Difference Between Laws and Ethics


Primary Difference

From the very beginning, we have to follow certain rules and regulations which, even though we have no idea where they have come from we still end up obeying them. These not only help in maintaining peace within a society but also become an integral part of a person’s nature when they grow up and develop habits under these sets of instructions. There are two such types of instructions which a human being follows. They are laws and ethics. Both have vast differences between them though some people end up mixing the two terms or consider them the same. Some of the differences between them will be discussed in this topic. Moving towards the definition of the two terms. The law is a set of rules which has been provided by the state and has to be followed in every case. Ethics, on the other hand, is a set of regulations which exists in a society and has to abide by to maintain harmony and peace. This leads us to the first difference which is that if laws are not followed a person is punished but when ethics have not met a person does not get punished. Another difference between them is that law is a written document, and every one of it has been carefully analyzed by legal experts. Ethics is an unannounced, non-written set of rules which are based on the moral and ethical values of a society and has been put forward by people who are not in any official positions such as elders, philosophers, religious leaders. This can help us in understanding that everyone irrespective of their caste, religion and sex have to obey the law while it is a personal choice of people to be ethical. Organizations such as ministries and police help in implementing the law while there is no proper way of applying ethics, it just depends on the location on how people react to different things under changeable circumstances. Court helps to decide which law is stronger than the other and if someone disobey, what punishment is to be given while no such legislation is done in the case of ethics. To summarize the discussion, it can be concurred that ethics is just a set of guidelines while laws are a code of conduct. Explanation of both these types and some other differences will be written down in the next few lines for better understanding.

Comparison Chart

The collection of rules imposed by authorityMotivation based on ideas of right and wrong
set of written documents.set of non-written code of conduct.
Every person living in the country has to abide by the laws.there is no such requirement in the case of ethics.
made by lawyers and other legislators who have official permission.provided by people such as religious leaders, philosophers, and elders in a family.

Definition of Laws

The main aim of the law is to make sure that everyone follows the authority of the government in a country. They are implemented to keep harmony and peace among people no matter which religions and caste they belong to. A lawful society makes sure that everyone gets their rights, and there is no discrimination among people. These are a set of official documents which are prepared by legal experts keeping certain factors in mind. If a person fails to obey the law, then they are to be punished. There is a proper process of law to determine if someone is unlawful or not. Police are responsible for the implementation and to report the cases under which law has been broken, they investigate and send a report to the court which then decides which law and how it has been avoided. There are different punishments such as sentencing someone, paying a fine or even death penalty.


Definition of Ethics

These are a set of rules which are there in society, and people follow them even when they are not forced to do so. It helps in developing the character of a human being and also helps in developing unity among people living in a particular area. It guides in deciding what is right and wrong on a personal level, and they exist in culture for ages. These rules are not made by anyone in general but are there because of some religious leader, or a philosopher or even from the elders in the family who have set certain standards to be met. If a person does not want to follow them, there is no penalty for them, and they are free to do so. These rules are not even written but continue from one generation to the other as it is. They do keep on changing with time.

Differences in a Nutshell

  1. Laws are a set of written documents while ethics is a set of non-written code of conduct.
  2. Laws are official words while ethics are common
  3. Every person living in the country has to abide by the laws which are made by the government while there is no such requirement in the case of ethics.
  4. Laws are made by lawyers and other legislators who have official permission while ethics are provided by people such as religious leaders, philosophers, and elders in a family.
  5. Forces like police and army are there to make sure laws are implemented while there is no such entity which can force someone to follow ethics.
  6. A person who follows the law is known as lawful while an individual who has ethics is known as an ethical
  7. A person develops certain ethical habits within them while laws are there for them to follow.
  8. When someone breaks the law punishment is handed out to that person while if someone fails to abide by the ethical rule, there is no such punishment for them.
  9. The court decides which law has been broken while society gets to judge when someone is not ethical.


There are many terms which can give the impression that they have the same meaning but in actual are very different from each other, laws and ethics are these terms which have been explained in this article and the concepts have been made clearer for people who do not generally know much about them.

Harlon Moss

Harlon currently works as a quality moderator and content writer for Difference Wiki. He graduated from the University of California in 2010 with a degree in Computer Science. Follow him on Twitter @HarlonMoss