The Nature and Role of the Conscience

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  • The nature and role of the conscience
    • Demonstrate  K&U and discuss these areas critically and their strengths and weaknesses
      • the different views of the consciences as God-given, innate or the voice of reason or instilled by society, parents, authority figures
      • Whether conscience is a reliable guide to ethical decision making
    • Key Philosophers
      • Augustine
        • Influenced by Plato - God is the source of all goodness
        • One one virtue called virtue, goodness and justice are just aspects of virtue
        • What bind all aspects of virtue is love. Conscience comes from this divine love.
        • When God's divine love is revealed, we experience inadequacy. We can do nothing about this
          • This is like thinking one is good at playing a sport and suddenly an international athlete joins in the game and you realise what you thought was good was in fact ordinary
        • The conscience is more important than the teachings of the church
        • The conscience is the voice of God within and therefore cannot be argued with
          • or is it a self-delusion?
          • Does God contradict himself: leads one person to do one thing and someone else the reverse
      • Aquinas
        • GOLDEN MEAN
        • "application of knowledge to activity'
          • Method by which we work out what is morally right
            • synderesis = Greek word for conscience, identified with recto ratia (right reason) intellectual process of gaining knowledge
            • Conscentia (Latin for conscience) is applying the right reason to a specific issue
      • Butler
        • 'Faculty of reflection'
        • influenced by Aristotle and Aquinas
        • conscience develops the  human reflective nature
        • The voice of God within: but it is selfish
          • Matt 7:12 In everything do to others as you would have done them do to you
        • 'great wickedness' within the human race - struggle between conscience and desires
      • Newman
        • Conscience is independent of any system of authority (opposite to R. Dawkins view
        • The conscience is the moral aspect of a human being's relationship with God. It steers us away from evil and in doing so is caring and loving
        • Shouldn't disobey the church, but also obey the conscience, it takes the middle path
        • Agent centered
        • The conscience,aided by faith, leads us to knowledge of God
      • Freud
        • Guilt Complex
          • Oedipus complex: the sexual desire of a son for his mother and the sense of rivalry with the parent of the same sex
          • Electra Complex: the sexual desire of a daughter for her father and the sense of rivalry with the parent of the same sex
          • The Electra is less strong than the Oedipus, yet there is a deep-seated feeling of guilt, the conscience develops from this guilt
        • id - the unconscious part of the psyche which creates impulses and desires
        • superego - the moral conscience that advises the ego and regulates the id
        • ego - the conscious sense of self as presented to the external world, mediating between the id and the super ego
        • The breaking of rules is linked to the super-ego. religious: break God's law. secular view: conscience is a product of male dominated society
      • Fromm
        • Marxist: free will is an illusion
        • Human beings are reduced from a state of obedience that we cannot see from birth
        • We don not control our lives, first our parents do and then society does: middle ages the church controlled society
        • TINA principle 'there is no alternative' - we believe we control our lives but we do not, our actions are predestined by the needs of society
        • morality = consumer based
      • Piaget
        • We do not all have the same conciousnes
        • You begin your life at station A and you end your life a station C , some get off at B and  do not complete their moral journey and therefore their conscience is not fully developed
        • two types of conscience
          • autonomous morality - morality determined by the self (starts at 10 years old)
          • heteronomous morality - morality determined by others, such as parents and society
        • Relationships lead to the development of a moral conscience, early in life the relationships are based on control and obedience to rules
    • Defined in the Oxford Dictionary as: A person's moral sense of right and wrong, viewed as a guide to one's behaviour.


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