Types and functions of conscience
There is a misconception that conscience is given to man as something eternal and unchanging, remaining the same for all and everyone. Meanwhile, as we have already said, only people who have sufficient independence and freely determine the scope of their moral competence and duty are able to give an objective assessment of their intentions and actions. More importantly, the conscience and depth of its moral manifestation can change many times even during the life of one person. In addition, the conscience itself in the process of its development takes various forms that have a certain specificity.
The key issue facing ethics is the ratio of clean and sick conscience. The starting point of the discussion here is the well-known statement by A. Schweitzer: "We must never become deaf. We will live in harmony with the truth, if we feel more deeply the conflicts. A pure conscience is an invention of the devil . The provision of a clean conscience over the years has become a textbook, often cited. However, we did not accidentally bring the whole paragraph containing the thought of the great humanist: taken out of context, it loses some of its semantic load.
In fact, is it possible to characterize a pure conscience as an invention of the devil? And what does it mean for a person? If we turn to the history of ethical thought, it is found that the representatives of Stoicism paid the most attention to this problem. In their understanding, conscience is a kind of receptacle (often in the same sense they talked about the soul), where God, and as he grows up, is already a man himself, lays the qualities called to promote the virtue of life and individual actions of people. However, since the transfer of the right to determine one's moral choice to the competence of a person, the problem of the purity of conscience arises. So, if some people voluntarily follow the idea of moral good, others can equally sin against it (Figure 4.1). It would be naive to believe that in the latter case the conscience of a person will not suffer, its quality will not change.
Fig. 4.1. Treating conscience in stoicism
The Stoics placed their pure conscience incomparably higher than all other values, no matter how attractive they were. "A clean conscience - is it not much better than wealth?" Exclaims Epictetus. The first is given to us from above, got almost free, and therefore not always we are able to present the price of its possible loss; the second relatively and accidentally, it can in some cases be easily purchased, but also easy to lose. By the loss of the soul, conscience, you can find apparent independence from morality, reaching both wealth and power and glory. However, it is also true that it is impossible to reverse the exchange of wealth to virtue. Therefore, for example, Seneca, answering the question about ways to achieve the good, says that "he is given a clear conscience, honest intentions, right deeds, contempt for the accidental" . As we see, a clear conscience is associated here with a conscious choice in favor of good, good, following the elementary requirements of humanity.
Loss of conscience can occur in various forms, which is determined by specific causes that cause changes in the moral microcosm of the individual. Thus, Epictetus distinguishes between offenses against conscience, if a person is mistaken, "sincerely accepts a lie for truths", and those cases when people "do not purposely accept truths ... not because they can not understand it, but because it denounces their evil deeds, takes from them the justification of their vices ... . It is this intention, i.е. conscious choice in favor of evil, allows us to conclude that the conscience of such people is sick. Therefore, a sick conscience is a state in which a person, aware of moral doubt or even immorality of his actions, nevertheless commits acts that contradict his own moral ideas.
One more aspect of the problem that interests us can be found in NA Berdyaev's reflections. According to the philosopher, the dignity of conscience is determined by man's freedom from the outside world: "Conscience can be crushed and closed, distorted and perverted ...". From outside, from the side of public opinion, the state, the family, the church, etc., the threat of alien authority, the imposition of incoming representations and assessments, is coming. Therefore, "ethics should disclose a clean conscience, uncomplicated by social routine, it must be criticism of a pure conscience Moral purity is the guarantee of our ability to judge ourselves by the highest measure. Hence the requirement to distance ourselves from everything external, which can adversely affect the purity of our moral choices. From the point of view of NA Berdyaev, human freedom in the first place is freedom from the external world, and already in the second - internal.
Let us return to the original thought of A. Schweitzer, with which we began our consideration of the problem. He had in mind the fact that the conscience is God's gift to the believer. Already by virtue of this, it is necessary to compare with her own thoughts, intentions, actions. It is an active offensive conscience, intolerant of any manifestations of evil. The opposite situation occurs if a person remains deaf to his inner voice. The so-called purity is ensured by the fact that the individual does not feel the slightest doubt about his own deeds, their results, the ways in which this goal is achieved, and also the morally questionable consequences that can manifest later, for example, years. The conscience of such a person either sleeps or is completely lost. Both the first and second are the steps of the same process, the result is concluded in the loss of the personality of the need for moral self-esteem. It is in this case that the statement is acceptable, according to which a pure conscience is an "invention of the devil".
