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Assess the view that conscience is given to us by God.

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Introduction

Lila Muneer Assess the view that conscience is given to us by God. The conscience is usually seen as a device for moral decision making, it gives us a feeling or sense of morally right or wrong actions. So where does the conscience come from? Thinkers such as Newman and Aquinas argue that the conscience is God given. However there is a strong case against this put forward by Piaget and Kohlberg. Newman believed conscience was the voice of God. He said the conscience should be as equally acknowledged as memory, reason and imagination as a part of our psychology. He claimed that the conscience is an indisputable fact of our psychology. For Newman the conscience is a device for governing our moral choices, he states that without conscience there could not be morality (precondition) and that conscience converts our moral feelings into moral rules, it is authoritative. This is proven by the fact that we feel guilt or shame when we ignore our conscience, we would not have these feelings if conscience did not have authority. As a result of this we are duty bound to obey our conscience. ...read more.

Middle

It makes no sense to say that our conscience can be wrong but we should follow it regardless of this fact. Perhaps the fact that we can make wrong decisions enables us to grow and develop our conscience further? The idea of real and apparent good seems rather na�ve. If no one ever knowingly does wrong why does there seem to be countless cases where people knowingly do wrong? For instance Hitler's mass genocide of the Jewish during the Second World War, despite knowing murder is wrong he ordered the deaths of millions. Looking at the flaws it seems that the views of Aquinas fall short. Unlike Aquinas and Newman, Piaget and Kohlberg argue that the conscience is not God given. They argue that conscience is a natural progression of our moral compass over time. Piaget's work involved playing marbles with boys of different ages and questioning them on the rules. He found that boys he worked with aged 5-10 thought that the rules of the game of marbles came from a 'semi-mystical' authority, such as older children or even God. These rules have always existed and can't be changed. ...read more.

Conclusion

Just as children learn to use the laws of grammar practically before they come to look at grammatical theory, children also learn to use the laws of morality before they acquire the skills to reflect upon the theory. The issue with Kohlberg is although he believed in the progression of conscience up to stage six he couldn't get enough people to define it, this begs the question of does stage six actually exist? The flaws of this theory are limited and do not seem to render this theory as invalid. In conclusion Newman's theory never recovers from the fact that conscience should be universal if it is in fact the voice of God. Aquinas' theory never recovers from the fact that idea of real and apparent goods is na�ve, people do knowingly do evil and the idea that we should follow our conscience despite it potentially leading us to do wrong still seems absurd. The idea that our conscience develops over time as put forward by Piaget and Kohlberg seems far more logical and coherent. The views of Newman and Aquinas on conscience seem to fall short as conscience can be better explained by Piaget and Kohlberg without the use of God. ...read more.

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