Conscience

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  • Conscience
    • Where does it come from?
      • People believe various things create our conscience. This can affect the goodness or rightness of conscience + link to religious belief
      • God given
        • Some believe God gives us a gift to live moral lives either at birth or later on. This may be the voice of God or an ability.
      • Instilled by society
        • Others believe conscience = result of society's expectations. culture plays a large part in the development of our conscience
      • Instilled by our parents
        • Our upbringing largely affects our conscience, which has led some people to consider parents as moral teachers. We make our own decisions as we mature but our parents affect this
      • Instilled by authority
        • This can be police officers, teachers, parents + politicians who form an authoritative body. This can be negative if we are influenced by wrong people
      • Innate eithin us
        • Suggets there =no external factors that affect our conscience. It was given to us at birth + = wired in by our genetics. Everyone thus should have the same conscience + training + development may be required
    • Religious perspective
      • Early Christian concepts
        • A god-given ability to distinguish right from wrong. Paul said it can sometimes be flawed + weak. A good relationship with God leads us away from sin. 
        • Augustine - believed it voice of God
      • Newman
        • Suggested conscience discovered ever-present truths. When someone follows conscience they follow divine law given directly by God. Not following this + turning away from God results in feelings of guilt + shame
      • Butler
        • Conscience = final decision maker. Directs humans away from self-love + towards benevolence. It comes from God + must be obeyed. If we are intuitively told right action, no-one can do a wrong action
      • Aquinas
        • Conscience = 'right reason' + not a voice but reason making right decisions. Synderesis rule 'do good + avoid evil' can be achieved when 'conscientia' (distinguishing right + wrong + making good decisions) = followed. Bad actions = result of faulty reasoning. Faulty principles = faulty conscience
    • Secular approaches
      • Piaget
        • Heterinymous morality - before the age of ten, when children take morality from parents/carers
        • Automous morality - after age of 10, our own moral reasoning becomes prominent as a result of an increased awareness of morality + society
      • Fromm
        • Authoritarian conscience - reward + punishment for actions reinforces our understanding of morality + may cause guilt
        • Humanistic conscience - a healthier + more positive attitude to conscience that suggests we are allowed to assess our successes as human beings. We moderate our behaviour according to peer assessment
      • Freud
        • The id = seeks pleasure + satisfaction. The ego = seeks experience + reacts to world. The superego = moral policeman that constrains + censors the ego. Associated with guilt
        • Conscience = a construct of mind as early influences continue to affect us in later life. Rel/non-rel peopl have different conscience as they raised differently. This = why there are so many ethical codes in society
    • Key issues
      • If the conscience is central to our identity, Can we rely on it?
      • If conscience is varied is varied + individual, can it be used to make universal moral codes?
      • Corporate + collective consciences all agree over right + wrong. How many people does this require exactly? Can it still be wrong if everyone accepts it?
      • If the informed conscience is incorrect + we follow it, we sin. But not following our conscience = considered a sin anyway
      • If informed conscience contradics teachings of own person religion, what are we supposed to do?
    • Strengths + weaknesses
      • Strenghts
        • Differing consciences = explained by Aquinas' concept of faulty reasoning
        • Idea can be accepted by atheists, humanists + religious people alike
      • Weaknesses
        • Secular approaches attempt to sow where conscience comes from but don't instruct us on how to use it
        • Different religions have different opinions on ethical matters, how can they be hearing the same voice of God?
        • Some people have no conscience at all. If it si God given how can they feel no guilt/repsonsibility/regret?
        • Sometimes people make decisions based on their emotions. Emotional detachment = difficult + perhaps impossible, but may be required

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