For the RTOS by Green Hills Software, see Integrity (operating system).
For the IntegrityUSA organization, see IntegrityUSA.

Integrity comprises the personal inner sense of "wholeness" deriving from honesty and consistent uprightness of character. The etymology of the word relates it to the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete). Evaluators, of course, usually assess integrity from some point of view, such as that of a given ethical tradition or in the context of an ethical relationship. People who for instance said bad things about their own grandmother might appear to lack a form of integrity.


Popular views of Integrity

Many people appear to use the word "integrity" in a vague manner as an alternative to the perceived political incorrectness of using blatantly moralistic terms such as "good" or ethical. In this sense the term often refers to a refusal to engage in lying, blaming or other behaviour generally seeming to evade accountability. Integrity is holding true to one's values. Said another way: being one's word; doing what you said you would do by when you said you would do it. Integrity is knowing what is important to you and living your actions accordingly. It may take the form of a sense of etiquette that runs very deep, as in Confucianism or the political virtues.


English-speakers often measure such integrity on a one-dimensional vertical scale dominated by two reference points: those of the highest integrity and no integrity (also known as a total lack of integrity).

Some prescriptive dualistic schemas of ethics divide human activity into two fields and speak of behaviour as "in integrity" (appoved) or as "out of integrity" (despised).

Integrity in the Religious Society of Friends

Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) prize integrity. For Quakers integrity is being true to God, to oneself and to others. It is a sense of wholeness achieved by listening to the Spirit of Christ within oneself and being true to it. Quakers believe that listening to the Spirit within will lead one to practice honesty and fairness outwardly. The Testimony of Integrity is one of their core beliefs and practices.

Integrity in modern ethics

There exists however a more formal study of the term integrity and its meaning in modern ethics. It is often understood not only as a refusal to engage in behavior that evades responsibility, but as an understanding of different modes or styles in which some discourse takes place, and which aims at the discovery of some truth.

The Law

An adversarial process, for instance, has a certain type of integrity, in which those engaged in it commit not only to advance the case for "their own" side, but also to reveal where required evidence of use to the other side, to follow certain rules in the debate, and to accept rulings from a judge or arbitrator. Those subverting this might appear to lack some integrity, and that would quite possibly hurt their case. So the philosophy of law concerns itself with the integrity of a practical or process style - integrity as a measure of trust in results, which in turn determines trust in authority itself. Integrity rules themselves probably foster this trust, and thus argument takes place in an authoritative mode: "pleading" to it, asking "relief", and such, as a means of demonstrating acceptance of a common régime of judgement and redress. Those who reject this and insist on some other form of integrity may be found in contempt of court or simply found guilty.


In the philosophy of mathematics, a certain integrity often attaches to mathematical proof, which one can test weakly or strongly, as part of the process of accepting finished mathematics and differentiating it from folk mathematics. This forms a sort of definitive or formal integrity, assumed to differ from simple respect for authority - one believes a mathematical result has some integrity not because it came from a prior famous mathematician of integrity (as would be the case with a jurist perhaps) but because one can define the result as a tautology and it demonstrably forms a part of a larger and consistent body of mathematics.


See also: Data integrity

In cryptography and information security in general integrity refers to the validity of data. Integrity can be compromised in two main ways:

  • Malignant altering
    • An attacker alters the account number in a bank transaction
    • Forging an identity document
  • Accidental altering
    • Transmission errors
    • Harddisk crash

Another definition is that integrity is the assurance that data can only be accessed and altered by those authorized to do so.


In the philosophy of science some clear differentiators exist from either of the above modes, since science concerns itself not with authority or definition but with investigation. Scientists endow the scientific method with a certain base integrity, and deviance from it or shortcuts taken or people being accepted on their word may all reduce the perceived integrity of any results - in effect science operates on the basis of a very organized distrust, in contrast to the legal method which places a very organized trust in prior judgements and precedents. In fact, science consists in general of challenging, not upholding or verifying, prior dogma.

Other Integrities

Studies of integrity also exist as it may occur in actions taken by the body, philosophy of the body itself or its wellness, the mind, its cognition and consciousness, and politics, e.g. the political virtues or views of consensus, e.g. "consent of the governed". It may also be seen in light of different philosophies of wholeness, such as commitment , authenticity or esteem, See the articles on those specific avenues of investigation.

See also

Other usages

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