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Discuss critically the belief that conscience is the voice of G-d.

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Introduction

Talia Hershkorn Discuss critically the belief that conscience is the voice of G-d There are several definitions of the word conscience, one's conscience can either be understood as their ability to judge morally their own actions or the awareness one has that an action is morally forbidden. There are also four possible alternatives to the nature of conscience. The belief that it is naturally within us as a gift from g-d, it comes as a product of rational thought, it comes from an external authority or it is a psychological function. There are two theologians John Henry Newman and Joseph Butler who in particular hold the view that conscience is implanted in people by G-d. Newman's reasons for this belief are based on the fact that we feel ashamed or guilty if we do something wrong meaning that we have a sense that we are before someone-G-d. For Newman, then, conscience points to the existence of G-d as we instinctively are aware of being before a moral power. ...read more.

Middle

This clearly undermines any connection to G-d. This view is useful in allowing us to fit into society, if conscience is the belief of G-d it means it is set up by an external authority and therefore not adaptable to change. Erich Fromm a psychoanalyst distinguishes between authoritarian and humanistic conscience. The powerful influence of outside authority becomes internalized. So authoritarian conscience is a way of controlling how we behave and ensuring we do what suits these authorities. The humanistic conscience is the real conscience within us, a self awareness at how well we are doing in the 'art of living' and calls us to realize our full potential as human beings. Jean Piaget, a child psychologist identified three stages in the development of a child's conscience. The first is egocentrism, where the child pursues his wants and desires with no regard at all to those around him. The second is heteronomy, where this self-centredness changes into a rule governed mentality. ...read more.

Conclusion

A further weakness is that the theory does not describe a course of action when facing the dilemma regarding a conflict of solutions between G-d and the state. Butler's theory is also flawed in that it excludes the influence of society as well as there being no specific way for one to know exactly what G-d wants them to do. These weaknesses contrast to some of the strengths of other views based on alternative natures of conscience. Aquinas's theory involves rational thinking which enables one to decide for themselves what is right and wrong, as well as explaining why people do wrong through logical reasoning known as synderesis rule. Freud allows one to let go of guilt and acknowledges social influence. Lastly Fromm explains the distinction between authoritarian and humanistic conscience therefore we can explicitly see where we get our right and wrong from, as well as giving people the chance to be individualistic and have influence and input in the path they choose to follow. These theories therefore prove to be rational views with logical explanations which some may feel overcome the weaknesses of those who portray the conscience as direction implanted by G-d. 1 ...read more.

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