Similarities and Differences Between Law and Ethics

Generally, Law and Ethics govern the actions of individuals across the globe. These two terms (Law and Ethics) are closely related as they both have the end product of preventing illegal or immoral acts in the Society. This similarity has led to various people placing Law and Ethics alongside each other. However, there exist a line of difference between Law and Ethics. This Article comprehensively discusses these differences which exist between the two terms.

Meaning and Differences Between Law and Ethics

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Definition of Terms


Law is an enactment in force in a State to resolve disputes and regulate the behaviour, actions, and transactions of people in the society. Law may also be referred to as the system or body of Rules and Regulations designed to regulate the actions of members of the state, define the DO’s and DON’T’S of the state, and impose sanctions or penalties on defaulter’s of these Rules and Regulations.

The totality of the above definitions is to the effect that Law is a set of Rules and Regulations which are enforced by authorities in a state to control the behaviour and actions of humans in the state and also punish or impose penalties on those who violate these rules and regulations.


Ethics is the Moral principles which governs, controls or influence the behaviour and actions of an individual. It can also be defined as the guiding principles which prescribes what an individual ought to and ought not to do.

On a light note, Ethics is basically concerned with what is morally upright or wrong, good or bad, and what is good for each individual and the society at large.

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Similarities Between Law and Ethics

These two terms are closely related because of the similarities which they share. These similarities include:

a. They are both an instrument of order in the society

b. They are both concerned with preventing immoral and unlawful acts in the society

c. They are both aimed at creating and having a better society

d. They both regulate the conduct and behavior of individuals in the society

e. Law and Ethics create guiding principles for trade groups such as social workers, doctors, lawyers, et cetera.

f. Both law and Ethics work hand in glove to establish a moral boundary for all people in the society

g. They both mediate our inter-personal relationship and transactions with others.

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Differences Between Law And Ethics

The definition of terms in this article may not have done justice in highlighting the differences which exist between them. Hence, it is imperative we examine these differences. They include:

a. Law is the set of rules and regulations which direct and govern the behavior of individuals in the society, Ethics on the other hand is the moral principles which control the behavior of individuals in the society.

b. Law is objective and assertive, while Ethics is flexible and subjective.

c. While both Law and Ethics govern the behavior of individuals in the society, Law imposes a punishment or penalty for defaulters of the provision of the law, while Ethics does not impose any penalty or punishment for its breach as they are just religious, social, and moral beliefs and guiding principles.

d. Law requires Enforcement through Regulatory bodies and Enforcement agencies, while Ethics does not require any enforcement through Enforcement agencies.

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e. Law has a legal binding on a country or state, and the citizens therein, whereas Ethics has no legal binding whatsoever.

f. Law is usually written, while Ethics is not usually in written form.

g. Law is restrictive. That’s to say that it is specific to a State or country and only applicable therein. However, Ethics is universal. That is to say that it is applicable anywhere and anytime.

h. Law is usually published, but Ethics is not.

i. Law governs the society as a whole, while Ethics governs individual and some professional conduct.

j. Ethical decision making comes from the moral sense of an individual, while the Law decision making comes from the codification of certain Ethical values, breach of which may result into a penalty.

For example, where I am driving my car. Based on Ethics, I am driving carefully so as not to hurt someone or cause damage on their car. But based on Law, I am driving carefully so as not to exceed the speed limit set by Law and avoid facing the stringent penalties associated with its breach.

As expatiated above, Individuals are required to obey the law, while for Ethics individuals are at pleasure to conform by them.

Ethics are kind moral guiding principles, while Law is harsh especially in its penalties and punishment.

Finally, with regards to its formation, Law is made by Lawyers, Legislature or other administrative agencies. However, Ethics are formed by philosophers, religious leaders, and elders in the society.

I trust this article has explicitly drawn the thin line of differences between Law and Ethics, and you now understand the differences which exist between them? For more scintillating and informative articles, stay glued to this blog.