Ethics Glossary


Ethics is a field that examines the concept of what is right and what is wrong in human behavior. It is not a subjective field that is based on religious morals, society consensus, or individual biases and feelings, but is openly objective. Reaching decisions on what is ethical takes into account the whole picture, systematically defending or recommending or nullifying certain behaviors. The field is divided into three main groups: metaethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics.

Metaethics examines the origins of ethics. This includes the issues related to religion like God’s Will, what constitutes Universal Truths, and how ethical judgment affects society.

Normative ethics deals with the regulation of practical human conduct. This field usually examines controversial hot topics like homosexuality, abortion, environmentally related concerns, animal rights, sex offences, and capital punishment.

Applied ethics includes topics such as medical ethics, abortion, business ethics, and environmental ethics. The topics covered have to be both controversial and distinctively based in morality. Topics include gays in the military and the debate on public versus private healthcare systems.

Ethics used to be defined by religious morality, but society has been changing. Religion holds its followers to high ethical standards based on moral teachings. The Catholics Church’s Magisterium regularly issues documents that cover ethical issues, most recently the bioethical document.

Most professions and institutions have a “code of ethics,” which members or attendees have to adhere to. The code encompasses the group’s ethical positions. If a party breaks the code, they are subject to expulsion from the group or some other severe sanctions.

The field of ethics is what keeps humans living a good and incorrupt life. No matter what the basis for the ethics is, there has to be general consensus before a standard is accepted. Standards have been changing, especially in the bioethical field, when it comes to the need to improve people’s quality of life. The University of San Diego offers updates in the Ethics field for students and teachers on difficult issues addressed by ethics.

Ethics Glossary

Ethics Glossary of terms from the Ethics Resource Center

Terms related to Ethics Modules taught at the University of Kansas

Glossary of Health Care Ethical Terms from Harvard University

Ethics glossary from the Center for Ethics, Emory University

Business Ethics Glossary

Environmental Ethics Glossary

Christian ethics

Ethics Glossary from the University of San Diego

Glossary of common terms used in Ethical Theory

Engineering ethics glossary

NIH Glossary of Research Ethics

The field and study of ethics will continue to evolve as human society evolves. As society takes on more secular standards and drifts from ethics defined by religious morals, ethics will continue to become more complex. The line between good and bad is no longer clearly defined. The task of finding well founded, consistent and solidly based ethics will continue to challenge humanity