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The main thinkers of conscience
Augustine of Hippo
Conscience was the voice of God speaking to us; he is telling us what is right and wrong. He urged all
Christians to be concerned about conscience and seriously consider it.
Aquinas believed that people try to do good actions and to avoid evil; he called this the Synderesis Rule.
Even though people should always follow their conscience Aquinas understands that we sometimes
make the wrong choices this is due to faulty reasoning or weakness of will that leads us to believe that
they are good and this leads to them committing sinful acts. They have followed an apparent good,
rather than a real good therefore their conscience is mistaken.
Aquinas divided his understanding of conscience into 2 essential parts:
1. Synderesis right reason
2. Conscientia - distinguishing between right and
wrong and making appropriate decisions
The synderesis enables us to develop the knowledge of some moral principles and guides us towards
the things that are good and avoids evil.
The conscientia is the actual choice or ethical judgement the person made which leads to a course of
action based on these principles.
Evaluation he said people should follow their conscience even if it is wrong sometimes.
If not 100% right how can we trust it because we are going to be judged by God on wheather
we do the right thing or not.
Could get away with things by saying our conscience made us do it. How would we prove anyone
Joseph Butler was a Church of England bishop and theologian who saw conscience as the final moral
decision- maker. Her believed that what made humans different from all other animals was our ability to
reason and to rationalise, which he claimed was the evidence for the existence of the conscience.
According to Butler humans are motivated by 2 basic principles:
1. Self love
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Conscience encourages humankind away from selfish lobe towards focusing on the interests and
happiness of other humans.
Butler had the opinion that the conscience enables us to judge and determine rightness or wrongness of
our actions. He believed that that our conscience was given to us intuitively and that it exerts itself at the
correct time without being called upon, authoritative and automatic.…read more
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Piaget's approach suggests that the development of the conscience is something that is learned from
external influences but is also naturally occurring.
Lawrence Kohlberg agreed with Piagets ideas but believe there were more stages to moral
Both Piaget and Kohlberg believed that most moral development of a conscience occur through social
Enrich Fromm and his 2 consciences
Fromm believed that our moral centre came from those around us who exert their authority over us such
as parents, teachers and religious leaders.…read more