Difference Between Legal and Moral Norms

Only an abnormal person can live completely apart from others. Isolated man and woman cannot subsist. Their very nature prompts them to seek the company of their fellow men. Since each individual comes into the world, he needs the support and protection of his parents and all those around him. Difference Between Legal and Moral Norms

In adulthood, a person cannot satisfy their needs, nor develop physically and intellectually, but it is through their relationship with others. Aristotle said it well: “he who can live only because he is self-sufficient or is a savage or is a god.”

Life in society is the natural condition of people, but that life in society requires organization and order; it needs to be regulated and regulated, otherwise, anarchy and disorder would impede the development of society. To avoid such situations, an order is required and that compliance with that order is an obligation .

Among all those regulations through which people seek to regulate behavior, so that everyone can live together in peace, without harming others; There are two very important types of norms: legal norms and moral norms. Next we will see what the differences between the two are.

LEGAL NORMS  Difference Between Legal and Moral Norms

They are defined as the set of rules or precepts that are imposed on the conduct of human beings who live in society, and whose compliance is usually mandatory in most cases.

They constitute the principle of Law, the system by which human acts are ordered so that they conform to the demands and needs of society. Legal norms subscribe to social characteristics, which all individuals (or at least most of them) that make up a society, have accepted. But the obligation is added to ensure that its precepts are obeyed.

Given that non-compliance with these norms is possible, certain qualified persons are given the power to set the coercive apparatus in motion and impose a sanction. But, fundamentally, the main function of any legal norm is to suggest a certain conduct; try to guide and regulate human activity, as well as to press on human conscience the threat of punishment or sanction that any conduct contrary to what has been established by it must deserve.


In the same way that the Law tries to regulate human behavior, likewise moral norms are imperative; but different from the legal ones; they are not mandatory.

The social organization does not rest completely on the Law, since morality also intervenes in that purpose. But the perception of the moral is very subjective and multiple factors affect what is the true moral norm. Some authors claim that moral norms are very difficult to identify and there is very little clarity in determining which norms should be taken as moral. For example: respect parents.

The prescriptions of morality do not refer but to the conscience of each individual, who violates them does not expose himself to any punishment or material pressure, he can only incur contempt or rejection by society . Moral norms are spontaneous and have a subjective character, they arise from the subject’s own conscience; so they are unilateral and autonomous.

Key differences between moral norms and legal norms

  • The moral norm is subjective, while the legal one is objective.
  • The moral norm is unilateral, but the legal norm is bilateral.
  • The moral norm requires internal conduct, but the legal standard requires external conduct.
  • The moral norm has ideal validity, while the legal one has material value.
  • The moral norm is autonomous, while the legal one is heteronomous.
  • Legal norms require mandatory compliance, but moral norms do not.
  • With the moral norms there is no authority that observes their fulfillment, but in the case of the legal ones there is.

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