Digest of terms

conscience

the centre point of individual awareness of right or wrong, which may provide signals regarding what to do or not to do ("My conscience tells me I shouldn't do this"), or indicate regret at what has been done ("I feel bad about that"). Critics suggest that it is so variable from one culture to another, and between one individual and another, that it is unhelpful to rely on it in any way. Moreover, it seems highly plausible to psychologise it away, as little more than 'the introjection of parental inhibitions'.

Remarkably, in spite of academic reservations as to its worth, conscience remains a key term in law internationally, as in general talk of individual 'moral responsibility'. Its recognition goes back over millennia. For instance, in the Jewish and Christian traditions, dating back to Jeremiah (31:31) in the Hebrew Bible and Paul (Romans 2:14) in the New Testament, conscience is the gateway to moral and religious awareness. Similarly, in Confucian tradition, 'searching in oneself', with its access to highest moral experience, is fundamental for humanity. Demonstrably there is an historical link between the contemporary notion of conscience and older understandings of wirsdom. Today freedom of conscience is identified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as warranting protection in every country and culture, and education of conscience by implication deserves to be a fundamental priority.

See Concept Scenarios

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