The Voice of Conscience: A Political Genealogy of Western Ethical Experience (Political Theory and Contemporary Philosophy)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In Western thought, it has been persistently assumed that in moral and political matters, people should rely on the inner voice of conscience rather than on external authorities, laws, and regulations. This volume investigates this concept, examining the development of the Western politics of conscience, from Socrates to the present, and the formation of the Western ethico-political subject.
The work opens with a discussion of the ambiguous role of conscience in politics, contesting the claim that it is the best defense against totalitarianism. It then look back at canonical authors, from the Church Fathers and Luther to Rousseau and Derrida, to show how the experience of conscience constitutes the foundation of Western ethics and politics.
This unique work not only synthesizes philosophical and political insights, but also pays attention to political theology to provide a compelling and innovative argument that the experience of conscience has always been at the core of the political Western tradition. An engaging and accessible text, it will appeal to political theorists and philosophers as well as theologians and those interested in the critique of the Western civilization.
determinate content: ‘Conscience, then, in the majesty of its elevation above specific law and every content of duty, puts whatever content it pleases into its knowing and willing.’266 In the ethics of conscience, the subjective conviction is made the absolute foundation of good and evil, but if this Ibid., §654, p. 397. See ibid., §§653–4, pp. 396–7. 262 Ibid., §654, p. 397. 263 Hegel, Philosophy of Right, §137, note, p. 116. 264 Ibid., §136, addition, p. 115. 265 Ibid., §139, note,
Conscience is the true ‘pedagogue of the soul’ (Origen);1 it is ‘our interior and unerring tribunal’ (Nazianzen);2 it is an ‘incorruptible judge’ and a teacher who does not deceive (Chrysostom);3 it corrects reason where reason goes wrong (Jerome);4 it draws us into the presence of God with ‘a miraculous rapidity’ (Augustine);5 it is our ‘guardian angel’ (John Climacus),6 and the ‘law of our mind’ (John of Damascus).7 In the conscience ‘everything is written with the pen of truth’ (Bernard of
which was the very proof that such a spark was left burning in Adam after the fall – he regretted the consequences of his transgression. Yet it was the conscience as conscientia rather than synderesis that designated the conscious experience of it, that is, the conscience that binds, incites, warns, accuses, torments, rebukes and so on.109 This conscience did not have the purity of synderesis and none of the Scholastics ever claimed that conscientia was infallible. Compared to synderesis, it was
the interference of external authorities: ‘Justice and religion do not depend upon the behest of priest or judge, but upon the commands of conscience.’53 When we obey these commands, we not merely become virtuous but godlike, since through the commands of conscience we are partaking of God’s cogitations. Ia Like the Christian natural law tradition in general, the doctrine of common notions (communis notitia/koinai ennoiai) can be traced back to the Stoics, playing an important role in the Stoic
conscience. Yet the majority of the French philosophes believed in the existence of natural moral law and few of them wanted to disrepute conscience entirely. One of those who did it was La Mettrie, the author of the (in)famous L’homme machine (1748). According to him, conscience varies according to an individual and even according to climate bearing thus no witness to any law, not to mention natural moral law. In his view, in fact, conscience is the greatest enemy of man. It brings about remorse