Religion and Ethics - Conscience

Define conscience:
A person's moral sense of right or wrong, viewed as acting as a guide towards ones' behaviour. A natural part of moral activity which provides us with moral guidance.
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What did Aquinas say the conscience was?
''The faculty of making moral decisions"
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What moral compass did God provide us with?
The ability to reason.
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What did Aquinas think was necessary to know in order to make good moral decisions?
The primary and secondary precepts (Natural Law).
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What is conscience made up of?
Synderesis and conscientia.
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What is synderesis?
Awareness of good/evil but naturally inclines us towards the good. Synderesis is NEVER mistaken and therefore a wrong decision can only be conscientia's fault.
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What is conscientia?
Distinguishes between right/wrong (synderesis). Applies the knowledge of this to a moral situation. Can be interchangeable with synderesis (sometimes). Can be fallible - we're blinded by ignorance, haste + desire. Bears witness , relies on experience
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What is ''ratio''?
Aquinas regards ''right reason'' as ratio. It is the ground of all moral knowledge (primary precepts).
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What were the two errors in decision making according to Aquinas?
A factual mistake - where the individual is not responsible for the wrongdoing (invincible ignorance.) Mistake due to ignorance - the individual knew what they were doing was wrong + could've fixed it (invincible ignorance).
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What are those who pursuing wrong actually doing?
They are pursuing an apparent good rather than an actual good.
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Define vincible ignorance:
A lack of knowledge for which a person is morally responsible. They could've fixed it, but they didn't.
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Give an example of vincible ignorance:
If I go to Turkey and shoot 3 people, I cannot argue that ''I didn't know'' murder was illegal in Turkey. Even if I did, I had an opportunity to use my reason/existential knowledge to check.
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Define invincible ignorance:
Ignorance in which the person concerned does not have the means to overcome. I.e, they are not responsible for the wrongdoing in a given situation.
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Give an example of invincible ignorance:
If I give someone a foreign holiday as a present, and their place crashes en-route; while I might feel guilty - I cannot be held personally responsible for the wrongdoing at hand.
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What did Plato believe about the good?
We do wrong as a result of ignorance and unless we are a philosopher we will always be ignorant. We cannot do the good without knowing it.
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What did Aquinas say about young children and people with mental illnesses?
People below a certain age do not have consent for their actions because they don't know what's good and what's not. It is the same with mentally ill people.
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What theme is also present in Aquinas' views on conscience?
The notion of free will.
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What are some strengths of Aquinas' approach to conscience?
Takes thought processes into account. Recognises conscience can be mistaken due to ignorance. It is universal, you don't have to be religious. Follows Christian tradition. Explains why young children/disabled people can do wrong. Appeals to reason.
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What did Piaget say about conscience?
Conscience is manufactured from experience.
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What are some weaknesses of Aquinas' approach to conscience?
If conscience can be led astray, what does this tell us about God's gift of reason. As fallen creatures we would be more inclined to follow Jesus' teachings. Ignores emotions/sexual/medical ethics.
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What does Butler say about conscience?
Conscience makes intuitive moral decisions. It is given to us by God.
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What does Aquinas' view on conscience prevent?
Religious fanaticism - i.e I can't shoot 12 people and claim God told me to because God does not provide us with conscience.
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What does Newman say about conscience? (similar to Butler)
Conscience is the voice of God.
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What do Piaget and Kohlberg say about conscience?
There are two stages of moral development. The first - before a child is 10, the conscience has not yet fully developed. The second, children develop their own rules + understand how to live in society.
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What does Freud say about conscience?
Conscience is an internal perception - it is neither intuitive nor rationalist. Instead, it is a pre-rational function of the unconscious mind.
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What did Freud believe the human personality/conscience was made up of?
Three structures in the mind - the id, the ego and the super-ego.
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How did Freud believe others lost control of their mental states?
Through repression of their behaviour.
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What did Freud believe specifically caused mental illness?
Repression of their sexual desires.
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What is key about Freud's theory?
It's based on psychosexual development and repression of sexual feelings.
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What is the ''id''?
