It’s about conscience, stupid; not consciousness


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It’s about conscience, stupid; not consciousness

Why has the English language not coined a word that speaks to the concept of conscience without the confusion associated with the concept of consciousness? There must be a psychological aspect here. What would Freud say?

Freud’s psychoanalytic theory contained a number of polarizing inner conflicts. The Ego constantly faced a battle between the Id, the pervasive aspect of human experience, and the Superego, which was considered to be the moral part of the human personality.

Human conscience is often considered from three perspectives. In contrast with Freud there were the views of Thomas Aquinas and Joseph Butler; both of whom viewed the matter from a religious perspective. Aquinas theorized that conscience was a moral tool of reason while Butler considered conscience to be an intuitive sense assigned to humanity by God.

Etymologically ‘conscience’ means with-knowledge. The English word also implies a moral standard of action inherent in the mind. Conscience deals with rational questions of right and wrong in matters of human interrelationships.

I was raised as a Catholic; I went to Catholic schools where the nuns taught me that guilt and conscience was a pair that went together like a ‘horse and carriage’. Guilt seems to be a word closely associated with conscience in everyday vocabulary.

Freud indicates in his theory that guilt is the result of the conflict between id and the superego.

“Repay to the living that it is they find themselves owing the dead”

This phrase is part of an article “Coming to Terms with Vietnam” documented in Harpers by Peter Marin, Dec. 1980. Coming to terms with Vietnam: Settling our moral debts, By Peter Marin (Harper's Magazine)

"All men, like all nations, are tested twice in the moral realm: first by what they do, then by what they make of what they do. The condition of guilt, a sense of one's own guilt, denotes a kind of second chance. Men are, as if by a kind of grace, given a chance to repay to the living that it is they find themselves owing the dead.""

This quotation rang my bell on the first time that I read it and it has continued to resonate for me each time that it comes to mind.

Morality is, I am convinced, one of the most important concepts in human existence. It is vitally important and, I suspect, almost completely mystifying to the average Joe and Jane. It certainly is mystifying to me.

Understanding the meaning of this concept is vital for our welfare as a species and I am convinced that we must do a better job of comprehending its meaning.

I think it would be worth while to analyze the above quotation in an effort to develop a meaningful comprehension of aspects that make up morality. But there are many important moral aspects within this quotation and I think we must focus upon only one at a time. I would like to examine, in particular, the phrase “repay to the living that it is they find themselves owing the dead”

Cognitive science, often in the form of cognitive semantics, provides us with a means for comprehending the nature of morality.

Cognitive science has discovered that “the source domains of our [linguistic] metaphors for morality are typically based on what people over history and across cultures have seen as contributing to their well being”.

Morality is primarily seen as a concept that focuses upon enhancing the well-being of others. Cognitive analysis revels that we comprehend morality “based on this simple list of elementary aspects of human well-being—health, wealth, strength, balance, protection, nurturance, and so on”.

“Well-Being is Wealth is not our only metaphorical conception of well-being, but it is a component of one of the most important moral concepts we have. It is the basis for a massive metaphor system by which we understand our moral interactions, obligations, and responsibilities. That system, which we call the Moral Accounting metaphor, combines Well-Being is Wealth with other metaphors and with various accounting schemas.”

Our moral understanding is often manifested in commonly used metaphors. To do bad to someone is like taking something of value from that person. To do good to someone is like giving something of value to that person. “Increasing others’ well-being gives you a moral credit; doing them harm creates a moral debt to them; that is, you owe them an increase in their well-being-as-wealth.”

We are dealing with moral considerations much as we do with financial matters. We maintain a mental balance sheet upon which we record debits and credits of moral dimensions.

Morality is about many things and one thing morality is about is reciprocation, which means paying back to others what we owe to them because of something good they did for us. On the flip-side of that is something we call revenge. Revenge is about our feelings that if Mary Ann does something mean to me then I owe her something mean back.

Morality is partly about our moral accounting system. We seem to have a moral balance sheet in our head and we are often careful to pay back ‘good with good’ and ‘bad with bad’.

Ideas and quotes from “Philosophy in the Flesh”—Lakoff and Johnson

coberst- you could argue it's about both consciousness and conscience...

conscience- the science of consideration...

consciousness- the state of (being) conscious...

consciousness has nothing to do with morality...

although of course, conscience does...

I do not rate sigmund as a great thinker- he reduces man to a collection of primative urges which are guiltily supressed for the sake of "face", and I believe human beings, and their individual moralities are far more complex than that- although I think his theories may be useful when treating ppl with sexual disorders...

to my mind, guilt is not a true emotion, and nor are morality or conscience... these concepts and their products, actions, are learned behaviours... we "learn" what is right, or are taught right from wrong, using various methodological (usually religious or philosophical) frameworks...

