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) What are the central distinctions between psychological and theological accounts of the nature and role of conscience?

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Introduction

(A) What are the central distinctions between psychological and theological accounts of the nature and role of conscience? The biggest of distinctions that obviously accounts for all the rest, is that theological accounts of conscience rely on the existence of God, whereas psychological ones do not. However, this is not to say that there are two simple ideas about conscience. The terms 'psychological' and 'theological' are very broad in terms of conscience, and although thinkers within each grouping have some basic similarities there are many different ideas within both groups. For example, Aquinas and Augustine both believe that conscience is from, or at least related to, God, yet whereas Augustine believes it be the voice of God within us, Aquinas sees it merely as a faculty of reason that helps us to do good and avoid evil (the synderesis principle). This leads onto the disagreement over whether we intuitively know what is right and wrong and are always right (as Augustine argues) or whether we have to work out what is right and wrong and can often be mistaken due to following 'apparent' rather than 'real' goods (as Aquinas argues). Joseph Butler had different ideas to both Aquinas and Augustine, seeing conscience as 'the final decision maker'. ...read more.

Middle

However, though our archetype of God may give us guidance on how to behave and how not to behave, it doesn't necessarily mean that this guidance actually comes from God Himself. Jung stated that the 'archetypes' we tune into are in fact series' of basal predispositions buried deep within our subconscious minds. This amplifies the fact that differences between both ways of thinking are not as clear cut as they initially seem. However, a general rule is that all psychological accounts of the conscience state that it comes from within, whilst all theological accounts essentially state that it comes from without, or something from without at least plays a major part in it being there. (B) Of the psychological and theological accounts you have studied, which do you find most persuasive and why? Personally, I find the most convincing account of the conscience (of all those we have studied) to be that of Fromm's, as it' the one that I see as being most applicable to my life. Having been a church goer for a lot of my life, I know from experience that when one feels that they have pleased an authority that they have had since youth, they are left with a good conscience, in a very similar manner to that of a child given a gold star by a teacher at primary school. ...read more.

Conclusion

is never included in any accounts. Even Jung who states that its not psychology's place to prove or disprove God (which I agree with) and that religion/God-given morals can be a good thing, states that people tuning into God, are just connecting to some part of their collective unconscious. Freud also made his feelings about religion very clear. Regardless of whether Fromm was a staunch un-believer in God, via his authoritarian conscience, he has simple described many of the facets of the biblical God. God is a vengeful God and when he is displeased people will feel guilty, yet the fact that Christianity is built on forgiveness means that this guilt is increased many times over. Perhaps punishment would make people less submissive, as it would give something for people to focus their hate and anger on. If people truly believe that God is the way to Heaven and eternal happiness then fear of rejection will be inevitable. And though the humanistic conscience may be 'healthier' for Fromm, it merely helps us to achieve our own aims, not those of God, and so is essentially selfish and wrong. Therefore, Fromm's biggest strength is that he manages to describe religion through psychology without critiquing it to a major extent, almost managing to build a bridge between the two schools of though on what the conscience is, why it's there, and how it works. ...read more.

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