ethical code

An ethical code is any explicit statement of what constitutes ethical behaviour for a specific group or profession within a society - how to maintain ethical relationships. Religions almost always have ethical codes that specify not only what constitutes this behaviour, but asserts some value or privelege for following it, i.e. it is a moral code regarding actions taken, and laying out consequences, more akin to a legal code. Confusing moral, ethical, and legal issues is common but:
  • something being legal does not make it moral or ethical
  • something can be ethical (justifiable) without being moral (the best way)
  • something can be moral (a difficult one-time choice) without being ethical (justifiable in general) "Get it done, and let them howl." - Nellie McClung

The political considerations (how something appears to non-participants) is different again. See political virtues for more on that issue.

A very facetious ethical code is a code of conduct only. It may regard the style not nature of communication, and so may actually do harm if the basic power relationships are not investigated or challenged, and people are punished for challenging those. For instance, a dictatorship would have many elaborate rules against protesting its decisions, and a fascist political party would make it painful to criticize the leadership.

The most rigourous kind of ethical code is an ethic, which puts the ethical considerations in a priority order sometimes called a moral order: the higher-priority considerations take precedence over the lower-priority considerations, e.g. the Three Laws of Robotics.