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VALUES

Values, Morals And Ethics

What are the differences between values, morals and ethics? They all provide behavioural rules, after all. It may seem like splitting hairs, but the differences can be important when persuading others.

Values

Values are the rules by which we make decisions about right and wrong, should and shouldn’t, good and bad. They also tell us which are more or less important, which is useful when we have to trade off meeting one value over another.

Macmillan Dictionary Definition

Morals

Morals have a greater social element to values and tend to have a very broad acceptance. Morals are far more about good and bad than other values. We thus judge others more strongly on morals than values. A person can be described as immoral, yet there is no word for them not following values.

Macmillan Dictionary Definition

Ethics

You can have professional ethics, but you seldom hear about professional morals. Ethics tend to be codified into a formal system or set of rules which are explicitly adopted by a group of people. Thus you have medical ethics. Ethics are thus internally defined and adopted, whilst morals tend to be externally imposed on other people.

If you accuse someone of being unethical, it is equivalent of calling them unprofessional and may well be taken as a significant insult and perceived more personally than if you called them immoral (which of course they may also not like).

Macmillan Dictionary Definition