Conscience

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  • Conscience
    • As a moral guide
      • Christianity gives conscience overriding importance in moral decision -making, person must act according to the conscience
      • Aquinas - conscience = v.important, when person doesn’t follow their conscience, they = ignoring what they believe to be true. He believed conscience was a deep sense of right + wrong which came from God, even when your conscience is mistaken, you should still follow it
      • Duty of everyone to inform and educate one’s conscience 
    • Problems with conscience
      •  If conscience = voice of God, how are mistakes accounted for? We should never make mistakes - God would not tell us to act in the wrong way, maybe we have not set up a sufficiently sensitive conscience to hear God’s voice clearly
      • Why do we sometimes have doubts on how to behave if God’s voice tells us how to act?
      • Different Christian denominations disagree on certain things i.e. abortion
      • Some Atheists claim their conscience is important to them although it does not rely upon faith in a deity
      • Most people would agree that emotions + reason are involved in the conscience regardless of whether we are religious or not. To follow one’s conscience, implies the whole being, body, mind and heart are involved in some way 
      • McDonagh says that although the conscience is a deep part of us, it also seems to exist simultaneously as a separate entity, often standing over and against us as judge or supporter
      • Conscience involves personal responsibility, Jack Mahoney said that the conscience is more what you think than what your conscience ‘tells you’
    • Modern approaches to the conscience:
      • Conscience = personal, inner sense of right + wrong
      • MacNamara - misleading to describe conscience as voice, it’s more an attitude or an awareness that people have
      • Gula - two main aspects associated with the conscience: vision and choice, this is the ability to act within a learned framework through the needs of a Christian community
      • Conscience = not so much the voice of God but our interpretation of the voice
      • O’Connell - 3 main aspects of the conscience: 
        • 1) our general sense of personal responsibility for who we are and what we become
        • 2) Our obligation to seek the good using moral reasoning including the assistance of moral communities like the church
        •  3) The final judgement that a person makes so that he thinks the right thing has been done
      • McGuire -  agrees with O’Connell - adds we need to consider place of creative imagination, humour, + tragic experiences in life especially loss, as these open us up to new perceptions of value
    • Bible teachings
      • Traditionally, Christians = taught conscience = God-given - this is seen in Paul’s letter to the Romans
      • By following their conscience, everyone can follow the Divine law
    • Generally seen as a moral faculty, sense or feeling, which compels individuals to believe that particular activities are morally right or wrong.
    • 2 main types of views regarding the conscience
      • 1) Religious views- Divine command theory, Augustine, Aquinas, Butler, Newman, Bonhoeffer 
      • ·         2) Secular views- psychological, sociological, humanitarian and authoritarian

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