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Flashcards in Conscience Deck (177)
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What is conscience?

Our sense of moral right and wrong


What are the four main questions about conscience?

- What is conscience?
-Where does conscience come from?
- Is conscience innate or acquired?
- What is its function in ethical decision-making?


What quote did Mark Twain write about conscience?

"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"


What is the problem with conscience?

It lacks consistency whether between people in general, or in any particular person. If conscience is so changeable, how can it be a reliable guide?


What does Biblical teaching say about conscience?

It is assumed by some biblical writers and early Christian teachers that our conscience is God-given. Traditional Christian teaching is based on this-everyone knows what is right and wrong as God has given us this ability. It is also implied that by following their conscience, everyone can follow the divine law.


What quote does St Paul use in his letter to the Romans about conscience?

"They show that what the law required is written on their hearts."


What did Thomas Aquinas believe conscience was?

He saw conscience as the natural ability of people to understand the difference between right and wrong. It is reasoning used correctly to find out what God sees is good.


What does Aquinas think people innately do?

He believed that all people aim for what is good and try to avoid the bad. It is innate to seek the good, and sin is merely falling short of God's ideals, when people seek apparent goods, which are actually bad because they are not using their powers of reason properly.


What quote does Aquinas use to explain conscience?

He argued that conscience "was the mind of man making moral judgements."


What two essential parts does conscience contain according to Aquina?

Syderesis and conscientia


What is synderesis?

The repeated us of what Aquinas termed 'right' reason, by which a person acquired knowledge of basic moral principles and understands that it is important to do good and avoid evil.


What is conscientia?

The actual ethical judgement or decision a person makes which leads to a particular course of actions based upon these principles


What does Aquinas mean when he says it is always right to follow your conscience?

That it is always right to apply your moral principles to each situation as best as you can. He does not mean that if you follow your conscience you are always right- as if your principles are wrong, your conscience will be wrong too.


What is the problem with Aquinas' approach?

The fact that he fails to take into account direct revelation from God.


What did Joseph Butler say distinguished people from animals?

He wrote that the most crucial thing which distinguished women and men from the animal world was the possession of the faculty of reflection of conscience.


What quote did Joseph Butler use to describe the principle of reflection?

"There is a principle of reflection in men by which they distinguish between approval and disapproval of their own actions...this principle in conscience."


What did Butler agree with Aquinas about the conscience?

Like Aquinas, Butler believed conscience could determine and judge the rightness or wrongness of different actions and thoughts.


Why did Butler believe that conscience held a powerful position within human decision-making?

Because it "magisterially exerts itself" spontaneously "without being consulted."


How important was conscience to Butler?

He saw that it was something authoritative and automatic, and he gave conscience the final say in moral decision-making, as the final moral authority.


What quote did Butler use to describe the authority of conscience?

"Had it strength, as it has right; had it power as it has manifest authority, it would absolutely govern the world."


How did Butler see human nature?

As hierarchical and at its top was conscience.


How does Butler define self-love?

Butler thought of this as wanting the well-being or self or enlightened self-interest, not selfishness.


How does Butler define benevolence?

Butler saw this as wanting the well-being of others.


What is the hierarchy of human nature according to Butler?

-At the bottom are basic drives, such as the drive for food, which influence us without any thought for the consequences.
- Above this are two general impulses: self-love and benevolence
-Higher than this is the principle of reflection, linked closely to the conscience and it is that which makes us approve of disapprove of our actions.


Where did Butler view the principle of reflection/ conscience as coming from?

He saw it as being given to us by God. He believed conscience was a person's God given guide to right conduct and its demands must therefore always be followed if someone is to be truly happy.


Why does Butler argue we need our conscience/ principle of reflection?

We have to use it to lead a proper, happy life.


What is Butler's view on what conscience is based on?

He does not try to analyse whether conscience is based on reason or feeling or both: he just says that it obviously exists; it comes from God and must be obeyed if a person is to be truly happy.


How did Butler view mistakes made by conscience?

He did not see mistakes made by conscience as a serious problem, as he believed that in any moral dilemma most people will see intuitively what is the right thing to do.


What does Butler consider wicked?

He considers it wicked to 'blind' one's conscience to clear the way for a wrong action. People can easily convince themselves that all sorts of wrong actions are right and, for Butler, this corruption of conscience by self-deception is worse than the evil action which results from it.


What does Butler think conscience will lead people to do?

He thinks that conscience will tell you to watch out for the interest of others as far as possible.