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Human Resources and Development I - ETHICS Lesson 11

Lesson Title: THE FORMATION OF CONSCIENCE 1- 3

Conscience is the capacity to apply a universal norm to a concrete particular


case. It is both the inner “voice calling the person to love and do what is good
and to avoid evil” and the practical moral judgment, “Do this! Avoid that!” (GS
16). It involves the interplay of moral obligation and freedom.
There is a moral obligation for ongoing formation of a genuine
conscience which directs a person’s connatural drive to the good: genuine
human and faith values.

A. ETYMOLOGY
- Conscience comes from the Latin word “constientia” which
means “trial of oneself” both in accusation and defense.

B. DEFINITION

- Conscience is defined as an act of practical judgment of


reason deciding upon an individual action as good and to be
performed or as evil to be avoided.

- It is a “practical judgement” because it is an inference whose


conclusion leads to something practicable. The main function of
conscience is to determine what ought to be done in a given
situation. After the commission of an act, conscience assumes the
role of approving or reproaching.

- It is the intellect when it makes a judgement on the morality of one’s


action, judgement or discerning moral right form wrong.

- It is a feeling of being obliged to do the good, I feel morally right to


tell the truth and avoid evil.

C. CHARACTERISTICS

1. Communitarian.

- Our conscience is not totally independent of others, but neither


dependent on them. It is not autonomous.
- It does not dictate what is good or evil based on what one likes.

2. Intimate or internal.

- It is not only what society accepts.


- It can be affected by social pressures but it is not determined by
them.
Human Resources and Development I - ETHICS Lesson 11

Lesson Title: THE FORMATION OF CONSCIENCE 2- 3

- It obliges us, it is ours, yet it is intimately connected to the


working of the Holy Spirit within us that enables us to recognize
moral good from evil.

3. Fallible.

- subject to error, can make mistake


- “thinking we are right does not make us right”

D. KINDS OF CONSCIENCE

1. Correct or True Conscience – judges what is good as good,


evil as evil.

Ex. Getting property of another without consent is stealing.

2. Erroneous or False – judges incorrectly that what is good is


evil and evil is good.

Ex. To have a mistress, since it is the macho thing to do.

3. Certain Conscience – subjective assurance of the lawfulness


or unlawfulness of a certain act.

Ex. Policeman sure of killing the suspect is the best alternative


due to self-defense.

4. Doubtful Conscience – unable to form a definite judgement.


Ex. A student is confused whether he will report the cheating
that he witnessed among his classmates or to keep it to himself
so as not to cause a big issue which will affect
the whole class.

5. Scrupulous Conscience – extremely afraid of committing evil.


Sees sin when there is none, sees something small as big
without sufficient reason.

Ex. A person who seeks for all incontrovertible proofs before


it acts.

6. Lax Conscience – refuses to be bothered about the distinction


of good and evil.

Ex. “Bahala na” attitude


Human Resources and Development I - ETHICS Lesson 11

Lesson Title: THE FORMATION OF CONSCIENCE 3- 3

E. Principles Which Determine When A Conscience Is A Valid Guide


Of Morality

1. It is not sufficient to say that one has to follow his own


conscience because it can err. One has to diligently learn and
ask himself whether he’s trying to learn the Natural Moral Law,
and seek to follow it. If the conscience does this, then it can be a
guide.
2. Only a certain and true conscience is a valid norm of morality.
Only when you are sure that you know the truth that you can rely
on your conscience as a guide.
3. The certain conscience has to be true and correct, or at least
invincibly erroneous. An invincibly erroneous conscience is a
valid norm only for that moment. An invincible error is only
temporary and has to be corrected.
4. A vincible erroneous conscience is never a valid norm of
morality.
5. One cannot act when one has doubtful conscience. When you
are not sure whether something is good or bad, do not act until
your doubt is resolved.

F. IMPORTANCE OF A TRUE CONSCIENCE

A true conscience is essential for happiness. Conforming to the


Natural Moral Law, through a true refined conscience, is essential for
us to reach the Good which is proper for our nature and thereby
achieve true happiness.
Others need to be helped to develop a true conscience.

G. WAYS TO DEVELOP A TRUE CONSCIENCE

1. We must diligently learn the content of the Natural Moral Law, to


desire to find out what is right and what is wrong.
2. We need to seek the advice of people who will properly direct us
especially in difficult situations.
3. We need to ask light from God, we need to pray.
4. We need to remove obstacles which stand in the way of forming
the conscience (e.g., vices)