Problems with Conscience

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  • Problems with the Conscience
    • Conscience being the voice of God
      • Consider the case where a 2 Christians are faced with a moral dilemma of how to deal with the situation of a 12 year old girl who has been raped and now is pregnant.
      • Christian A's conscience says that the girl should have the child and then either keep it or give it up for adoption
      • Christian B's conscience says that the correct thing to do is to allow her to have an abortion, but which conscience is correct?
      • If God's voice is everyone's conscience, then how can we reconcile different moral beliefs and convictions of people all over the world?
      • Butler and Newman gave complete authority to the conscience, so therefore their theories are somewhat lacking substance when faced with criticisms
      • However, Aquinas' belief that sometimes conscience is misinformed or misled could explain the disparity in different people's conscience
      • Other approaches are that we are mishearing God's voice and therefore it is due to human error rather than conscience not being the guidance from God
    • View of different religions
      • Different religious denominations within religions disagree over moral issues such as euthanasia and sex.
      • If they are hearing the voice of God, then why do they differ in their beliefs?
      • It is clear that claiming the conscience is the voice of God ia not accurate in the form of Butler and Newman have expressed
    • Athiests and Humanists
      • They generally believe in the concept of conscience and don't acquire supernatural intervention of God to explain the origin of this moral guide
      • In many ways the religious approach is quite narrow-minded as it assumes the existence and belief of God
      • Athiests and humanists are content to accept that it is due to psychological developmnent or genetic determinism of evolutionary theory
      • They see it as an essential part of humans and therefore what guides humanity in its moral living
    • The superiority of Conscience
      • The actions and leadings of the conscience can be very wrong and its unconditional use can lead to wrong decisions being made
      • Aquinas' approach provides us with the tools to make decisions, but it does not give us a foolproof answer as to what to do
      • His reliance on reasoning is good, especially the distinction between the conscientia and synderesis
      • However he does say that the closer we are to a situation the more we need to enquire and vary our decisions or actions
      • He does not believe that conscience will give us definitve answer but will, by the use of synderesis and conscientia, lead us towards the correct moral path
    • Weaknesses of Secular Approaches
      • They explain where the conscience comes from and how it influences our decisions but they don't provide an accurate method of understadning what is the correct path
      • The teachings of Butler are based on an intuitive understanding of what is right so perhaps this approach is better when explaining where the conscience comes from
      • If conscience was explained using the idea of a genetic intuition instead, then perhaps a new understanding of conscience could be proposed - one that it intuitive in nature but expressed through the ideas of religion/
    • Conscience and our emotions
      • Our conscience can be influenced by our emotional attatchments. It is very easy to make a decision based on conscience when we have an emotional interest in the situation - sometimes beneficial
      • However, it can also cause us to make decisions that are subjective and possibly morally dubious. We must approach ethical decisions from the viewpoint of emotivism
    • Those without conscience
      • Suggestions from psychologists that ther may be people who seem to have no conscience at all.
      • There are suggestions that the infamous Moor Murderers or the young James Bulger killers as people with no conscience
      • If conscience comes from God, then why don't people appear to have one?


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