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To what extent is conscience fixed?

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Introduction

To what extent is conscience fixed? Phrases such as "Follow your conscience" and "Do what your conscience tells you" suggest that one's conscience is a fixed sort of thing, an unchanging absolute. Indeed, it often sounds like one's conscience is innate, something we're born with. And something quite separate from us, a sort of 'inner voice' (the voice of God?). Chomsky may have proven that there are innate structures of language in the human brain, but to date, no one has proven there are, in the human brain, innate moral principles. The dictionary definition of conscience is that, it is a moral sense of right and wrong, especially as felt by a person and affecting behaviour an inner feeling as to the goodness or otherwise of one's behaviour . The idea of conscience given to us by God is a belief, which is adhered too by many and has helped develop ideas on the formation and fixation of conscience. ...read more.

Middle

Within both religious and secular beliefs that conscience changes and develops there is a prominence of free will, this is key in the proposal of conscience because without conscience, to deceiver from right and wrong, there can be no moral blame. Many theories go against this idea such as hard determinism as it states all human choices have a cause, which precedes it. Within this theory humans are seen as less free and more like machines, they are governed by environmental and genetic factors, just like it is believed conscience is. Libertarianism however states that if we are to retain moral responsibility, we must reject determinism and accept that a person can, when confronted with the choice between right and wrong. Within this theory of libertarianism, conscience linked to free will is split between personality which is an empirical concept, capable of scientific and personality which is formed by heredity and environmental factors, however it is possible for the moral self will counteract it and cause the person to do something else. ...read more.

Conclusion

If crimes are justified in the name of compassion, they therefore have also been justified in the name of conscience. The intuitive judgement of conscience may vary from person to person. Their judgements take into account desires and principles, but when these do not result in one single decision conscience plays its part. Butler states nevertheless that conscience is not a divine voice within the human heart, although he does believe that it is made in the divine image of God. Nor does he believe that conscience is a separate existence or identity. It has been suggested that Butlers thinking may be misleading as conscience stands for something in us which is the very essence of our humanity, it is considered dangerous however to place complete belief in the conscience as essence to humanity. Supporters of Butler's ideas suggest that by placing influence on the conscience as the essence of humanity he wishes to deepen and extend our understanding of what it is to be a human being. Gavin Huggett ...read more.

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