Adherence to systems of ethics demands an internal compass oriented on an external fixed point. This is very important; because without some external orientation for the internal compass, many people will rationalize almost any behavior.
We begin using words like honor, and duty. We examine a person’s behavior based on honesty, and truthfulness. Perhaps most importantly, we do not allow a person to “re-define” themselves or their behavior out of violating those ethics they accepted. In short, we know very well what the meaning of “is” is.
Ultimately, that’s what honor codes and professional ethics do for the individual and the community: they provide a “north star” to orient ethical decision making. Each person experiences life slightly differently, and if left open to each person’s private interpretation, ethical decisions can vary greatly from person to person. The ethical leader uses an informed conscience and an external measure to be certain he’s on the right course.