Four Conceptions of Conscience

Thomas E. Hill

in Human Welfare and Moral Worth

Published in print July 2002 | ISBN: 9780199252633
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597695 | DOI:
Four Conceptions of Conscience

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This contrasts Kant's view of conscience, and its merits, with alternative views. These alternatives are a popular religious view, a social relativist conception, and Joseph Butler's philosophical account. Kant's view avoids the epistemological problems of the first view, but accepts its idea that conscience is often experienced as an unsolicited voice. Kant denies the metaethical scepticism of social relativists, but agrees with them that conscience expresses a dissonance between our acts and our moral beliefs rather than an independent perception of what is truly right or wrong. Kant agrees with Butler that reason, in due reflection, is the source of justified moral beliefs, but he distinguishes moral reasoning and judgement about what acts are permissible from conscience, which is an inner forum in which a verdict of innocence or guilt is pronounced on the basis of the moral beliefs that we already have.

Keywords: Butler; conscience; cultural relativist; guilt; innocence; Kant; moral judgement; moral reasoning

Chapter.  16085 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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