Should the conscience always be obeyed?
Asses the view that the conscience should always be obeyed. (35 marks) Conscience is a moral sense of right and wrong, especially felt by a person which will affect their behavior due to an inner feeling of the ‘correct’ approach to take in a given situation. The majority of people tend to agree with the belief that there is such thing as conscience. In this essay I will be assessing whether the conscience should always be obeyed. Philosophers have made theories giving reasons why we should or should not always follow our conscience. They are divided into groups, religious and secular.
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Religious philosophers are Aquinas, Butler and Newman. From, Freud and Pigged take on a secular approach. Christians who believe in Joseph Butler’s philosophy would always obey their conscience because they see it as bringing true happiness about. Butler says it is a ‘gift given by God’. The fact that he has given it to us must mean it is pure and is correct and happiness from only moral things can only come about by using the conscience (so this will always exclude actions such as rape for pleasure). Therefore following it would be the correct moral thing to do.
Butler says us as humans are driven by two tendencies self-love and benevolence. On top of these tendencies is where conscience is positioned. Therefore whatever action the conscience brings us to, using Butler’s theory it will bring you towards a loving action either for others or towards yourself. Either way happiness will be brought in some form by following the conscience; by the positive consequences of the action or even Just knowing that you have followed God. This will make the world a better happier and easier place to live in because we would know exactly what God wants s to do minimizing dilemmas.
Though it can be argued that people following their conscience in the past has not brought happiness, but the opposite. The actions that some people make can sometimes be seen to have no traces to love as the actions are heartless. Therefore people criticized Butler and say not all actions made by the conscience are fuelled by his two tendencies and for this reason they do not believe it should always be obeyed. Some Christians would always obey their conscience because they believe that it’s important because it is the Voice of God’ that tells them hat to do.
Some people have described their vision of the conscience as having an angel over their shoulder telling them what to do Just before they are going to make an action that will lead to a consequence. They believe that this figure of an angel is God. Augustine is a philosopher who agrees that the conscience is God speaking to an individual in solitary moments. He says it originates from the outflow of divine love which God pours out to everyone. The revealing of God’s love through the gift of conscience shows us as humans how inadequate we are because his love is so perfect.
For this reason it is important for Christians who follow Augustine philosophies to always obey their conscience because ignoring the voice of God would reject Gods love that he gives us individually. This wouldn’t make sense to disobey because the whole point of being a Christian is to receive God’s love. This means they would be disobeying God which is shown in the gospel as having consequences such as going hell which should be a Christian’s worst nightmare. Christian and bring you closer to heaven (the Christian goal). However, there are serious faults with this philosophy.
Putting this superiority on conscious can allow people to ‘get away with murder’. People can commit unethical immoral acts and say God told them to do it through their conscience. As there is no evidence to show if it was really God one would argue and say you should not always obey your conscience, especially if it is guiding you to towards immoral actions. Augustine philosophy can be criticized using this point because if it is God’s voice that tells someone to act sinfully then it can’t possibly be ‘an outflow of his divine love’ that he’s trying to show.
Another reason why people should always obey their conscience is because it uses the right reason which brings a person to perform a ‘real good’ that fits the human ideal when acting in decision making in ethical dilemmas. The religious philosopher who believes this is Aquinas. He believes that we are innately able to distinguish right from wrong, this is known as synergies. This is exercised when we use our conscientious. His considers rule states that people naturally tended towards good and away from evil.
He understands that people don’t always do right but he believes hey didn’t deliberately act in such in a way, instead he believed it came from arrogance. Instead they preformed an apparent good. People that follow Aquinas theories would argue that the conscience should always be obeyed because it is a natural guide to take in decision making because of the sender’s rule which allows one to apply the general moral principles they hold into practice, thus allowing one and others around them what kind of person they truly are because using their conscience will be natural and shows how they genuinely act, creating a honest society of people.
However, there are weaknesses in Aquinas’ approach. The fact that your conscience can be lead astray if you pursue an apparent good hampers the weight Aquinas puts that reason is given by God. If God gave you reason why it can go wrong? Another philosopher who believes that conscience is innate is Newman. People who follow his philosophy believe conscience should always be obeyed because it is a sense of personal responsibility one has to God to use it. Newman describes it as a way in which humans and God work together, conscience is God’s messenger showing right from wrong.
This philosophy would say to always go with our conscience because it is the voice of God informing you of actions in which to take which must be for a good cause. For example Newman says ‘l toast to the Pope, but I toast to the conscience first’. This means he agrees with whatever the pope says as the head of the church but believes if God speaks to him through his conscience he will have to freely go against the pope because God has brought him to act in such a way which must be in the benefit of mankind. However, Newman can be criticized because he says conscience is innate.
At the same time everyone has several views to what is right and wrong in the same situation. Surely if it was innate we would all have similar views. Therefore people believe that conscience is Just an idea in the brain that has been developed over time and can therefore be unreliable and should not always be obeyed. Newman would argue against people criticizing him by saying views will only not be the same if one has not been correctly educated in moral church teachings. On the opposing side of the argument, people will argue and say that the conscience should not always be obeyed.
Secular ideas on the the quality of the factors should give weight to find out whether conscience should e obeyed. Pigged believes there are who types of conscience a human has in their life time. The first is heterogamous morality. This is developed until the age often where parent’s morality is copied by the child through observance and rules. During this strange in the conscience I do not believe it should always be obeyed because it depends on whether the parents actions are moral enough for them to be shared on to the child. E. G. Physically abusive couple will give their child the conscience that it is condonable to fight in an argument. As we know this is not the correct thing to do Hereford following the Hieronymus morality should not be obeyed. Though in most cases parents try to show a good example, in this case the Juveniles conscience should be followed. The second conscience Pigged believes in is autonomous. This comes after the age often when the child is mature enough to decide what is morally correct. Implanting self discipline instead of external discipline.
This is a more reliable conscience to obey, but at the same time depending on the type of understanding the child has as what is correct can effect whether it is morally correct and should be obeyed. It is argued that Piglets argument on conscience is weak and simplistic as it relies heavily on the study of children. It does not go into what could happen when the child becomes an adult therefore follows of his philosophy may become stuck whether to always obey their conscience as they become older as he doesn’t give it any importance.
Finally, some say that conscience should not always be obeyed because it is influenced heavily be society, which we have seen in history to sometimes be corrupt, therefore the actions of the conscience will follow. From is a philosopher who agrees with this view. He says that those who assert authority over us give the illusion of punishment or reward and over time they have become internalized into ones personal understanding of morality. He believed displeasing those in authority makes us fear rejection known as authoritarian conscience.
A good conscience provides security and well being as well as structure between society and the individual. For conscience to be always obeyed with good authoritarian conscience there must be a moral society in place. However, if society is corrupt a negative authoritarian conscience will mean that the conscience should not be obeyed. An example of this is WWW Nazi Germany whereby the government made German soldiers feel guilty if they chose not to kill Jews because they believed what they were doing was the right thing.
In this situation the conscience a bad society should not be obeyed. If each society was corrupt and every person had a negative authoritarian conscience the world would be in complete chaos. Therefore the conscience should not always be obeyed if it is going to be heavily reliant on society for decision making. One must remain a somewhat individual thinker within society. In conclusion, I believe conscience should always be obeyed because it