There are other approaches to the typology of conscience. Thus, the modern domestic researcher of ethical problems, A. A. Schreider, identifies such forms of its manifestation as a timid, pharisaical and healthy conscience (Figure 4.2).
Fig. 4.2. Forms of conscience manifestation according to A. A. Schrader
Fearful conscience is associated with the inability of the individual to separate the important from the accidental, not of significant significance. Its presence indicates that a person is not free, he does everything with caution, adjusting any of his actions with the opinion of the commander, surrounding people, instruction, etc. The presence of a timid conscience is a sure sign of spiritual slavery, personal limitations in choosing a line of conduct. In practice, in everyday life such a person seeks to avoid any responsibility, shifting it onto the shoulders of other people. The reason for this can be rooted in both the subjective beginning (the psychological fold of the personality), and in the factor of family or religious upbringing, the immediate social environment, the prevailing type of relationship between people. The most severe consequences in the social plan result in a situation in which a person with high powers is the bearer of a fearful conscience.
The Pharisee conscience manifests itself in a display of observance of moral rules that have been consolidated in the moral code of conduct, the traditions of culture or official approval from above. The term itself, which has become a common name in due course, leads its history on behalf of the Pharisees-legalists (from the Greek pharisaioi - separated), the style and nature of which is described in the New Testament. The moral essence of this phenomenon is perfectly expressed in the words of Jesus addressed to his pursuers and opponents: "So you appear to appear righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Gospel of Matthew, 23:28). The behavior of the Pharisee can be defined as hypocritical hypocrisy. On the one hand, it is the practice of making pseudo-moral exalted meaning known to be immoral. For example, during the years of the cult of personality, general suspicion and denunciation were encouraged. On the other hand, people of this type expose themselves as champions of goodwill, demanding from others formal compliance with requirements that have already lost their moral value.
Healthy conscience belongs to a person who can correctly correlate the opinion of others around him with his own self-esteem. The meaning of conscience is not at all to completely ignore moral demands. Rather, on the contrary, conscience allows the individual to see, assimilate, rework the values of high morale that have passed the test of time. Thanks to this, the ability and need of responsible behavior is formed, based on the free choice of the individual. If someone drives away doubts, does not hear the inner voice, there is an excuse to wonder, but do I always act correctly? Conscience must be educated, guarded, so that it is always a faithful and reliable adviser. Although the characterization of different states of conscience is relatively arbitrary, it does help to better understand the mechanism of moral regulation.
The factor of conscience is based on the ratio of many parameters: individual and social, feelings and reason, external evaluation and self-esteem. There are different approaches to the question of the functions of conscience. So, this issue has traditionally been given much attention in Christian ethics. The curriculum on moral theology of the Moscow Theological Seminary distinguishes three basic functions of conscience: legislative, judicial, executive.
Legislative function (authority of conscience) is manifested in the establishment of moral moral prohibitions by the moral consciousness of the person. In everyday life, these restrictions are generally respected by people automatically, but in a crisis situation a person turns to the voice of conscience. It is her authority that lies at the basis of the well-known principle "I can not do otherwise!". Correct upbringing of conscience and, accordingly, the trust that a person feels for her is the pledge of the morality of her individual actions and the life of the individual as a whole.
The judicial function (dignity of conscience) is provided by the ability of a person to subject his actions to moral doubt, to analyze them from the point of view of conformity to the elementary principles of humanity. The immediate benefits and practical considerations for a person with moral self-consciousness turn out to be incomparably less valuable acquisitions than his principles and beliefs. Even after decades, a person can experience the strongest reproaches of conscience in what she did, or, conversely, did not do what was prescribed to her by a moral duty.
The executive function (freedom of conscience) is related to the realization of the right of every person to freely choose a particular moral values. Circumstances can in some cases contribute, in others - to prevent it, but there is no direct relationship between social conditions and internal freedom of the individual. You can be a slave by nature in the freest country and remain spiritually independent even in captivity. First of all, it is about the person's willingness to practice certain views and be guided by them; secondly, that the need for freedom must be educated, formed throughout the life course.
The individual not only establishes internal boundaries (legislative function), judges himself in case of their violation (judicial function), but in the same way acts in accordance with his principles (executive function).
It is easy to see that conscience, in the sense that it is represented in Christian ethics, exists in the unity of all three named functions, the action of each of which is impossible in isolation from others. An analogy with the three branches of state power that mutually counterbalances one can be guessed here. The ideal model of conscience works according to the same scheme.
Within the framework of the classical tradition, it is customary to distinguish two main functions inherent in conscience - preventive and retrospective.
