The nature and role of the conscience

Detailed mindmap of the key thinkers for the topic: The nature and role of the conscience, for OCR A2 Religious Ethics.

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  • Created on: 03-04-13 15:34
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  • THE NATURE AND ROLE OF THE CONSCIENCE
    • RELIGIOUS VIEWS       i.e. Views of conscience as God-given, innate or the voice of reason
      • Butler
        • Conscience = a FACULTY OF REFLECTION
        • Influenced by Aquinas and Aristotle. Conscience is a faculty that separates humans from other sentient beings as human beings exist but try to understand their being and it is from this reflective nature that conscience develops
        • The conscience is the voice of God within. It is selfish because you have to love yourself and have self-respect to be able to transfer this respect onto others. You have to instil self-respect in yourself to truly become one of God's people.
          • Butler argued that criminals have no conscience because they  have no intuitive sense of their own worth. Criminals commit crime because they do not love themselves; they have no respect for others because they do not respect themselves.
        • Butler makes a clear link between God, nature and morality.  God created the natural order and a moral sense that is embedded in all human beings. This innate moral sense is the conscience.
          • Conscience fails in criminals because they have allowed it to be degraded by degrading themselves. Butler claims there is a "great wickedness" within the human race. The criminal is just magnifying the wickedness that lies in every human being.
            • Butler argued that criminals have no conscience because they  have no intuitive sense of their own worth. Criminals commit crime because they do not love themselves; they have no respect for others because they do not respect themselves.
            • A struggle between the conscience and the passions goes on within every human being and these passions can never be fulfilled with the desire to fulfill them leading to criminality and evil acts.
              • Solution is to lead a disciplined and moral life using the conscience as a guide. We are "capable of moral improvement"
        • Created in God's image, human beings exist to be happy and a moral life will bring them that.
      • Newman
        • Human beings possess an innate sense of what's right  and wrong. The development of a moral sense as children is referred to by Newman as 'the impulse of nature'. This continues to develop throughout life.
        • Newman believed there is a link between what is morally wrong and what is against God. He felt that children have an innate awareness of God and morality.
        • Nature gives humans an awareness of God and goodness. Nurture can destroy this. In his Apologia Pro Vita Sua Newman argues that conscience stays "...in the thought of two only absolute and luminously self-evident beings, myself and my Creator."
          • The conscience is the moral aspect of a human being's relationship with God, summarised in the lyrics of his hymn, "Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom, lead thou me on."
        • "I toast the Pope, but I toast conscience first." - Newman believed that conscience influences the relationship between a Christian and the Church. The Church should not act as an authoritarian structure, Christians should be guided by their conscience.
        • 'Examine your conscience.' Newman viewed the conscience as agent-centered. Human beings should examine their conscience and this will make them better judges of what is morally good. By sifting the information, the moral agent will become a better person.
        • The conscience, aided by faith, leads us to knowledge of God.
      • Aquinas
        • Aquinas' conscience is centred on Natural Law. The conscience is part of an intellectual, rational approach to get what should be done in a situation from basic laws.
          • Linked to  the moral  virtues and to the GOLDEN MEAN. (Golden mean = the situation when something works efficiently by avoiding extremes of excess and deficiency.
        • Book: Summa Theologica Aquinas describes conscience as 'the application of knowledge to activity.' - the method by which a human being works out what is morally right.
        • Greek for conscience = synderesis, latin equivalent = conscientia. Aquinas identifies synderesis with recto ratio, 'right reason', an intellectual process of gaining knowledge + sifting through evidence logically. It is NOT a command. Conscientia is the process of applying right reason to a specific issue.
          • CONSCIENCE= a combination of these two elements, THE APPLICATION OF RIGHT REASON TO LIFE ISSUES.
      • Augustine
        • There is one God and he is the source of all goodness, meaning that there can only be one virtue called virtue which is God. Augustine all other supposed virtues like goodness and justice are just aspects of 'virtue', which is God.
          • Divine love  binds all aspects of virtue to the one virtue which is God. Conscience emerges from this outflow of divine love, it is God's love given to human beings.
        • When God's  love and moral virtues are revealed, humans experience their own inadequacy. EXAMPLE: If you're playing a sport you love and think you're good at then suddenly an international athlete joins you. What you thought was good is, in fact, just ordinary. This is the same with an experience of God.
        • Augustine's views make conscience THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of moral decision-making.
        • THE CONSCIENCE CANNOT BE QUESTIONED.It is the voice of God within.
        • The conscience is meant to reveal the love of God.
    • SECULAR VIEWS       i.e. Instilled by society, parents, authority figures etc
      • Kohlberg
        • Followed Piaget's ideas and identified 6 stages of moral development which Kohlberg believed people had to follow in order.
        • People move from behaving in socially acceptable ways because they are told to and want to gain approval from authority figures, to keeping the law, to caring for others and then to respect for universal principles and the demands of an individual conscience. He feels that most people never get beyond keeping the law.
        • THE DEVELOPMENTAL CONSCIENCE, develops through social interaction.
      • Freud
        • Conscience is a GUILT COMPLEX. It is a thought process that leads humans to do something out of a sense of guilt and embarrassment for prior actions or feelings.
