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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L012-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

To have a conscience involves being conscious of the moral quality of what one has done, or intends to do. There are several elements under the idea of conscience. First, conscience can signify those very moral convictions persons cleave to most firmly and judge themselves by. Second, the notion may cover the faculty by which we come to know moral truths (assuming there to be such) and apply them to ourselves. Third, conscience can be said to concern the examination by a person of the morality of their desires, actions and so on. Finally, conscience can involve guilt: one can suffer from a ‘bad conscience’. In the Christian tradition, conscience can be viewed as ‘the voice of God within’ each of us. Several of these aspects of conscience are expressed in Milton’s lines from Paradise Lost, when God says: ‘And I will place within them as a guide/My umpire Conscience’ (III: 194–5).

Citing this article:
Dent, Nicholas. Conscience, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L012-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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