I'm looking for a word that describes a person who takes doing right by other seriously.

I like principled but for me it can connote an adherence to a doctrine and the person I am thinking of follows their own sense of right and wrong. I can also associate stubbornness and close-mindedness with principled people and this is not what I wish to imply.

I also like conscientious, but this word can also imply attention to detail.

The word I'm looking for describes a person that cares about doing right because of the impact it has on people, not service to some moral code.

  • Something beyond ethical? – deadrat Oct 3 '15 at 19:37
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    How is ethical associated with religion? – Jim Oct 3 '15 at 19:58
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    "Conscientious" doesn't imply "doing right". One could easily be a "conscientious bigot". – Hot Licks Oct 3 '15 at 21:25
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    "a person that cares about doing right because of the impact it has on people" is observing a moral code, humanism, of a variety determined by what is considered "right" and why. – JEL Oct 4 '15 at 7:25
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    Thank you all for this. I passed this along and it turns out I posed the question incorrectly. I thought that the motivation for "doing the right thing" was impact it would have on others, but I was surprised that when we reviewed the different answers he objected to that motivation preferring "because it's the right thing to do." I'm going to choose Altruistic because I felt it was the best fit for the question as stated, but I think the overall discussion was much better than any one word. Thanks, all. – Paul Jackson Oct 4 '15 at 12:47

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this person may be described as being altruistic or possessing traits of altruism. This term has only one meaning, isn't associated with one's morality, and refers to somebody who “cares about doing right because of the impact it has on people.” Per Merriam-Webster:

feelings and behavior that show a desire to help other people and a lack of selfishness

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    Unfortunately, "altruism" has been tainted somewhat by Objectivism, and may be misinterpreted. – Hot Licks Oct 3 '15 at 21:53
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    I didn't know that, but looking into it Ayn Rand positioned Altruism as the opposite of Objectivism, yes? – Paul Jackson Oct 4 '15 at 12:42
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    If altruism were fundamentally bad, it would be very unlikely to have survived as a common trait of many species as long as it has. Also: Ayn Rand... just sayin'... – barbecue Oct 4 '15 at 15:57

You could say that they are honorable.

When used in conjunction with a title this tends to mean someone who is prestigious or highly placed (e.g. the Honorable Judge Stevens, but when used to describe a person's character, it means that they act rightly, and are fair and ethical in their dealings with others. This also appears in conjunction with professions, as a way to suggest that doing the job is helpful to society and other people, not just a way to make money, as in "He wanted an honorable profession, so he became an oncologist. "

  • This was one of the words I considered; however, being honorable is associated with a sense of virtue and ethicality, which the asker does not want. – Ben Oct 3 '15 at 22:50
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    I actually have a problem with that part of the question, because the whole notion of "doing right" but without any reference to any form of morality really doesn't sense. It's really not possible to have a sense of right and wrong which is not based in morality of some sort. I assumed he was referring to a specific formally recognized moral code, such as a religion. Based on his later comments it looks like he recognized that the original question wasn't clear. – barbecue Oct 4 '15 at 15:57

A virtue ethicist, would simply call them ethical.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It may, initially, be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach which emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that which emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism).

This (might?) get around the close-mindedness of 'principled' (deontology) and the moral code of conscientious right-doing (consequentialism).

Have a sniff around the Greek word Eudaimonia also...


The good composed of all goods; an ability which suffices for living well; perfection in respect of virtue; resources sufficient for a living creature.

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