Assess The View That Conscience Need Not Always Be Obeyed (35 Marks)

1021 words - 5 pages

Assess the view that conscience need not always be obeyed (35 Marks)
Conscience, an individuals’ moral sense of right or wrong, is the driving force behind many of our actions and decision making in life. A number of people, the most prominent being the German neurologist Sigmund Freud, believe that the shaping and subsequent implementation of the human conscience is brought about as a direct result of environmental factors, in other words, that conscience is formed through conditioning of the mind. On the other hand, the opposing view held with regards to conscience is that it is innate part of us, borne into existence from the moment we are born. This stance is most often upheld by ...view middle of the document...

With respect to the viewpoint that conscience ‘need not always be obeyed’, Freud’s approach to conscience would suggest that to adhere to our personal sense of morality is merely acting in such a manner that the approval of others is gained or that the disapproval of others may be avoided. As a consequence, obeying ones conscience need not be the correct thing to do in all situations, supporting the above viewpoint.
From a Christian viewpoint, a prominent idea regarding conscience is that it is innate, implanted within us by God so that we may make decisions instantly in accordance with intuition in such a manner that we act for the happiness of others. This theory of conscience was developed by Joseph Butler, Anglican Bishop. According to Butler, our consciences define the inherent goodness of an action and due to the belief that God is responsible for placing it within us, it must be duly obeyed to the fullest of extents. Despite this, there is clearly a shortcoming to this view of conscience as there are clear instances in which human beings have acted in a way contrary to the Christian beliefs of both self-love and love for one another. This would seem to suggest that the conscience may differ from person to person, and as a consequence, individuals can consider it acceptable to act in a way that they deem is moral when others around them may view their judgement or decision as reprehensible. Such an inconsistency may well lead people into considering, if God is truly responsible for providing it, whether conscience is rightly linked to morality, and furthermore, can God’s judgment clearly be so skewed in certain instances. Thus, it is questionable whether it is always required for conscience to be obeyed when it can allow for the most heinous and abhorrent of acts to take place.
Taking into consideration the misgivings of Butler’s idea of conscience and how it seemingly allows for people to behave immorally and use the perceived divine nature of conscience as justification, the Catholic...

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