          • In Freud's time, society was male-dominated and they made the rules. By breaking these rules is an act of rebellion against the father, condemning the son to guilt and punishment. Conscience embodies the sense of guilt that comes with disobedience to the laws of the fathers, society's laws.
        • With the Oedipus complex and the Electra complex there is a deep seated feeling of guilt and the conscience develops from this sense of guilt. The child knows it is wrong to remove one parent and sexually desire the other, this wish develops from the physical needs of the child for love and affection.
          • This stage ends when the child represses their sexual instincts and identifies with the parent of the same sex. This resolution is the origin for the moral development of the person.
        • The development of the human psyche comes from the child's physical needs for love and affection. This almost reverses Aristotle's ideas about soul and matter, instead of the soul coming before matter, the physical needs create the child's psychological framework and the character of the human psyche.
          • This psyche has 3 parts.  ID = the inner unconscious self.         EGO = the conscious sense of self that is seen by other people. SUPEREGO = the moral conscience that advises the ego and regulates the id.
            • THE  SUPEREGO - the moral/ethical part of the psyche. This moral conscience controls the ego's behaviour with it's criticisms and aspirations directing the ego to a moral outcome and to a higher moral standard; this is often AGAINST the needs of the id.
              • THE EGO -  this is the self or 'I'; it is the part that interacts with the physical and social world. It conflicts with the id as the ego evaluates and plans so restricts the desires of the id and being advised by the superego.
                • THE ID -  related to the primitive instincts and drives of human character like sex and aggression. It functions on a pleasure-pain principle and wants immediate fulfilment; it has no moral basis. In adults  it is unconscious and repressed but always affects the ego.
        • THE ID -  related to the primitive instincts and drives of human character like sex and aggression. It functions on a pleasure-pain principle and wants immediate fulfilment; it has no moral basis. In adults  it is unconscious and repressed but always affects the ego.
        • THE EGO -  this is the self or 'I'; it is the part that interacts with the physical and social world. It conflicts with the id as the ego evaluates and plans so restricts the desires of the id and being advised by the superego.
          • THE  SUPEREGO - the moral/ethical part of the psyche. This moral conscience controls the ego's behaviour with it's criticisms and aspirations directing the ego to a moral outcome and to a higher moral standard; this is often AGAINST the needs of the id.
          • Piaget
            • A child's moral development grows and the ability to reason morally  depends on cognitive development.
              • Piaget suggested two stages of moral development: 1. HETERONOMOUS MORALITY = between ages 5-10, when the conscience is still immature, rules are not to be broken and punishment is to be expected  if a rule is broken. The consequences of an action will show if it is right or wrong.
                • 2. AUTONOMOUS MORALITY = around ages 10+, when children develop their own rules and understand how rules operate in and help society. This move towards autonomous morality happens when the child is less dependent on others for moral authority.
            • Piaget suggested two stages of moral development: 1. HETERONOMOUS MORALITY = between ages 5-10, when the conscience is still immature, rules are not to be broken and punishment is to be expected  if a rule is broken. The consequences of an action will show if it is right or wrong.
              • 2. AUTONOMOUS MORALITY = around ages 10+, when children develop their own rules and understand how rules operate in and help society. This move towards autonomous morality happens when the child is less dependent on others for moral authority.
            • THE DEVELOPMENTAL CONSCIENCE, develops through social interaction.
          • Fromm
            • He was a Marxist and a follower of Freud. His work on morality is a mix of these two influences.
              • Marx and Freud both show that humans do not control that their own life. Fromm feels that this process of control starts at birth. Parents control their children so the child is moulded by the needs of society, shown through the family. They are given a social character, making the person fit into the needs of society. This removal of individuality creates a social consciousness that makes people aware of who they are and too which group they belong.
            • Human beings imagine their free will, that they have  personal moral views and that they have a choice. Fromm says this is an  illusion. From birth, the human being is  reduced into a STATE OF OBEDIENCE to forces that the individual cannot see.
            • Marx and Freud both show that humans do not control that their own life. Fromm feels that this process of control starts at birth. Parents control their children so the child is moulded by the needs of society, shown through the family. They are given a social character, making the person fit into the needs of society. This removal of individuality creates a social consciousness that makes people aware of who they are and too which group they belong.
            • AUTHORITARIAN CONSCIENCE = A guilty conscience is the result of displeasing authority, if that authority is God then the fear of being rejected will have a powerful influence over the individual. Disobedience produces guilt which weakens our power and makes us more submissive to authority. EXAMPLE Nazi Germany, Fromm himself escaped from Germany in 1934.
            • THE HUMANISTIC CONSCIENCE= much healthier as it assesses and evaluates our behaviour, we use it to judge how successful we are as people. It is our real self that leads us to realise our potential. We use our experiences to give us personal integrity and moral honesty.  Opposite of the authoritarian conscience.
            • These psychological accounts of conscience may seem to conflict with religious views BUT they do not necessarily undermine the possibility of God having some role in the conscience.
      • There is one God and he is the source of all goodness, meaning that there can only be one virtue called virtue which is God. Augustine all other supposed virtues like goodness and justice are just aspects of 'virtue', which is God.
        • Divine love  binds all aspects of virtue to the one virtue which is God. Conscience emerges from this outflow of divine love, it is God's love given to human beings.

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