Thursday, 16 December 2010

Evaluation of Aquinas' take on the conscience

An evaluation of Aquinas’ teachings on the conscience
In my earlier post you would have found out what Aquinas’ teachings are on the conscience and how I like to remember it. In this post I want to identify what are the strengths and weaknesses with his approach.
  1. It appeals to our use of reason - we all see that we have reason within us and Aquinas provides a way in which we can use it morally.
  2. The approach is universal unlike Kant who says that only ration agents can be moral agents and excludes people who have mental disorders. 
  3. It is very clear where the origin comes from and how to use it.
  4. It explains how even though the conscience is the voice of God people still make mistakes.
  5. (From the Student Room) Aquinas has shown how all humanity can reason right and wrong yet make wrong decisions and as such retained a degree of accountability for one’s actions unlike Butler’s conscience theory.
  6. It agrees with Piaget’s idea that the conscience is manufactured from experiences and conditioning as Aquinas argued that children do not have fully formed conscience
  1. Joseph Fletcher suggests that the conscience has no intrinsic worth like Aquinas suggests because it is simply a mechanism for weighing up.
  2. Natural Law followers would say the whole idea of a conscience to subjective to base ethics upon.
  3. If the conscience is such an important part of us that we must follow then why does Aquinas feel the need to formulate other ethical theories like Natural Law.
  4. The idea at the conscience being rational faculty leaves no room for direct revelation for God which is an important element for many Christian in particular. 
  5. It does not take into account emotions and feelings making it less realistic particularly in the issues of sexual and medical ethics.
  6. For Aquinas the conscience is sovereign but in reality our heart, social norms, friends and family tend to be sovereign in ethical decision making.

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