Morality is important, but not important to survival, the only real requisite of any living being... morality is important to society and community- the person with anti-social behaviour disorder is not constrained by morality, and generally nor is he chastised by the stain of the ASBO (anti-social behaviour order)... the sociopath, who sees society as dead and cold and waste is not burdened by morality either- neither of them will find the end product of their lack of morality is death...

Those who believe that " moral credit" is given for good deeds err, and do not see the world as it really is- psychologists call this thinking pattern "just world beliefs"- a person believes the world is just and if they are good good things will happen, etc... this psychological trickery is often found in, suprisingly, the righteous and the orthodox and the republican and the conservative...

doing good to those who have done good to us is onerous also... does this suggest we should do harm to those who harm us? we should refuse aid to those who have yet to make a formal deposit in the quid pro quo bank?

So... it is about both conscience and consciousness... without consciousness there is no conscience...

so, for me, conscience is a construct, a suggestion, a theory, and ultimately, not that important for our own individual personal survival- far more important is power, skill, and means...
The problem isn't language but rather we've lost the ability to experience conscience as a result of the fallen human condition that creates the inner imbalance we've become accustomed to. Conditioned morality is not conscience. Consciousness is the highest expression of intellect and conscience is the highest expression of emotional awareness. Our trouble is that as we are, we have neither.

Plato was of course aware of this and when he rejects the theories of justice or morality as explained by Cephalus, Thrasymachus and Glaucon:

20th WCP: Plato's Concept Of Justice: An Analysis

Plato realizes that all theories propounded by Cephalus, Thrasymachus and Glaucon, contained one common element. That one common element was that all the them treated justice as something external "an accomplishment, an importation, or a convention, they have, none of them carried it into the soul or considered it in the place of its habitation." Plato prove that justice does not depend upon a chance, convention or upon external force. It is the right condition of the human soul by the very nature of man when seen in the fullness of his environment. It is in this way that Plato condemned the position taken by Glaucon that justice is something which is external. According to Plato, it is internal as it resides in the human soul. "It is now regarded as an inward grace and its understanding is shown to involve a study of the inner man." It is, therefore, natural and no artificial. It is therefore, not born of fear of the weak but of the longing of the human soul to do a duty according to its nature.
Thus, after criticizing the conventional ideas of justice presented differently by Cephalus, Polymarchus, Thrasymachus and Glaucon, Plato now gives us his own theory of justice. Plato strikes an analogy between the human organism on the one hand and social organism on the other. Human organism according to Plato contains three elements-Reason, Spirit and Appetite. An individual is just when each part of his or her soul performs its functions without interfering with those of other elements. For example, the reason should rule on behalf of the entire soul with wisdom and forethought. The element of spirit will sub-ordinate itself to the rule of reason. Those two elements are brought into harmony by combination of mental and bodily training. They are set in command over the appetites which form the greater part of man's soul. Therefore, the reason and spirit have to control these appetites which are likely to grow on the bodily pleasures. These appetites should not be allowed, to enslave the other elements and usurp the dominion to which they have no right. When all the three agree that among them the reason alone should rule, there is justice within the individual.

We cannot define inner morality simply because being out of balance, we do not experience it as an expression of the inner man. We live by conditioned secular morality which isn't conscience.
The question for me becomes if humanity as a whole could ever become open to working towards balance and the experience of inner morality or conscience. I don't think so since selective morality and the prestige and controlling influence that comes with it will not allow the acceptance of inner morality or conscience.

I shall, in the near future, try to convince you that you are in error when you say "so, for me, conscience is a construct, a suggestion, a theory, and ultimately, not that important for our own individual personal survival- far more important is power, skill, and means..."

I shall start with the following:

Thus, aesthetics is “concerned with the perception of values”.

Self consciousness is the precursor of the possibility of worth. For the existence of ‘good’ in any form emotional consciousness is required. “Observation will not do, appreciation is required.”

From this we can assert an axiom that is important for all moral philosophy; and science of morality should it ever come to be. “There is no value apart from some appreciation of it.”

Spinoza informs us that we desire nothing because it is good but that it is good because we desire it. We can find value in that which is not instinctively good only because it is derivative of the instinctively appreciated. “The verbal and mechanical proposition, that passes for judgment of worth, is the great cloak of ineptitude in these matters…Verbal judgments are often instruments of thought but it is not by them that worth can ultimately be determined.”

Quotes from “The Sense of Beauty” by George Santayana