Religious Studies for A level (A2): Conscience

Views on Conscience by the key thinkers

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St Paul (Christian Ethics)

  • We do not always obey our conscience.
  • Romans 7:15 and 7:18 say that we know we should do, but we don't do it always.
  • Romans 2:15 says that God has engraved his law on our hearts (metaphorically, not to be taken literally), used to support the second point above.
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Immanuel Kant

  • We must achieve the summum bonum (the highest good), but is impossible, so God must assisst us.
  • There is an objective moral law that our conscience tells us to follow.
  • Also if we don't achieve the summum bonum in this life, we must do in another life. (life after death)
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St Thomas Aquinas

  • The conscience of human beings consist of right reason (built into the design of humans by God) and synderesis (our inclination of good and bad things).
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Joseph Butler

  • Conscience is a God-given intuitive knowledge (innate knowledge), this authority obviously points to God.
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Cardinal John Newman

  • We have an inate knowledge and in 'inner voice' which produces guilt and shame when we do the opposite of what we want to do or not.
  • Our conscience is God's voice within us which proves that this authority points to God.
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H P Owen

  • A moral law giver must have wrote, or brought into existence, the moral law or code that we have.
  • This could be God, or Aristotle's concept of a divine being which cannot interact with the world.
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Dom Trethowan

  • Morality is linked with values.
  • Each person has value.
  • This is the authority from God.
  • God-given.
  • Gives an awareness of God.
  • Supports H P Owem's argument that laws are from from self-explanatory.
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