What is Ethics?

Legal Definition
Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. The term ethics derives from the Ancient Greek word ἠθικός ethikos, which is derived from the word ἦθος ethos (habit, "custom"). The branch of philosophy axiology comprises the sub-branches of ethics and aesthetics, each concerned with values.

As a branch of philosophy, ethics investigates the questions "What is the best way for people to live?" and "What actions are right or wrong in particular circumstances?" In practice, 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. As a field of intellectual enquiry, moral philosophy also is related to the fields of moral psychology, descriptive ethics, and value theory.

Three major areas of study within ethics recognised today are:

  1. Meta-ethics, concerning the theoretical meaning and reference of moral propositions, and how their truth values (if any) can be determined
  2. Normative ethics, concerning the practical means of determining a moral course of action
  3. Applied ethics, concerning what a person is obligated (or permitted) to do in a specific situation or a particular domain of action
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
The word "ethics" is derived from the Greek word ethos (character), and from the Latin word mores (customs). Together, they combine to define how individuals choose to interact with one another. In philosophy, ethics defines what is good for the individual and for society and establishes the nature of duties that people owe themselves and one another.

Though law often embodies ethical principals, law and ethics are far from co-extensive. Many acts that would be widely condemned as unethical are not prohibited by law -- lying or betraying the confidence of a friend, for example. And the contrary is true as well. In much that the law does it is not simply codifying ethical norms.

Most professions have highly detailed and enforceable codes for their respective memberships. In some cases these are spoken of as "professional ethics," or in the case of law, "legal ethics." For example, the American Medical Association has the Principles of Medical Ethics and the American Bar Association has the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Other professions with codes include dentistry, social work, education, government service, engineering, journalism, real estate, advertising, architecture, banking, insurance, and human resources management. Some of these codes have been incorporated into the public law. All are likely to have some effect on judgments about professional conduct in litigation. Generally, failure to comply with a code of professional ethics may result in expulsion from the profession or some lesser sanction.

See also legal ethics.
Legal Definition
Directives based on one's ethics and morality. How one lives with others. The foremost concepts and principles of proper human conduct. Socially, it is the collective of universal values, treating each human equally, acknowledging human and natural rights, obeying the law of land, showing health and safety concerns, caring for natural environment . Refer to morality.