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Conscience Religious Approaches Secular Approaches Modern Approaches.

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Presentation on theme: "Conscience Religious Approaches Secular Approaches Modern Approaches."— Presentation transcript:

1 Conscience Religious Approaches Secular Approaches Modern Approaches

2 Questions to be asked What is conscience? Where does conscience originate? Is conscience innate or acquired? What is its function in ethical decision-making?

3 Mark Twain ‘I have noticed my conscience for many years, and I know it is more trouble and bother to me than anything else I started with.’

4 Generic Views A moral faculty, sense or feeling which compels individuals to believe that particular activities are morally right or wrong. – There exists a sense of moral obligation. – There implies objective morality. Inherited at birth and present throughout life.

5 Problems with Conscience Different people’s consciences tell them to do very different things with a clear conscience. Individual consciences seem to change with the times so that they perform contrary actions with a clear conscience. Under what conditions can conscience change?

6 Religious Influences on Conscience We all have a conscience that is part of us but not identified with our physical makeup. Druids believed it was located in the liver.

7 Biblical Ideas And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. – Genesis 2:7 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

8 Biblical Ideas Implications: – The conscience is God- given. – Morality is objective – All people have the same access to morality. – By following one’s conscience one is following the divine law.

9 Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) Reason seeking understanding The conscience is the natural ability of people to understand the difference between right and wrong using reason. The conscience is ‘The mind of man making moral judgements.’

10 Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) People innately aim for what is good and try to avoid the bad. – See Natural Moral Law Sin is falling short of God’s ideals – poor use of reason. – See Augustine’s Evil

11 Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) Synderesis (right reason) Knowledge and understanding of moral principles and values. Conscientia (right action) The actual ethical judgements / decisions a person makes.

12 Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) Conscience  Distinguish right from wrong  Make decisions when confronted with moral dilemmas. It is right to follow your conscience because it is right to follow moral principles. – Immoral actions occur because of poor reason.

13 Joseph Butler (1692 – 1752) Conscience from God ‘There is a principle reflection in men by which they distinguish between approval and disapproval of their own actions … this principle in man … is conscience.’ This distinguishes us from animals – we are in touch with God’s Will.

14 Joseph Butler (1692 – 1752) Authority The conscience ‘magisterially exerts itself’ spontaneously ‘without being consulted’ automatically and with authority. ‘Had it strength, as it has right; had it power as it has manifest authority: it would absolutely govern the world.’

15 Joseph Butler (1692 – 1752) Hierarchy of Human Nature Conscience Principles of reflection – Approve or disapprove of our actions Impulse of Self-Love and Benevolence – selfishness and selflessness Drives – No thought of consequence

16 Joseph Butler (1692 – 1752) Some Questions Is conscience reason or emotion ? – It doesn’t matter, it’s God-Given and so must be observed! If conscience identifies God’s Will, why do some people commit evil? – Evil comes from blinding one’s conscience. – God Wills It God Wills It

17 Joseph Butler (1692 – 1752) The purpose of conscience To guide us to a happy life. – Eudaimonia! Harmonise self-love and benevolence. – Love thy neighbour!

18 John Henry Newman ( ) The Voice of God When a person follows conscience he is simultaneously and mysteriously following a divine law. - Letter to the Duke of Norfolk (1874)

19 John Henry Newman ( ) Conscience and Intuition Conscience is a ‘ messenger ’ of God speaking to us. When we make moral decisions or feel intuition, that is God’s voice. At its best conscience detects truth.

20 John Henry Newman ( ) ‘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.’ - The Grammar of Assent (chapter 5)

21 Augustine (354 – 430) Voice of God ‘Return to your conscience, question it. …Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.’

22 Secular Influences on Conscience There is no supernatural entity called conscience. It is a construct.

23 Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) The mind is mechanistic Id The unconscious/ irrational self; drives, repressed memories. Ego The conscious/ rational self, perceived by the outside world. Super-Ego Mind controls established by outside influences – in conflict with the id.

24 Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939)

25 Super-ego initialises the disapproval of others and creates guilt. Conscience is a psychological construct associated with religious/ secular authority. Moral Codes are shaped by experience.

26 Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) The sense of moral obligation grows into an internal force. – There is no thought or reflection. Moral behaviour is learned and observed, so action is never free.

27 Sigmund Freud and the existence of God The Oedipus Complex 1. Feeling of competition with father for affection of mother 2. Tension exists between this sense of rivalry and a need for affection from father 3. In the same way that pack animals grow to resent their leader to the point of murder, humans grow to resent their fathers. 5. Over time, this homage becomes more focused and organised and becomes a belief in a fictitious God, the ‘leader of all leaders’ 4. There is guilt, which is assuaged by paying homage to the ‘spirit’ of the dead leader.

28 Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980) Development of the Conscience Piaget – A child’s moral development grows and the ability to reason morally depends on cognitive development.

29 Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980) Stages of moral development 1. Heteronomous morality – Consequentialist – Rules must not be broken – There are punishments 2. Autonomous morality – Self-determined rules – Social cohesion – Less dependence on others for guidance

30 Lawrence Kohlberg – Development of Conscience Level 1 – (Pre-Conventional) 1. Obedience and punishment orientation – How can I avoid punishment? 2. Self-interest orientation – What's in it for me?

31 Lawrence Kohlberg – Development of Conscience Level 2 – (Conventional) 3. Interpersonal accord and conformity – Social norms ; the good boy attitude 4. Authority and social- order maintaining orientation – Law and order morality

32 Lawrence Kohlberg – Development of Conscience Level 3 – (Post-Conventional) 5. Social contract orientation 6. Universal ethical principles

33 Erich Fromm (1900 – 1980) Authoritarian Conscience We are all influenced by external authorities. – Religion or Government. Individuals internalise these rules. – Conscience is subjective. Guilty Conscience = displeasing the authority. – If the authority is God?

34 Erich Fromm (1900 – 1980) Authoritarian Conscience Disobedience  Guilt Guilt  Weakens Power Weakness  Submission to authority Consider the Nazi Government’s manipulation of the Germans. – Fromm escaped from Nazi Germany.

35 Erich Fromm (1900 – 1980) The Humanistic Conscience We assess and evaluate our own behaviour. Our conscience judges how successful we are as people and leads us to realise our potential.


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