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Ethics vs. Values — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on October 11, 2023
Ethics refers to the moral principles governing behavior, while Values are personal beliefs and standards that drive choices and actions.
Ethics vs. Values — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Ethics and Values


Key Differences

Ethics and Values play crucial roles in decision-making and character formation. Ethics encompasses a set of moral principles or standards that guide individuals or groups in determining what is right or wrong. It's often associated with broader societal norms and can be codified in professions like medicine or law. In contrast, Values are deeply held beliefs or standards that individuals hold, influencing their behavior and decisions.
When someone speaks of professional Ethics, they are referring to the collective accepted standards of that profession. For instance, confidentiality in counseling is an ethical mandate. On the flip side, an individual's Values might involve their belief in hard work, respect, or kindness, which influences their daily actions and interactions.
In many instances, personal Values align with societal Ethics, leading to cohesive social behavior. For example, a society might consider honesty a moral imperative (ethics), and an individual might hold truth-telling as a personal value. However, at times, personal Values might diverge from established Ethics, causing internal or external conflicts.
It's also worth noting that while Ethics often presents a framework for decision-making, especially in professional settings, Values serve as a compass, directing individuals toward choices that resonate with their beliefs. Understanding both terms helps in fostering integrity, building character, and ensuring harmonious interactions within societies and organizations.

Comparison Chart


Moral principles governing behavior
Personal beliefs guiding choices and actions


Often derived from societal norms
Rooted in individual beliefs and experiences


Can be codified (e.g., professional standards)
Typically not codified


Often applies to groups/professions


More universal and constant
Subjective and can vary between individuals

Compare with Definitions


Principles guiding what is morally right or wrong.
Doctors must adhere to strict Ethics when treating patients.


Principles or standards one considers important.
Family is one of his core Values.


The moral values, standards, or rules governing a group.
Journalistic Ethics require reporters to be unbiased.


Moral or ethical beliefs held by a person.
Her Values led her to volunteer at the local shelter.


A set of moral principles guiding one's actions.
Her strong Ethics prevented her from lying to her boss.


Beliefs that guide actions and behaviors.
His Values are reflected in his kindness to strangers.


A branch of philosophy dealing with values concerning human conduct.
He studied Ethics to understand moral dilemmas in society.


The worth or importance one assigns to something.
Environmental Values influenced her decision to buy an electric car.


The discipline of determining good and evil in actions.
Debates on artificial intelligence revolve around machine Ethics.


An amount, as of goods, services, or money, considered to be a fair and suitable equivalent for something else; a fair price or return.


Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior". The field of ethics, along with aesthetics, concerns matters of value; these fields comprise the branch of philosophy called axiology.Ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime.


Monetary or material worth
The fluctuating value of gold and silver.


Moral principles that govern a person's behaviour or the conducting of an activity
A code of ethics
Medical ethics also enter into the question


Worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor; utility or merit
The value of an education.


The branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles
Neither metaphysics nor ethics is the home of religion


Often values A principle or standard, as of behavior, that is considered important or desirable
"The speech was a summons back to the patrician values of restraint and responsibility" (Jonathan Alter).


A set of principles of right conduct.


Precise meaning or import, as of a word.


A theory or a system of moral values
"An ethic of service is at war with a craving for gain" (Gregg Easterbrook).


(Mathematics) A quantity or number expressed by an algebraic term.


Ethics (used with a sing. verb) The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy.


(Music) The relative duration of a tone or rest.


Ethics (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession
Medical ethics.


The relative darkness or lightness of a color. See Table at color.


(philosophy) The study of principles relating to right and wrong conduct.


(Linguistics) The sound quality of a letter or diphthong.




One of a series of specified values
Issued a stamp of new value.


The standards that govern the conduct of a person, especially a member of a profession.


To determine or estimate the worth or value of; appraise.


The science of human duty; the body of rules of duty drawn from this science; a particular system of principles and rules concerting duty, whether true or false; rules of practice in respect to a single class of human actions; as, political or social ethics; medical ethics.
The completeness and consistency of its morality is the peculiar praise of the ethics which the Bible has taught.


To regard highly; esteem
I value your advice.


Motivation based on ideas of right and wrong


To rate according to relative estimate of worth or desirability; evaluate
Valued health above money.


The philosophical study of moral values and rules


To assign a value to (a unit of currency, for example).


Of or relating to the practice of investing in individual securities that, according to some fundamental measure, such as book value, appear to be relatively less expensive than comparable securities.


Relating to or consisting of principles or standards
A value system.


Inflection of value


Beliefs of a person or social group in which they have an emotional investment (either for or against something);
He has very conservatives values


Personal standards guiding judgment and actions.
His Values ensure he always chooses quality over quantity.

Common Curiosities

Which term deals with determining what is morally right or wrong?

Ethics deals with determining what is morally right or wrong.

Which is more individual-centric, Ethics or Values?

Values are more individual-centric.

Can Ethics be codified into laws or professional standards?

Yes, Ethics can be codified, like in professional codes of conduct.

Can personal Values sometimes conflict with societal Ethics?

Yes, personal Values can occasionally diverge from broader societal Ethics.

Are Values universal?

No, Values can vary among individuals based on their beliefs and experiences.

Which is a branch of philosophy, Ethics or Values?

Ethics is a branch of philosophy dealing with moral values.

Which guides an individual's daily choices and decisions?

Values guide an individual's daily choices and decisions.

Can organizations have a code of Ethics?

Yes, many organizations have a code of Ethics that members must follow.

Can societal Ethics evolve over time?

Yes, societal Ethics can evolve based on changing norms and beliefs.

Do personal Values play a role in shaping one's character?

Absolutely, personal Values play a crucial role in character formation.

Are Ethics more constant across different societies than Values?

Generally, Ethics are more constant and universal, while Values are more subjective.

Can Values influence an individual's perception of right and wrong?

Yes, Values can influence perceptions of right and wrong based on personal beliefs.

Is confidentiality in counseling a matter of Ethics or Values?

Confidentiality in counseling is a matter of Ethics.

Can two people share similar Ethics but have different Values?

Yes, individuals can share similar Ethics but hold different personal Values.

Are Ethics more about actions and Values more about beliefs?

Generally, Ethics guide actions based on moral principles, while Values stem from beliefs.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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