Ethics refers to a set of rules or guiding principles that inform and govern people’s conduct in various situations and circumstances. For example, different professions have different codes of ethics that determine how they behave and act. Ethics influence behavior and decisions in various ways. In addition, it can be classified into different groups including personal ethics, professional ethics, and universal ethics that govern society.
On the other hand, law refers to rules or codes of practice that are created and reinforced by an authority such as a government in order to bring order and cohesion. Law is compelling because failure to adhere to its precepts leads to punishment. Moreover, law is diverse because its implementation includes various forms including constitutions, policies, terms of service, and other forms of legal provisions.
Law and ethics have several similarities. First, they influence human conduct and decisions in order to benefit individuals and society. People follow ethics because it represents principles and values that direct society. On the other hand, people follow law because it creates a common ground to unify people and create order among individuals in society.
Second, they serve the main aim in society. They improve the moral status of individuals in society. Law enforces certain rules with a punishment threat if broken. Ethics relies on people’s rationality and sensibilities in order to influence people’s behaviors. They are both responsible for maintenance of order and social cohesion.
Law and ethics have several differences. Law is compelling while ethics is not. Breaking law results in punishment while acting without regard to ethics does not have punishment. Acting ethically is a personal responsibility while obeying law is mandatory for everyone. Again, they influence people’s conduct in different ways.
Ethics usually affects people’s behavior with regard to how they treat those who are close to them or those whom they interact with regularly. In contrast, law affects people’s behavior with regard to people whom they rarely interact with. Ethics is defined by the values, customs, or beliefs of a community or society.
In contrast, law is defined by universally accepted standards and behaviors. Ethics is immune to societal or communal change while law is not immune to change. Ethics changes only when the morals, perceptions, and values of society change. On the contrary, law can be changed by an act of a governing body or a decision by lawmakers.
Ethics tells people what they ought to do and in what ways. For example, business people are expected to serve their customers with honesty and fairness. This concept does not apply to law because it tells people what they are not supposed to do and what they must do. It has prohibitions and mandates. Unlike ethics, it does not tell people what they should do and in what ways. Finally, ethics influences individuals internally while law influences people externally. While law is enforced, ethics is not.
In conclusion, law and ethics are similar because they aim to promote order and cohesion in society. In addition, they influence behavior in ways that benefit individuals and society. On the other hand, they are different in several ways. Law is enforced while ethics is not. Law is easily changed while ethics is immune to changes.
Changes depend on shifts in people’s moral values and cultures. Finally, law is binding because it tells people what they cannot do and what they must do. Ethics tells people what they ought to do. People are free to either adhere to ethics or not. On the contrary, it is mandatory to follow law.