Conscience

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  • Created by: Chantal
  • Created on: 29-03-14 11:20

Thomas Aquinas

  • Reason seeking understanding
  • Saw conscience as the natural ability of people to understand the difference between right and wrong
  • Synderesis rule: 
    • People aim for what is good and try to avoid the bad
    • Innate to seek the good and sin is seeking an apparent good- mistake
  • Conscientia:
    • The ethical judgement or decision a person makes, leads to particular action
  • Conscience= being able to distinguish right from wrong (synderesis) and to make decisions (conscientia) when a person is confronted with difficult moral situations
  • Always right to follow your conscience, always right to apply your moral principles
  • Weakness:
    • Aquinas’ rationalistic approach does not consider revelation that comes directly form God
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Joseph Butler

  • God gives us our conscience and we are to use it to live a proper, happy life
  • The most crucial thing which distinguishes man from animals is possession of the faculty of reflection/ conscience and being a human involves being moral
  • Conscience can determine and judge the rightness and wrongness of different actions and thoughts
  • Conscience holds a powerful as it ‘magisterially exerts itself’ spontaneously ‘without being consulted’- authoritative and automatic
  • Conscience has the final say in moral decision making: final moral authority
  • Human nature is hierarchal:
    • Conscience is at the top and drive for food are at the base
  • The fact your conscience instructs to act in a certain way is adequate justification to behave in that way. You should not even consider alternatives
  • This corruption of conscience by self deception ( blind conscience and convince themseles wrong action is right) is worse than the evil action which results from it
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John Henry Newman

  • Similar to Butler
  • When a person follows conscience he is simultaneously following a divine law
  • Conscience is a divine messenger from God and it is God speaking to us when we feel this intuitive moral knowledge and make decisions
  • ‘Is, as is the case, we feel responsibility, are ashamed, are frightened, at transgressing the voice of conscience, this implies there is One to whom we are responsible, before whom we are ashamed, whose claims upon us we fear’
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Augustine of Hippo

  • Similar to Butler and Newman
  • Believed that conscience was to be identified with the voice of God speaking to us
  • When we listen to our conscience we are really hearing the word of God whispering to us about what is right and what is wrong
  • Urged all Christians to be concerned about their conscience and to consider it most seriously
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Freud

  • Believed no such thing as a soul and his view of the mind was mechanistic
  • Concluded the human personality consisted of 3 areas:
    • Super-ego: set of moral controls given to us by outside influence. It is our moral code or conscience and is often in conflict with the id
    • Ego: the conscious self, the part seen by the outside world
    • Id: the unconscious self, the part of the mind containing basic drives (amoral)
  • Conscience is clearly connected with the sense of guilt we feel when we go against it: guilt complex
  • Conscience is a construct of the mind:
    • In religious people this would be in response to perceptions of God
    • In non religious people- their response to externally imposed authority
    • Believed there was no absolute moral law and all our moral codes and thus the contents of our consciences are shaped by our experiences-culturally dependent explaining varieties of moral codes in different societie
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Jean Piaget

  • The developmental conscience
  • A child’s moral development grows and the ability to reason morally depends on cognitive development
  • Two stages of moral development:
    •  
      • Heteronomous morality: (approximately between 5-10) when the conscience is still immature, rules are not to be broken and punishment is expected if a rule is broken. The consequence of an action will show if it is right or wrong
      • Autonomous morality: (approximately 10+) when shildren develop their own rules and understand how rules operate in and help society. The move towards autonomous morality occurs when the child is less dependent on others for moral authority
    • Moral development and the development of a conscience occur through social interaction
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Kohlberg

  • Identified 6 stages of moral development which he believed individuals had to follow in sequence
  • People move from behaving in socially acceptable ways because they are told to do so by authority figured and want to gain approval , to keeping the law, to caring for others and finally respect for universal principles and demands of an individual conscience- most adults don’t get past keeping the law
  • Moral development and the development of a conscience occur through social interaction
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Fromm

  • 1: The authoritarian conscience:
    • All humans are influenced by external authorities (parents etc) who apply rules/punishments for breaking them, rules are internalised in the individual
    • A guilty conscience is a result of displeasing authority (if that authority is God then the fear of being rejected will have powerful influence on the individual)
    • Disobedience produces guilt which in turn weakens our power and makes us more submissive to authority
  • 2: Humanistic conscience
    • Fromm’s views changed over time
    • Humanistic conscience healthier as it assesses/ evaluates our behaviour
    • We use it to judge how successful we are as people. It is our real self and leads us to realise our potential as far as possible
    • We use our own discoveries in life and the teaching and examples of others to give us personal integrity and moral honesty
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Modern Views

  • Richard Gula:
    • To consider a conscience is to consider a set of laws
    • The various different communities teach people different ways
    • This is a way of seeing and then we choose to act
  • Vincent MacNamara:
    • Wrong to call the conscience ‘a voice’ because it sounds like a separate part of the human- He thought of the conscience as awareness
  • Timothy O’Connell:
    • He believed there are 3 aspects of conscious-
    • Personal responsibility, Sense of obligation to search for good, using resources of moral reasoning, concrete judgement that is made- good must be done
    • Daniel Maguire- Adds to O’Connell saying, we need to consider place of creative, imagination, humour and tragic life experience. This adds to our conscience and adds value to it.
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Modern Views Continued

  • Roman Catholic Church 1960’s:
    • The second Vatican Council discussed the issue of conscience
    • They concluded conscience was an innate sense of right and wrong that worked like a moral law
    • This law speaks out to the individual heart. Dubbed ‘Law of the heart’ which is written by God
  • Edna McDough:
    • Conscience has the ability to judge good and evil, reproach us when we have done wrong and give us peace when we haven’t
    • It exist separately as if it sometime stands over or with us
  • Dawkin:
    • Controlled by genes that help us survive
    • Morals are created as part of the evolutionary process
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Weaknesses

  • The Dilemma: If God’s voice is everyone’s conscience, then how can we reconcile this with the different moral beliefs and convictions of people all over the world?
  • The views of different religions
  • The superiority of conscience  Another criticism of conscience is the level of superiority that seems to be given to conscience
  • The weakness of the secular approaches: They explain where conscience might come from and how it influences decisions but they don’t provide an accurate method of understanding what the correct approach is
  • Conscience and our emotions   Conscience can be influenced by our emotions or emotional attachments It is very easy to make a decision based on conscience when we have emotional interest in the situation
  • Those without a conscience- if comes from God all should possess it
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