difference between ethics and philosophy

Ethics and Philosophy: How Do They Differ?

The main difference between ethics and philosophy is while the former is a set of moral guidelines, the latter is the study of life and existence.

Ethics is a narrow topic that covers moral guidelines only. However, philosophy is a vast topic that spans multiple subjects, including morality.

In this article, we’re going to explore ethics vs. philosophy to understand the fundamental ideas behind each of these concepts.


Ethics vs. Philosophy: An Overview

As we’ve said earlier, each of these words has an entirely different definition. Ethics are moral guidelines established in society through thousands of years of human and societal evolution.

On the other hand, philosophy is the study of the fundamentals of nature, reality, existence, and it’s a form of academic discipline. Philosophy has been developed for thousands of years, and no one surely knows how far in the past it dates back to.


What Is Ethics?


Ethics is defined as a set of moral principles that people should follow when they take any action. In short, ethics is a set of ethical guidelines that has proven to keep society stable and prosperous.

As for the fundamental pillars for ethics, we have social beliefs and religion. Is ethics subjected to change? Yes, but it takes hundreds or even thousands of years to change, along with the change of society.

The purpose of ethics is to define what’s morally wrong and what is right. Ethics encourages us to take actions that will benefit other people or won’t affect them at all.

It highly discourages us from acts that can put others in potential danger or inflict harm upon them.

Philosophy Vs. Religion: 5 Major Differences


What Is Philosophy?


Philosophy is usually defined as the study of nature, reality, and existence. Is it an accurate definition? No, but it’s the closest anyone can get.

In reality, philosophy is a vague subject, and it stands on many fundamentals that are different from one another and often found to be contradictory.

That is why you’ll often find two or more groups of philosophers debating which belief is correct and which isn’t.

Unlike ethics, philosophy isn’t as well defined. Instead, people tend to believe in a philosophy that seems to be the most viable and logical.

There are four branches of philosophy. These are metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and axiology. Philosophy is an academic discipline, and most colleges and universities have a philosophy department.


Main Differences between Ethics vs. Philosophy

ethics vs philosophy

In this section, we’ll discuss the key differences between ethics and philosophy.


Ethics is a set of moral principles or guidelines that advise humans on what’s morally right and what’s not.

On the other hand, philosophy is the study of nature, realism, and existence, and it exists in the form of academic discipline.



The word ethic originated from the Greek word ethos. Although we haven’t found a specific origin or foundation of it, it’s believed that social and religious beliefs are two foundations of ethics.

On the other hand, the word philosophy is derived from the Greek words ‘Philo’ and ‘Sophia.’ These two words, when used together, meant the love of wisdom.

There are several individuals that we know to be the pioneers of philosophy.

However, the tendency to seek knowledge and wisdom is believed to exist in humans far before their time, but it’s impossible to find out the exact source of these due to the lack of evidence.



Ethics doesn’t have any division. You can’t just say that the people of Slovakia have a different set of ethical values than the denizens of the US. This concept transcends the boundaries of race, cast, and geographical location.

However, philosophy has multiple branches. You may find a difference in philosophy between schools, movement, country, subject, etc.


Comparison Chart on Ethics vs. Philosophy

Parameter of Comparison Ethics Philosophy
Definition Set of guidelines that determine what’s wrong and what’s right Study of reality, nature, and existence
Etymology Greek word ‘Ethos’ Greek words ‘Philo’ and ‘Sophia’
Origin No specific origin Individuals such as Aristotle, Ptolemy, Socrates, etc. are considered to be the pioneers
Foundation Religion and social beliefs School, race or ethnicity, country, movement, subject matter, and most experience


Key Takeaways

  • Ethics is a set of beliefs that teach us what’s right and wrong, while philosophy provides a deeper meaning of our very existence.
  • Both are originated from Greek words.
  • Ethics doesn’t have a specific origin, but ancient Greek scholars are believed to be the pioneers of philosophy.
  • Philosophy has many branches, but ethics remains more or less the same across boundaries.



Now that you know our take on ethics vs. philosophy, you should explore these topics further. Both of them are interesting, and we highly recommend studying them more. Doing so will help you understand human nature and society even better.

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