Analysis/Evaluation of Conscience Scholars

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Aquinas - Conscience is the power of reason. 


  • His theory realises that there are thought processes when deciding whether an action is right or wrong but he does not allow for emotions and emotional reponses to ethical dilemmas 
  • Said that it is right to follow one's conscience but recognised that conscience could be mistaken due to ignorance 

Weaknesses/Issues raised

  • If the conscience can be lead astray, what does this say about God's gift of reason? Thus God has given us a faulted gift
  • Some Christians would also say that this rationalistic approach does not allow for revelation coming directly from God. 

Scholar Comparisons 

  • Newman would say that conscience is God-given and the voice of God, informing our moral decision making 
  • Butler would say that the conscience makes intuitive moral judgements and has absolute authority. He would disagree that we need to reason, as God has given it us and therefore we need not to reason. 

Joseph Butler - Conscience is intuitive 


  • We know exactly what God expects from us if we listen to our conscience - as to Butler there are no dilemmas. 
  • Following conscience will lead to happiness as we are following God. 

Weaknesses/Issues Raised

  • If conscience comes from God there should be no inconsistencies and so there should be absolute morals throughout the world.
  • This leads us to ask whether conscience and moral behaviour are acquired and learnt.
  • How can we know that God commands through the conscience if we make mistakes?

Scholar Comparisons

  • Augustine states that God implants knowledge of right conduct in humans and thus can be known through conscience. A person cannot rightly act (as opposed to knowing what is right) without the grace of God and the motive has to be right also.
  • Newman describes the conscience to be the "law of the mind" which gives a clear indication of what was right and what was wrong 

John Henry Newman -Conscience is


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