Assess the view that conscince should always be obeyed – (35 marks) Conscience is differently defined by people, some think its an inner feeling that speaks to person when carrying out a type of actions whilst others might define conscience as a guilt feeling that occurs within a person when performing wrong actions. However, conscience is defined as a moral sense of right and wrong felt by a person through an inner feeling. In my opinion conscience should always be obeyed because I believe everyone is born with a moral sense of right and wrong, in other words conscience, which is God-given. That conscience enables people to assess whether the actions they are performing are right or wrong. This will help an individual be a good person therefore conscience should always be obeyed. However, there would be many different approaches to this statement, as some Philosophers would agree with the statement and some may not. In this essay I’m going to asses the view that conscience should always be obeyed. The first perspective I’m going to bring forward is from Fromm who believed the moral centre came from those we were surrounded with and also from people that exert their authority over someone e.g parents, teachers etc.
He believed that the authority that would be exerted over someone would involve some kind of reward and punishment which overtime would become central to our understanding to morality. He said that if a guilty conscience occurred it would be a result of not obeying or displeasing those people who are in authority and if a good feeling of conscience occurred (such as a sense of security and well being) meant that the person is obeying those people in authority and therefore to live in a moral structuralist society which is beneficial for both the individual and the society as a whole. “Good conscience is consciousness of pleasing authority, guilty conscience is consciousness of displeasing it” (Eric Fromm 1947:109) An example to that would be when the German people felt a sense a guilt conscience when they disobeyed their Government which weakened their peoples power, thus made them obedient to the demands of the Nazi Party.
Moreover, the government manipulated their weakened conscience to make them feel guilty about helping or supporting the Jews during the 1930s. This is Fromms first perspective of conscience which is known as the Authoritarian Conscience and the second perspective of Conscience he put forward was the Humanistic Conscience. Fromm believed that the conscience allows individual to assess how moral one is by evaluations ones behavior, and this is done by how an individual observes other peoples behavior who in his eyes are ideal people and then develops themselves in order to become a moral person. “Our own voice, present in every human being, and independent of external sanctions and rewards” (Eric Fromm 1947:118) An example to that perspective would be during the stages of a child growing up, the child looks up to his parents as he would see them as his role models and would look at how they behave and what they do and try doing the same in order to be ideal and also moral. Overall, Fromm would agree that conscience should always be obeyed as it is the conscience that helps you understand what is right and wrong by just receiving an inner feeling of either guilt conscience or right conscience. Conscience plays a very crucial role in helping an individual perform the right acts and become moral and prevent being bad by receiving a guilt conscience. However, Fromm’s Humanistic Conscience perspective can be criticized as Fromm’s humanistic conscience is too idealistic. In today’s world not many people have the time to sit down and asses their success as a human being using their conscience. Moreover, not many people in this worlds society look up people behaviors and try using their examples and applying on them, therefore the approach is too idealistic.
However, the Authority Conscience is more realistic as we do get many people obeying those in authority such as the kid obeying the parent and when he does he feels a sense of relief and security and if he doesn’t and rebels from it he will feel a sense of guilt sense later. Another Psychologist Joseph Butler had a quite different approach about conscience then what Fromm had. Butler believed that humans share a human nature and that the morality came from following that human nature. He also believed that us humans were influenced by two different things one being Self-love (the desire of happiness and an interest to only our well being) and second one being Benevolence (seeking for happiness and well being of others). Butler believed that conscience is God given and therefore must always be obeyed, and that we should more focus on the principle of Benevolence then Self-love in order to achieve morality. Therefore Butler would say that Conscience should always be obeyed as conscience is God-given and anything given from God should not be ignored. God is helping us to be good and moral people therefore he provided us with a thing called ‘conscience’ and we should make good use out of it.
However, one of the main criticisms of Butlers approach would be that his theory is a valid moral argument for believers it can also be argued that it raises severe problems for God especially in respect of evil as some people do the vilest things in the name of conscience but on the other hand Some Christians will agree with Butlers ideas about the conscience, as it is a valid moral argument, for the existing believers, as a rational evidence to support the idea that God exists (or the belief of God). In conclusion, I would also say that conscience should always be obeyed as I also believe that conscience is God-given which helps people distinguish between right and wrong, however everyone holds different opinions some may agree and some may disagree. Believers like Christians would believe that something like Conscience is God-given therefore should always be obeyed and Non-believers such as Atheists may argue as they would claim that the conscience is important to them with no need of a supernatural element (e.g God)in their decision making.