Morality: What is it, Code, Types, Examples and Characteristics

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

What is morality?

By morality or morality is understood a set of beliefs, customs, norms and values that serve as a guide to individual conduct within the framework of a particular culture , society or tradition. In other words, it is what makes it possible to distinguish between good and bad within a specific context: the values defended by a social group at a given moment in its history.

Morality encompasses all topics and contexts of the human being , as long as he is a free individual , of voluntary acts, and endowed with the capacity for self-determination. It should not be confused with ethics , despite being similar concepts.

Morality has to do with the free will of the human being and his adherence to certain codes of conduct formed historically and culturally. For example, religions impose certain codes of conduct, which order the daily lives of populations based on what is socially, culturally and spiritually acceptable, and what is not.

Origin of morality

Morality has accompanied the human being in all stages of its history . Its content has not been unanimous, but quite the opposite: each human tradition, each religious school, each culture, has its own moral precepts and values, through which its concepts of “good” and “bad” are expressed. .

Probably, morality arose in ancient times as a way to organize communities and give them a certain stability. Based on clear rules of coexistence and conduct, they could prosper.

In fact, societies with moral codes prospered faster than anarchic societies, whatever the content of those codes. Eventually, morality ceased to be a set of pragmatic norms and became abstract concepts: good and evil.

Types of morale

Types of morale Social morality is imposed by some institutions or traditions.

There are different types of morals, such as:

  • Fundamental morality. That which has to do with a general, broad and supposedly universal idea of the acceptable and the unacceptable, not only in the rational sphere, but also in the spiritual and individual sphere.
  • Individual morale. That which concerns the personal choices of an individual, accepting that it is part of a collective moral tendency that presses and controls him, but which he can also oppose internally.
  • Social moral. That which is not individual, but belongs to the collective, imposed by some institutions or traditions, and defended as a collective norm .
  • Socioeconomic moral. That which evaluates the decisions of an individual understood as a manifestation of a specific social and economic condition within the same society.
  • Sexual morality. The one that governs the acceptable sexual behavior of the unacceptable one, based on precepts of some nature, such as religious ones.

Difference between morals and ethics

Difference between morals and ethics Ethics stems from social, legal and professional considerations.

Despite being similar concepts, morals and ethics are distinguished by the fact that the first is sustained based on abstract concepts of good and evil, as proposed by tradition, customs and the historical consensus of a society.

Instead, ethics aspires to a more universal appreciation of an individual’s responsibility to the entire society, generally applied to a profession or the exercise of power.

Ethics is rationally arguable, it stems from social, legal and professional considerations , while morality comes from absolute and unquestionable values, although slowly changing over time .

Objective and subjective morality

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, it serves to distinguish between:

  • Objective morale.  The one dictated by tradition and that does not depend on the individual.
  • Subjective moral.  The one that has to do with the individual’s own and internal decisions.

Moral codes

Moral codes Individuals can abide by some or all of the moral standards.

A moral code is nothing more than a formal or informal set of norms to which we adhere to order our society, according to the values of our tradition and to social and cultural consensus.

These codes can be collected in some type of writing , such as prohibitive posters in different institutions or situations (such as those that prohibit entering a church with certain clothing items).

In other cases they are unwritten codes, managed by the population even unconsciously. For example, this is the case of the moral codes of Christianity that persist in the modern and liberal West (sexual fidelity between couples, the rejection of homosexuality, etc.).

Individuals can abide by some or all of the moral norms of their respective codes, depending on the permissiveness of society and the cultural and emotional structure of each person.

Morals and religion

Religions gave primitive man the first moral codes in history . They stipulated a minimum order of conduct and social functioning, expressed as a divine mandate or as a series of sacred values.

Initially they operated as a first legal code, but in our societies it was relegated to a more intimate and cultural place, which in many cases the churches or secular institutions are in charge of. However, it should be noted that not all morality is religious , although all religion proposes a particular moral code.

The most influential religion in the formation of Western morality was Christianity, which ordered European society in the hands of the Church for 1500 years and then was imposed on the American one, where pre-Columbian cultures had their own religious and moral forms.

Importance of morale

Morality is key in guaranteeing peace and social coexistence in human communities . A certain margin of prohibition, of behavioral discipline and of values has proven to be an advantage over anarchic social models, in which the force of the powerful is the one that implants social norms .

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


Immorality is the concept diametrically opposed to morality , and it is its complement. Actions that contradict a formal or informal moral code are considered immoral, that is, reprobate, indecent, worthy of criticism and contrary to “good customs”.

One can thus speak of immoral actions, immoral people or immoral societies . However, many times what is immoral for some is simply governed by other foreign moral codes.


Amorality Science and technological knowledge are totally amoral.

Unlike immorality, amorality does not constitute a judgment as to whether or not something or someone conforms to the prevailing norms of morality. What is amoral is that which is just not moral, which cannot be evaluated from a moral perspective, but rather from an ethical one .

For example, the science and knowledge technology are totally amoral : can be used for both good and evil, and are not inherently of one or another position. On the other hand, a certain technological advance or scientific practice can be ethical (when it is to the benefit of life ) or unethical (when it is to the detriment of life).

Examples of moral

Some simple examples of moral codes are as follows:

  • According to Islam and the Arab cultures that follow it, the woman must necessarily cover her head (or sometimes, she must cover herself completely) so as not to awaken with her body or her hair the desires of the men who see her.
  • In the Christian West, extramarital affairs are immoral and sinful, so they can even be grounds for divorce. Especially when the one who incurs them is a woman.
  • Likewise, orthodox Christian morality prohibits the use of contraceptives and considers abortion as a crime and an immoral action, contrary to tradition and customs.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring to reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.

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