Selfish part of the personality which demands instant gratification. Represents our basic enthusiasms/urges. Operates on a pleasure principle/satisfying itself. Does not interact with society.
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What would happen if the id, ''went wrong''?
We'd end up completing our most basic desires without thought - leads to ****, robbery etc.
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What is the ego?
Closest to full consciousness - developed as a front to interact with society. Can control the id by stopping the urges occurring in public/social situations. More sociologically aware.
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What is the analogy to describe the relationship between the ego and the id?
The ego is the rider and the id is the horse.
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What is the super-ego?
Set of moral controls given to us by outside influences (e.g parents/adults). Often in conflict with the id - stops it doing things it shouldn't by making us feel guilt.
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Describe a simple chain of events between the id, ego and super-ego:
Following the id would lead to unacceptable sociological behaviour. The id is therefore suppressed from an early age and we develop and ego to interact with society. Society's disapproval of inappropriate behaviour is internalised by the super-ego.
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What can lead to a guilty conscience?
The super-ego makes the ego feel guilty for feeling anger or bewilderment and society's norms.
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What is the Oedipus Complex?
Idea stemming from Ancient Greek philosophy that young boys are fixated with their mothers and jealous of their fathers. They learn to copy their father's masculinity and develop sexual feelings for their mothers.
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How is the Oedipus Complex repressed?
Repressed by sociological norms - parents, schooling and so forth.
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What is the Elektra Complex?
Similar to the Oedipus Complex - women are jealous of their fathers' genitalia. They are repressed in a male dominated society and the issues that being a woman brings.
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Why has the Elektra Complex been criticised?
Modern feminists criticise this theory as being heteronormative. It favours men over women - why should women be jealous?
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What is the idea of the Primal Hordes?
Idea about primitive tribes and jealousy between men. The older men have more power and attract the women so the younger men kill them. They begin to feel guilt because what they've done goes against social norms.
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What is the ''oral stage'' of psychosexual development? (0-1 years)
Fixation around the mouth (hence oral). This is where the ego develops (sociological front between id and super-ego). Ego = conscious self.
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What happens if the ego doesn't develop properly?
People become anxious (because they can't follow social norms) and start having fixations with their mouths (subconsciously), e.g overheating, smoking, drinking etc.
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What happens in the anal stage of development? (1-3 yrs)
Conflict arises during potty training - adults trying to teach children, however, children should learn on their own/continue to develop their ego and understand normal human behaviour.
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What happens in the phallic stage of development? (3-6 yrs)
Strong fixation with the genitals. Super-ego develops because parents teach us right from wrong.
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What happens if the super-ego doesn't develop properly?
If we aren't taught right from wrong - we don't know how to act morally/control our id..
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What happens in the genital stage of development? (adolescence to adulthood).
Sexual desire becomes directed at heterosexual pleasure. Fixation at other stages leads to different routes at gaining pleasure, e.g fixation on the oral stage = smoking/drinking etc.
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How does Adam and Eve's disobedience link with Freud's theory?
It made them aware of their disobedience and therefore made them feel guilt because they had not obeyed the rules set out to them. They were further embarrassed by their nakedness which is also unacceptable.
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What does St.Paul say about sex?
It should only happen within a marriage.
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What does Augustine say about sex?
After admitting to experimenting in his youth - Augustine said men ''should go to their task with reluctance''.
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What are some strengths of Freud's approach?
Significant role to conscience/super-ego in moral decision making. Its role is to direct us to a higher moral standard. Guilt plays a part in our ethical decision making even if its not sex based. Stresses on role of parents. Explains odd behaviour.
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What are some weaknesses of Freud's theory?
Popper argues its not true science bc cannot be verified/falsified. Conscience can vary from person to person. Unrepresentative of society as a whole. Criticised by feminists.
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Other cards in this set

Card 2


What did Aquinas say the conscience was?


''The faculty of making moral decisions"

Card 3


What moral compass did God provide us with?


Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4


What did Aquinas think was necessary to know in order to make good moral decisions?


Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5


What is conscience made up of?


Preview of the front of card 5
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