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Assess the view that conscience is not the voice of God, but is learned?

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Introduction

Assess the view that conscience is not the voice of God, but is learned? The conscience is understood by many as being an inner voice which gives us guidance, the conscience is also believed to be linked to morals and our moral behaviour. People also believe that the conscience helps us to become better people, that it has the ability to help us turn our lives around. This however leads others to believe that not everyone has a conscience, criminals and murderers such as Ian Huntley for example are believed not to be in possession of a conscience. Aquinas saw the conscience as being a natural ability to understand the difference between right and wrong and argued that it 'was the mind of man making moral judgement'. Where certain philosophers and theologians differ is on the belief that the conscience is either a gift or in some cases the voice of God. The Christian teaching of the conscience is that it is God given, we see this in Paul's letter to the Romans 'who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are law to themselves. ...read more.

Middle

Freud was a 19th century psychologist who did not believe in religion at all and claimed that it was in fact just an illusion; a conclusion he came to after working for a long time with many people who had suffered mental breakdowns, and realised that the one thing they all clung onto was religion. For Freud the conscience is just a part of the human mind, that like a person it is built and shaped by experience, this in a way can be linked to social conditioning. He believed that a person's conscience is linked to their upbringing, this then means that it is directly determined by the way in which you are brought up or conditioned as a child, for example your education growing up, the way your parents teach you between right and wrong; a child with two criminal parents for example would grow up believing that stealing is morally okay and his conscience would inflict no feeling of guilt or sense of wrong doing. Freud like Butler did also divide the person into three sections. The first of these three sections is the superego, it is this part of the person that contains the conscience, it helps you to understand things; knowing the difference between right and wrong. ...read more.

Conclusion

The move towards autonomous morality takes place when children are less dependent on other for moral authority. Lawrence Kohlberg followed Piaget and identified six stages of moral development which should be followed in sequence. Firstly people move from behaving in socially acceptable ways because they are told to, to caring for others, to keeping the law, to caring for others, and finally respecting universal principles and the demands of individual conscience. Kohlberg did however believe that most adults never got past the keeping the law stage. In conclusion, it appears the majority of philosophers believe that the conscience is in fact the voice of God; there are those however who believe otherwise, they believe that the conscience is in fact a result of other factors such as social upbringing. They believe that it is not the voice of God that guides us to make moral decisions, but it is the way in which we have been taught to see the difference between right and wrong according to what we have been taught. It could however be said, that if the conscience is something that is in fact out of our control, it cannot be attributed to social conditioning but it is actually given to us from a higher authority. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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