Difference between morality and law

Morality and law are defined as criteria or systems that govern the conduct and life of people. These concepts are interrelated, since both are based on the establishment of norms to regulate human behavior. However, talking about morality is not the same as talking about law and although both concepts have similarities, they are systems that are well differentiated from each other, with specific characteristics and implications, which we will point out below.


Morality constitutes a normative system based on the notion of what is right and what is wrong in terms of people’s behavior. It is a subjective system, since each criterion can be different in each person according to their system of values, beliefs, customs, families and that are largely determined by the family, social, educational and cultural environment.

Morality is, in short, a system of individual values ​​of each person, which are expressed and manifested through the conduct and acts of the individual. Morality comprises a set of norms that are accepted, understood and shared by society and that do not obey a legal system or structure but rather, obey the creation of an internal order of life. Therefore, it refers to the criteria by which the person is guided to act on it.

Morality is autonomous, it depends on the individual and is not coercive, therefore, non-compliance with it does not entail legal sanctions, unless it is considered a crime.


Law can be defined as a system of mandatory, coercive and enforceable norms that govern human conduct. This means that their compliance is mandatory and the violation of them carries criminal or legal sanctions. One of the main characteristics of law is that it is a heteronomous system, enforceable by all individuals in a society and imposed by the state based on legal norms, laws, regulations and treaties.

The law constitutes the set of rules created by the legal power that guarantees justice through the obligation to comply with them. Hence, in every society there is law as a system that guarantees human coexistence. The law is coercive in that it has the force or power to compel or coerce, that is, it implies coercion by the state towards citizens. Additionally, the right is expressed through the law and its different instruments.

Having pointed out the concepts of morality and law, we are going to proceed to summarize the most notable differences in the following table:

Moral Right
It is a system of norms created by society. It is a system of rules created by the legal power.
It is not coercive or coercive, because there are no legal sanctions that proceed for non-compliance with them. It is coercive and coercive, since it implies mandatory compliance and the application of legal sanctions otherwise.
It is unilateral because part of the person. It is bilateral because part of the state towards the people.
It regulates internal acts of the individual and obeys the conscience of the person. Regulates the external acts of the individual and obeys the legal system that governs conduct.
Set positive commands to do good. It establishes prohibitions of doing evil.

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