1. Welcome to Religious Forums, a friendly forum to discuss all religions in a friendly surrounding.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Our modern chat room. No add-ons or extensions required, just login and start chatting!
    • Access to private conversations with other members.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Conscience, Our Only Moral Authority

Discussion in 'Ethics and Morals' started by joe1776, May 4, 2021.

  1. joe1776

    joe1776 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,533
    Ratings:
    +1,734
    Religion:
    None
    I'm defining conscience here as moral intuition emerging instantly from the unconscious when a specific moral situation is encountered. Conscience is a moral guide only. We can follow it or ignore it.

    This is a brief argument supporting my claim that conscience is the only moral authority that we humans have. It concludes that criminal laws and the moral advice of theologians and philosophers should be abandoned because they are unnecessary at best and they create biases, capable of sending judgment off course, at their worst.

    Learning begins with the senses: An effect (as in cause-and-effect) must first be sensed. It must be seen, tasted, smelled, heard or felt before we can use reasoning to learn from it. Science, humanity's best attempt at learning, must begin with an observed effect.

    Since the difference between right and wrong and fair and unfair can't be seen, tasted, smelled or heard, it must be 'felt.' We feel an unpleasant sensation produced by the pain function of our brains which can be interpreted as 'wrong' or 'unfair' depending on the situation. If we don't feel that signal, we can assume the act was justified or fair. We call this faculty 'conscience.'

    Conscience, emerging from the unconscious, is a remarkable faculty. It's able to render immediate judgments despite the fact that the situations it encounters are as unique and plentiful as snowflakes.

    So, everything we humans know about morality, we learned from feeling the effects -- the judgments about right, wrong, fair and unfair -- produced by the moral intuitive sense that we call 'conscience.'

    Now, here's where we went wrong.

    There's no question that reason is a very useful function, but we arrogant humans are much too proud of it. This phenomenon has been referred to as 'reason worship.' Having learned from conscience, we illogically decided that we could improve upon the judgments of conscience by writing moral rules and laws. It was a very foolish thing to do.

    We can write general rules, like "It's generally wrong to kill." But general rules are useless as guidance because the guidance is needed in specific situations -- which might be exceptions to the rule.

    We can write absolute rules which offer guidance in specific situations but there is no act, killing, stealing or any other that is always wrong. So, in order to write criminal laws, lawmakers have attempted to write absolute laws covering every conceivable moral situation.

    The criminal laws in the USA have a history that goes back a thousand years, to English Common Law. The books fill library shelves. They have been edited countless times over the years when their judgments conflicted with conscience. And yet, they are very different in all 50 states. In cases where the facts are not clearly one-sided, a killing which will be found murder in 25 states, can be justifiable self-defense in the other 25.

    Writing absolute laws to cover every situation is a foolish, impossible task. It's also unnecessary because conscience can make the right calls in every conceivable situation.

    The judgments of conscience are not subjective. They are unlike opinions on art, music or architecture. The conscience of the majority of a group of people unbiased on the relevant case is the standard for judgment. This unbiased group might be a jury in a courtroom or, in the case of the 9/11 attack in New York, the citizens of nations not involved in the attack would constitute an unbiased group. The worldwide sympathy from uninvolved nations for the USA's loss was the objective moral judgment on 9/11 as a criminal act.

    In making moral judgments, reason's function is mainly to get the facts of the case straight. There is just one exception: In a moral dilemma, conscience will instantly determine that both of the optional actions feel wrong. However, conscience doesn't have the ability to weigh the consequences of each action, so reason will weigh the consequences of both optional, harmful actions in order to choose the option which does the least harm.
     
    #1 joe1776, May 4, 2021
    Last edited: May 4, 2021
    • Like Like x 2
    • Useful Useful x 1
  2. Rival

    Rival Ankh, Wedja, Seneb
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2012
    Messages:
    19,719
    Ratings:
    +27,760
    Religion:
    Kemetic Pagan
    You clearly haven't met my mother.


    That's not a joke. 'Conscience' is not something everyone has.
     
  3. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Messages:
    11,948
    Ratings:
    +10,758
    Religion:
    none
    "unbiased" :rolleyes:
     
    • Winner Winner x 3
  4. sun rise

    sun rise "This is the Hour of God"
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2014
    Messages:
    57,827
    Ratings:
    +26,770
    Religion:
    Love
    Rather maybe some are deaf to its voice or ignore it.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  5. joe1776

    joe1776 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,533
    Ratings:
    +1,734
    Religion:
    None
    I didn't claim that every human has a conscience. However, if I said that we humans are two-legged animals, would the fact that some people are born without legs render my general statement false?
     
  6. joe1776

    joe1776 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,533
    Ratings:
    +1,734
    Religion:
    None
    "unbiased on the relevant case"
     
  7. Rival

    Rival Ankh, Wedja, Seneb
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2012
    Messages:
    19,719
    Ratings:
    +27,760
    Religion:
    Kemetic Pagan
    It would be nice to believe this, but from what I've experienced it's simply not true. Nearly 19 years with her taught me that some folks simply flat out have no moral qualms or empathy at all.
     
    #7 Rival, May 4, 2021
    Last edited: May 4, 2021
  8. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Messages:
    11,948
    Ratings:
    +10,758
    Religion:
    none
    Show me any evidence that human adults can be "unbiased on the relevant case" and I'll revoke the :rolleyes:

    An ancient Roman, a Mongol, a modern Californian Progressive, a Viking would all agree on the issue because...
     
