• Created by: Megan
  • Created on: 09-09-14 15:18

What is conscience?

  • Conscience is an internal moral guide
  • Conscience is how we act in accordance with our principle and beliefs
  • In religion it is a good tool for working out what is right and wrong (God's Will)
  • It is a central feature of human dignity
  • The erosion of conscience makes people less human
  • Psychological accounts of conscience may suggest that it limits/restricts free will
  • There may be times when it could be argued that an individual conscience should heed to the will of the majority or the state, but this gives no value to the individual
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Christianity and Conscience

Religion and conscience have often been associated with each other but often not explicit in scriptures.

Christianity -

  • OLD TESTAMENT - Gen39v8 - When joseph was tempted by potiphar's wife he resisted when conscience appeared as the face of his father
  • Sam 24v10 - Sinners felt a profound sense of sin in the heart . (The heart is an indicator of conscience)
  • NEW TESTAMENT - St.Paul mentions conscience he says it is an awareness of what is good and bad and that it can be weak and mistaken.
  • St.Jerome - Saw conscience as the power to distinguish good from evil.
  • St. Augustine - said conscience is a tool for observing the law of God within human hearts. God gives us conscience to determine his law. It is the voice of God.
  • Aquinas - Conscience is a system by which we make moral decisions and distinguish between right and wrong. He believed people generally tended towards good and away from evil. But working out what is good and evil is the main problem. He thought if people did evil it was because they had made a mistake
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Christianity (BUTLER) and Conscience

BUTLER was an anglican preist and theologian.

  • He saw conscience as the final moral decision maker
  • "There is a principle of reflection in men by which they distinguish between approval and disapproval of their own actions...this principle in conscience"
  • Butler believed that humans were influenced by two basic principles, Self love and Benevolence (Love of others).
  • Like Aquinas Butler held that conscience could determine and judge rightness and wrongness of actions
  • He thought that conscience gave us instant intuitive judgements about what we should do.
  • Conscience is a guide that God has given us in our human nature, you must obet it.
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Islam, Judahism and Conscience


  • Rabbinic literature discusses the existance of both good and evil intentions


  • The muslim concept of revelation is central for understanding the role of conscience.
  • Islam means surrendering to the will of Allah, so any idea an individual internal moral authority is alien to islam.
  • If there was a conscience it could not be relied upon
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Conscience as a moral guide

ST.PAUL -  believed conscience was within the centre of our soul. "They can demonstrate the effects of the law engraved on their hearts, to which their own concience bears witness"

ST.JEROME - Thought it the capacity to make judgements. It is a deep sense of right and wrong from God.

THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH- adopted aquinas' view that the conscience could never motivate you to do something that goes against what is morally right. Aquinas believed consciences had to be informed as ignorance can lead conscience astray.

CATHOLIC CARDINAL JOHN HENRY NEWMAN - Took an intuitive view of conscience. He believed that to follow conscience is to follow a divine law as it is a messenger from God.

DIGNITAS HUMANE, THE DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY(1965)- "all are bound to follow their conscience... so that they may come to God"

Today Catholics are advised to inform their conscience before acting on them. There is a disagreement about what people should do when their conscience goes against established teachings.

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Conscience preventing Free Will

SIGMUND FREUD (1856-1939)-

  • Believed that at its most fundamental the human psyche was inspired by powerful instinctive desires that had to be satisfied.
  • Humans create the EGO - which takes account of the realitiesof the world and society.
  • Humans also create the SUPEREGO- which internalises and reflects anger and dissaproval of others.
  • A guilty conscience is then created. Conscience can them become a force to curtail our behaviour and limit our freedom.

Other psychologists-

  • Distinguish between the mature conscience and immature conscience.
  • The mature conscience is concerned with what is right and wrong, developing insights into situations, it is focused on the future.
  • The immature conscience can be identified with a mass of feelings of guilt what have been put there at an early pre-rational stage by parents.
  • These to consciences may conflict.
  • The psychological account of conscience points to the possibility that we are restricted in our actions because of conscience or guilt
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