We explain what morality is, the types that exist and what moral codes are. Also, what are its characteristics and examples.

Morality encompasses all topics and contexts of the human being.

What is morality?

Morality is the set of beliefs, customs, norms and values ​​that govern actions of an individual or of a larger collective (group of individuals).

In its everyday meaning, the term “moral” designates a individual or collective behavior oriented in relation to a value. To speak of a positive morality is to refer to a certain orientation of the acts of a group, valued and appreciated by its members. By this definition it can be said that, in general, different positive morals coexist, crossed by religious, cultural, socioeconomic and political beliefs and traditions.

In the cases in which “morals and good customs” are appealed to, morality must be understood in a stricter sense and in reference to conduct consistent with authority of a certain tradition.

A third sense of morality points to actions whose morality is supported by more general reasons than those of a custom, such as a law or a set of laws and imperatives.

See also: Relativism

Etymology and origin of the term “moral”

The word “morality” has its origin in Latin death (either die), meaning “custom” or “character”. Of death it comes off moraliswhich is equivalent to the Greek ethikos (“ethics”) and is one of the reasons why the two terms are often confused. While ethics must be understood as a philosophical discipline, morality is the set of values, norms and principles that govern the actions of people without appealing to rational arguments.

Morality is part of concrete life, it has a real practice that is expressed by customs, habits and values. Its meaning dates back to the Greek world, for whom the “dwelling” was the set of relationships between the physical environment and people. They called this dwelling ethoswith a long “e” in Greek, and is what is known as ethics: the organization of physical space and human space according to criteria, values ​​and principles.

You may be interested:  Verse

However, in this house, in addition to a certain organization, different customs, ways of relating and ways of organizing themselves also arose. This is what became known as ethos but with a short “e”: moral. Morality as a set of customs forms the character (ethics) of people.

In the medieval world, the distinction between morality and ethics stopped working. The word death it was used both for manners and character. In any case, the difference was between theoretical moralitywhich studies the principles, and practical morality, which analyzed the acts of experience.

Today morality is thought of as what is done out of habit in a given community and time. Morality changes over time as people themselves change, but it is always traversed by a particular type of ethics.

types of morality

Social morality is imposed by some institutions or traditions.

A set of moral norms is often spoken of as an objective morality, that is, a morality put into practice socially, and that has nothing to do with whether the individual abides by them or not. In this sense, a distinction can be made between:

  • objective morality. It is what tradition dictates and does not depend on the individual.
  • subjective morality. It is the one that has to do with the own and internal decisions of an individual.

There are also other criteria for classifying morality. Among them:

  • fundamental morality. It is one that has to do with a general, broad and universal idea of ​​what is acceptable and unacceptable of any action.
  • individual morality. It is one that concerns the personal choices of an individual, accepting that it is part of a collective moral trend that regulates it.
  • social morality. It is one that is not individual but collective, imposed by some institutions or traditions, and defended as a collective norm.
  • socioeconomic morality. It is one that evaluates the decisions of an individual understood as a manifestation of a determined social and economic condition within the same society.
You may be interested:  Direct and Indirect Democracy

Difference Between Morality and Ethics

Ethics is derived from social, legal and professional considerations.

Despite being similar concepts, morality and ethics have some differences. While the word “ethics” comes from the Greek ethikóswhich means “character”, moral Comes from latin death either moraliswhich translates as “custom” or “character”.

Ethics can be understood in different ways, but broadly it must be understood as the philosophical discipline that studies the characters and rules that regulate the behavior of a certain society. Morality, for its part, is the set of customs and beliefs by which that society moves.

Although all morality implies a certain ethic, it is not true that all ethic carries with it a morality.. There may be a set of ethical rules and procedures that are not applied or do not have a particular morality that goes with them.

Moral life, normative morality and morality

Due to its different meanings, morality can be understood according to different points of view. Beyond the different “morals” that may be at stake, a distinction can be made between three spheres of significance of morality:

  • moral life. Moral life encompasses all aspects that decisively influenced the formation of the ideals of developing human conduct. In it, the clashes and intersections of the different religious, political, philosophical and cultural currents of modernity and the contemporary world come into play.
  • normative morality. Normative morality appeals to the imperative nature of the recommendations of any given moral phenomenon, be it the authority of a tradition or the free exercise of personal beliefs. It is governed by the moral question par excellence: “What should I do?”
  • Morality. The morality of an action is given according to the nature of prohibition or obligation that accompanies each of the possible actions. Restricts morality to have to understood as the set of obligatory actions of any moral phenomenon. According to Kant, the morality of an action is the critical and reflective sense of any morality.
You may be interested:  Dignity

moral codes

Individuals may abide by some or all of the moral norms.

A moral code is a formal or informal set of rules to which we fold to order our society, according to the values ​​of our tradition and social and cultural consensus.

These codes They can be collected in a formal text or be unwritten codesbut known and accepted by the population in an implicit way.

More in: Moral norms

importance of morality

As societies prosper, their moral codes change.

morality is necessary for coexistence in human communities. A certain margin of prohibition, behavioral discipline and values ​​has proven to be an advantage over anarchic social models.

However, more moralistic societies are not necessarily more prosperous, nor is progress exclusively conservative. In fact, as societies prosper, their moral codes change and they adapt to the new living conditions they have reached.

immorality and amorality

Actions that contradict a formal or informal moral code are considered immoral, that is, contrary to morality.

You can talk like that immoral actions, immoral people or immoral societies. However, many times what is immoral for some is simply governed by other moral codes of others.

Unlike immorality, amorality does not constitute a judgment regarding what is moral, but what is amoral is that which lacks morality.

For example, science and technological knowledge are amoral since they can be used both for good and for evil, without necessarily being one or the other. On the other hand, a certain technological advance or scientific practice can be ethical (when it benefits life) or unethical (when it is detrimental to life).

Continue with: General rules


  • Boff, L. (2003). Moral and ethic. The Search for Fundamentals (5th ed.). Bilbao: Editorial Sal Terrae.
  • Guariglia, O. (1996). Morality. Universalist ethics and moral subject. Criticism, 28(84).
  • Curtain, A. (2000). minimal ethics. Madrid: Tecnos.
  • “Moral, morality” in Philosophical Dictionary.
  • “Concepts of ethics and morality” at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
  • “Morality” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Would you like to share it?