    • Winner Winner x 2
  9. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Messages:
    11,948
    Ratings:
    +10,758
    Religion:
    none
    "Scientists amazed as evidence suggests all humans may not be identical"
     
    • Winner Winner x 1
  10. joe1776

    joe1776 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,533
    Ratings:
    +1,734
    Religion:
    None
    Offering you evidence that you will accept as valid is a standard I can't possibly meet. But for reasonable readers, I'll provide a response.

    Conscience is aligned with survival. So, there's no reason that the facts in a clear case of say a killing in self-defense would render a different judgment for the Roman, the Mongol, the Californian or the Viking. Your error stems from your mistaken idea, expressed in previous posts, that consciences are formed by culture.
     
  11. osgart

    osgart Nothing my eye, Something for sure

    Joined:
    May 1, 2017
    Messages:
    4,107
    Ratings:
    +1,767
    Conscience is learned and discovered. One can take their conscience to heart and be true to it or do the opposite. Reason informs conscience. Without understanding the cause and effect of relationships, values, actions, intentions and consequences there is no conscience.

    Smart people want to know right away what is trustworthy and who deserves what, and why. Sooner or later people always run into the universals of virtue vs. vice. They may never recognize the universal language of morality but they won't get very far not abiding in it. There are forces of honesty, and contrary forces of those that use the system for only self gain deceitfully.

    Everyone honest is looking for fair value for what they do, or for what they could do if only the opportunity existed.

    Everything that benefits society is based on an informed choice of conscience. I don't think it's all that complicated with regards to morality.
    However we need criminal law for those who disregard conscience, or fail to inform themselves of right and wrong. Often times people are going to look at self preservation and self gain as the only measuring stick for their conscience. But there are higher consciences for sure. So not all consciences are equal.
     
  12. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2014
    Messages:
    11,948
    Ratings:
    +10,758
    Religion:
    none
    You are saying that an ancient Roman, a Mongol, a modern Californian Progressive, and a Viking would all agree on the correct punishment for a person who had sex with their wife? :rolleyes:
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. MikeF

    MikeF Proponent of RAEism
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2020
    Messages:
    397
    Ratings:
    +176
    Religion:
    None
    First, I would agree with Augustus that you errantly dismiss bias. Secondly, you ignore the fact that different societies have developed different social norms. An action that might jar the conscience of members of one society, may be perfectly acceptable to members of another society, because that is how they have been socialized.
    There is no external moral authority. It is, preferably, up to members of society to jointly, collectively, decide and agree on the rules and social norms that will enable us to live together in peace. The other option is that a powerful minority decides these issues, and imposes rules and social behavior on all.
    I would much prefer to live by reasoned law rather than rely solely on our instinctual social behaviors. Instinctual group behaviors apply only to those we share group identity with and are not universal. Think racism and genocide as extreme examples.
    In summary, what is conscionable is maliable, and cannot be used to set a standard.
     
    #13 MikeF, May 4, 2021
    Last edited: May 4, 2021
    • Like Like x 1
  14. joe1776

    joe1776 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,533
    Ratings:
    +1,734
    Religion:
    None
    You've shifted to another question because I countered the first one you offered with no problem. This question has nothing to do with finding a group unbiased on a moral case.
     
  15. joe1776

    joe1776 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,533
    Ratings:
    +1,734
    Religion:
    None
    Why do you think I err?

    Give me an example.

    You are describing cooperation but your are assuming that the rules which govern an effective cooperation would vary from society to society. Why?

    . Reason is based on evidence. What evidence is there if you eliminate the judgments that we feel as conscience?

    Doesn't your conscience inform you that racism and genocide are immoral? If not conscience, then how do you know that?

    You are confusing biases with the judgments of conscience.
     
  16. joe1776

    joe1776 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,533
    Ratings:
    +1,734
    Religion:
    None
    You basically disagree with me but you didn't offer reasons to argue that I'm wrong. So, I acknowledge that you have a different opinion but you didn't give me anything to debate.
     
    #16 joe1776, May 4, 2021
    Last edited: May 4, 2021
  17. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2019
    Messages:
    6,749
    Ratings:
    +5,851
    Religion:
    none
    Conscience, as I see it, is the instinctive basis for our morality. But instincts are often wrong. Therefore we need to employ our intellect to mitigate or correct our hasty instincts. Ideally we even train our conscience to react in a way that conforms with what we see as moral when thinking rationally.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  18. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Meghalayan Ape

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2011
    Messages:
    7,997
    Ratings:
    +5,892
    Religion:
    Buddhism
    If you had your wish then presumably that would mean 9/11 was not a criminal act?
     
  19. Secret Chief

    Secret Chief Meghalayan Ape

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2011
    Messages:
    7,997
    Ratings:
    +5,892
    Religion:
    Buddhism
    What if your conscience tells you one thing is justified but my conscience tells me it is not?
     
  20. joe1776

    joe1776 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,533
    Ratings:
    +1,734
    Religion:
    None
    Conscience, moral intuition is always hasty. In fact, it's immediate. To label it 'wrong' would imply that we have a higher authority trumping its judgment. What could that authority possibly be?

    Give me an example if you can.
     
Loading...