of individual guided by an organization or group. It is objective in nature.

Very often ethics and law is considered one and the same. ‘Pollock’ point out the distinction between law and ethics as “the subject matter of law is legal rule of conduct while the subject matter of ethics is a moral rule of conduct influenced by any formal organization, profession conduct, rules of society. Ex- Code of conduct in a workplace

Morality and law:

There was no distinction between morality and law in ancient times. With time the distinction arose, as per ‘Minmasa’ morality is recommendatory rules while law is mandatory rules. According to ‘Vinogradoff’, “law can be easily distinguished from morality. The law intends to acceptance of submission of individual will for an organized body while the object of morality is to dictate the individuals’ conscience. [1] Any act can be moral, immoral or non-moral. Moral acts are for common good, immoral act deteriorates common good while non-moral act did not have any effect in the society.

Morality is subjective in nature depended upon the individual conscience. It is internal behavior of individual.

Morality can be viewed through two perspectives: –

From the conventional perspective: –

  • It is content of subject ethics.
  • Ethics is the species while morality is the genus.
  • Ethics structure a social system or a philosophy wherein the morals are applicable.

From the behavioral perspective: –

  • Morality is individuals’ free conscience.
  • It is personalized code of conduct.
  • Morality is a social phenomenon

Ex- The ethics of the company outline the values of the organization as a whole that may or may not be in synchronize with one’s personal upright beliefs.

Eating non-vegetarian cannot be unethical, but for many it may not be moral.

Constitutional morality:

According to Ambedkar, “it means amicable resolution of conflicting interest by administration through co-ordination. It is very important while framing a law having public as subject matter.” It aims towards amenability and holistic development considering the plurality of views. It is indispensible part of Indian constitution.

In Indian Young Lawyers Association & Ors. Vs. The State of Kerala & Ors.[2]Case, court denied public morality in absoluteness, and allowed religious freedom, gender equality under article 14 and 21. Women were allowed to enter into Sabarimala temple. Here constitutional morality went against morality of peoples.

In Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi[3], the Court decriminalized sodomy under section 377 of IPC. The court reiterated the autonomy to choose life partner which is under Article 21 available to all, irrespective of gender. In this case also public morality is left in astray.

Conclusion: The difference between ethics and morality is that while morals define our own character, ethics dictates the inner working of a society. Social Ethics are based on moral codes adopted by members of a given group.[4]

Author- Jata Shankar



[1] Mahajan, V.D, Jurisprudence and Legal theory, 5th edition, EBC publication limited., page no-86

[2] AIR 2018

[3] 160 Delhi Law Times 277

[4] Dupuy,J.-P.: Complexity and Uncertainty. A Prudential Approach to Nanotechnology. UNESCO, 2005

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