2 When your intelligence don’t tell you something ain’t right, your conscience gives you a tap you on the shoulder and says ‘Hold on’. If it don’t, you’re a snake.— Elvis Presley, American rock 'n' roll icon ( )Conscience is God’s presence in man.— Emmanuel Swedenborg, Swedish-American spiritualist ( )Reason often makes mistakes but conscience never does.— Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw), American writer and humourist ( )
3 CONSCIENCEWhen considering the nature and function of conscience there are four questions to keep in mind:What is conscience?Where does conscience come from?Is conscience innate or acquired?What is its function in ethical decision making?
4 Conscience What is conscience? A moral faculty or feeling prompting us to see that certain actions are morally right or wrong.Conscience can prompt people in different directions.We consider it to be a reliable guide but it lacks consistency and can lead people to perform terrible actions.
5 Timeline Augustine of Hippo 334-430 Thomas Aquinas 1224–1274 Joseph Butler 1692–1752John Henry Newman 1801–1890Sigmund Freud 1856–1939Jean PiagetErich Fromm 1900–1980Lawrence Kohlberg 1927–1987
6 Religious views Biblical teaching Augustine Thomas Aquinas Joseph ButlerJohn Henry Newman
8 Religious ViewsThese views rely on an intuitionist approach – conscience is innate and comes from GodThe Bible – ‘the law written on the heart’
9 Biblical teachingIt is assumed by some biblical writers and early Christian teachers that our conscience is God-given. This view is put clearly in Paul’s letter to the Romans:‘When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts…’ (Romans 2:14-15a)
10 AugustineConscience is the voice of God speaking to us
11 AquinasAll people aim for what is good and sin is falling short of God’s ideals, but sometimes even following conscience we will get it wrong.
12 AquinasConscience for Aquinas has 2 essential parts: Synderesis – the use of right reason by which we learn basic moral principles and understand that we have to do good and avoid evil. Conscientia – the actual judgement or decision we make that leads us to act.
13 AquinasDoes Aquinas’ rationalistic approach consider revelation that comes directly from God?
15 Butlerwrote that the most crucial thing which distinguished women and men from the animal world was the possession of the faculty of reflection or conscience.So being human involves being moral.Conscience is a person’s God-given guide to right conduct and its demands must therefore always be followed.
16 ButlerConscience comes from God and must be obeyed Conscience will harmonise self love and benevolence
17 Butlerthe consequence of an action is not what makes it right or wrong as that has already happenedthe purpose of conscience is to guide a person into a way of life that will make them happyconscience will harmonise self-love and benevolence – this may take some sorting out and so in moral dilemmas we may be uncertain what to doconscience controls human nature
19 Newman Conscience is the voice of God ‘If, 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.’
20 Freud The human personality consists of three areas: the superego – the set of moral controls given to us by outside influences. It is our moral code or conscience and is often in conflict with the Id.the ego – the conscious self, the part seem by the outside world.id – the unconscious self, the part of the mind containing basic drives and repressed memories. It is amoral, has no concerns about right and wrong and is only concerned with itself.
21 FreudConscience is most clearly connected with the sense of guilt that we feel when we go against our conscience. Conscience then is simply a construct of the mind.In religious people this would be in response to perceptions of God.In non-religious people it would be their responses to externally imposed authority.
22 Freud The content of our consciences are shaped by our experiences The superego internalises the disapproval of others and creates the guilty conscience
23 PiagetA child’s moral sense develops and the ability to reason morally depends on cognitive development.
24 Piaget Two stages of moral development: Heteronomous morality (between the ages of 5 and 10 years) when the conscience is still immature, rules are not to be broken and punishment is expected if a rule is broken. The consequences of an action will show if it is right or wrong.
25 PiagetAutonomous morality (10+) when children develop their own rules and understand how rules operate in and help society. The move towards autonomous morality occurs when the child is less dependant on others for moral authority.
26 KohlbergIdentified stages of moral development which he believed individuals had to follow in sequence.
27 Kohlberg People move from: behaving in socially acceptable ways because they are told to do so by authority figures and want to gain approval,to keeping the lawto caring for othersand finally respect for universal principles and the demands of an individual conscience.Kohlberg felt that most adults never got beyond keeping the law.
28 Fromm– Authoritarian Conscience all humans are influenced by external authorities which apply rules and punishments for breaking themthese are internalised by the individuala guilty conscience is a result of displeasing the authoritydisobedience produces guilt which makes us more submissive to the authority
29 Fromm – Humanistic Conscience Fromm’s views changed over timeHe saw the humanistic conscience as being much healthier as it assesses and evaluates our behaviour.We use it to judge how successful we are as people.We use our own discoveries in life and the teachings and example of others to give us personal integrity and moral honesty.This is the opposite to the slavish obedience and conformity of the authoritarian conscience.
30 Other views of conscience Vincent MacNamara – conscience is an awareness or attitude – seeing goodness and truth as importantRichard Gula – conscience is a way of seeing the world and responding through the choices we makeDaniel Maguire – conscience is discerning the best moral choice. This involves reason, but also shared experiences of the past and of culture, as well as our personal experiences.
31 ProblemsFor Christians conscience is often regarded as the voice of God. However, this raises some serious questions:If we always knew that what our conscience told us to do was God’s command then we would never make mistakesHowever, we do make mistakesIf we can’t hear God properly – whose fault is it?
32 ProblemsChristians often have disagreements over moral issues such as abortion.So are things not as clear cut as ‘the voice of God’ definition of conscience suggests?
33 Problems Many atheists claim that conscience is important to them. Such claims do not rely upon God.For atheists, agnostics and humanists, conscience is part of being human and there is no need to involve God when moral decisions have to be made.Conscience appears to be a universal part of human moral living.
34 Conscience Conscience implies personal responsibility: “And perhaps a little demythologising may be in order, for conscience is not a still small voice, not bells, nor a blind stab in the dark; it is simply me coming to a decision. When I say ‘my conscience tells me’ all I am really saying is ‘I think’.” (Jack Mahoney – Seeking the Spirit)