Warning function is associated with bringing to the consciousness of the individual a signal about the moral impermissibility of certain actions. The degree of its effectiveness is determined by whether it is possible or not to block negative manifestations. In the case of a fearful conscience, one can speak of the excessive action of this function, while the conscience of the conscience can not be restrained by the violation of moral institutions. Obviously, in both cases, the main goal - the use of internal mechanisms of moral regulation can not be achieved.
The preventive function of conscience allows a person to be moral and virtuous, primarily in his own eyes, blocking undesirable manifestations. This is possible if a person has a certain foundation, founded by proper upbringing, a harmonious combination of moral feelings and beliefs. The result is that the individual has a healthy conscience.
Retrospective function (from retro - back and specio strong> - look) finds expression in pangs and remorse about the already perfect, her manifestations, as a rule, are hidden from the eyes of others. There are various estimates of the value of this function. Classical interpretation proceeds from the fact that its availability is an indicator of the moral maturity of the individual, capable of being guided by the evidence of his self-awareness.
Stoic philosophers especially warned about the danger that lies in wait for a person who is self-satisfied and not used to question his own actions: "The most disturbing thing is that we too soon start to like ourselves." In a person there should always be a healthy dissatisfaction, putting him in front of the problem: did I do what I could do? Was I right about everything? Finally, why am I doing this? These questions concern a person who is used to giving himself an account of his actions. To be honest with yourself is a significant quality of personality. Seneca says: "You will ask why you can not escape?" You can not escape from yourself! The conscience lives with memories, memories of what was done years later, even if no one suspects about it, except for the individual himself. She draws a person to his past, warning against simultaneous mistakes for the future.
It was the Stoics who brought out a well-known formula, later inherited by Christian ethics. "Do not try to judge others before you find yourself in the soul worthy to take a judicial seat," Epictet says, adding: "Shame on the judge to be judged by others." . The voice of conscience and the account that a person makes to him, create the conditions for him to be guided by morals in relation to other people. A person who has acted but conscience and is convinced of this, will be higher than rumors, casual judgments and all that is transient, which can prevent him from fulfilling his moral duty. The court of conscience is fair, since it can not only bring charges, but also justify a person in their own eyes. This is the true purpose of a healthy conscience.
A somewhat excellent approach to the treatment of the functions in question belongs to the United States philosopher and social thinker Ivan Aleksandrovich Ilyin (1883-1954). Deeply believing, he believed that thanks to the presence of conscience, a person "gains access to an area where debt is not burdensome, where discipline is composed by itself, where the instinct is reconciled with the spirit where love and religious faith live " . The philosopher decisively develops a preventive and retrospective function: the conscience has real power only when it acts as a motive for committing an ethically positive act by an individual or blocks the possibility of immoral manifestations. The same thing that is usually called a reproach about the perfect, he defined as "a painful protest of the repressed and unsuccessful conscientious act" .
Indeed, it happens that, having committed an unseemly act, a person gives himself up to remorse, but after a while he admits similar departures from the requirements of morality, after which repentance again arises, and so time after time. From the incident there is no lesson learned, the conscience does not fulfill its purpose in this case, because it is sick and unable to help the individual. A person can decide that everything is redeemed afterwards by the experiences of conscience. However, it is not. On such a vicious assumption, for example, the practice of selling by the Catholic Church to penitent sinners of indulgences (from Latin indulgentia - mercy), completely discredited itself in the Middle Ages. It came to the point that the person who had planned an evil deed, bought in advance the remission of sins in the church. Criticism of the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church in this particular issue was one of the reasons that triggered the Reformation in Europe.
Conscience can correspond to its purpose only in the unity of the generators of all sides. Both preventive and retrospective functions characterize the moral maturity of the individual, capable not only of refraining from committing certain acts, but also drawing conclusions from his own mistakes. Thanks to the presence of conscience, a person gets additional opportunities for self-improvement. Finding a moral good, compliance with moral duty, inner freedom of the individual - all these qualities would be impossible if the person had not developed a sense of conscience that helps him to become higher than what he is. A. Schweitzer was right when he said more than half a century ago the following thought: "We fight not against the evil laid in man, not by the judgment of others, but by our own judgment of ourselves" .
We live in a world that has changed significantly and become more difficult. The importance of the norms determining the behavior of individuals in various organizations has increased. Nevertheless, internal self-regulation continues to play an important role, helping the individual in the difficult moral situations that arise in the life of each person, to find the only true solution. Therefore, the importance of factors such as moral feelings and beliefs, the need for moral self-control in the decision-making process is increased. This is the main purpose of conscience.
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