THE BINDING FORCE OF CONSCIENCE IN ST. THOMAS AQUINAS

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Product Category: Projects

Product Code: 00001367

No of Pages: 66

No of Chapters: 5

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

CHAPTER ONE

1.0       INTRODUCTION …   …    …       …       …     1   

1.1.   Background of the Study  …   …       …      …     3

1.2.   Statement of the Problem     …  …       …      …    4

1.3.   Aim of the Study…     …        …      …       …     …    5

1.4.    Scope of the Study     …       …      …       …     …     6

1.5.         Methodology of Research    …      …       …      ...     6

1.6.          Division of Work …   …    …       …       …      ...     7

                               

CHAPTER TWO

2.0 LITERATURE REVIEW  …    …     …     …     …     8

2.1. Views of Some Thinkers on Conscience  …    8

2.1.1. Ancient    …     …      …        …     …     …     …   …   8

2.1.2. Medieval …      …     …        …    …      …      …   … 11

 

CHAPTER THREE

3.0. THE GENERAL CONCEPT OF CONSCIENCE  …   17

3.1.   Synderesis and Conscience …      …     …     ...   21

3.2.   Kinds of Conscience …    …    …    …    …     …   23

3.2.1. Conscience in Relation to Objective Morality     …  24

3.2.2. Conscience in Relation to Judgment of Action   … 28

 

CHAPTER FOUR

4.0. AQUINAS’ NOTION OF CONSCIENCE    …    …    30

4.1. The Binding Force of Conscience  …  …    37

4.2. The Problem of Error in Conscience     …   41


CHAPTER FIVE

5.0. CRITICAL EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION … 46

5.1. Critical Evaluation …      …     …    …      …      … 46

5.2. Conclusion   …      …     …  …    …    …       …     … 57

BIBLIOGRAPHY …    …      …      …   





 

CHAPTER ONE


1.0            INTRODUCTION

Man’s personal experience no doubt tells him that in him exists something in the nature of inner voice, which makes itself heard in man’s personal life, especially in his moral doings.  This inner voice is the conscience.  It is an ever-living term and concept in the history of Ethics in the sense that it occupies a strategic position in moral judgment.

Nonetheless, conscience has been a perennial issue, which has not outlasted its suitability in the minds of philosophers, psychologists, religionists, etc who research into the explanation of the mysteries behind human behavior and action.  Admittedly, there are divergent opinions about the meaning of conscience from these professional fields resulting to different notions of conscience.  Thus, it is not surprising to notice conscience being expressed as: innermost psychic center, voice of God, higher self, etc.  In any case, “conscience is seen as the moral faculty which tells human beings subjectively what is good or evil and which, in turn, indicates to them what their moral obligations are in any concrete action to be performed.”1 

However, man as a moral being has the obligation to obey his conscience; “to do what his conscience tells him, even when it is objectively wrong.”2  In the light of this, the Vatican Council II has it that:

Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself, but which he must obey.  Its voice ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells him inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that…3

 

This to a greater extent proves the fact that conscience is a moral faculty, and also binds.  To buttress this point, Thomas Aquinas whose line of thought we follow maintains that “so far as it is through the conscience that we judge that something should be done or not done, conscience in this sense is said to incite or to bind.”4  So, conscience tells one subjectively what is good and evil, and manifests its moral obligation to him.

 

To explicate the nature of this research work, there is the need in this introductory part, to state the background, the statement of the problem, the aim, scope, method and division of the work.

 

1.1     BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Man as a rational animal always makes a rational judgment over the actions he performs or the actions to be performed, to know how good they are.  This is not unconnected with the fact that man’s natural inclination is to seek for the ultimate good for himself and to attain happiness, which is his end.  In view of this, F. Copleston asserts that:

The will (of man) therefore desires happiness, beatitudes, as its end, and human acts are good or bad in so far as they are or are not means to the attainment of that end.5

 

Thus, as man strives towards the attainment of this happiness, which is his final end, his nearest guide is always his conscience.  Conscience then becomes man’s nearest guide to his moral life and as such a point of attraction to all and sundry.  No wonder, parents address their children on it, formators make lessons on it, Christians pay homage to it, and philosophers make a critical examination on it.

Among the philosophers and great thinkers that have contributed to the discussion on conscience was Thomas Aquinas.  His interest on conscience was at the medieval era, when there was a debate on the nature and relationship between conscience and synderesis.  Aquinas was able to discover the characteristics of these concepts and their operation in the intellect, as well as in the actions of man.  He also found out that the concept “conscience” really has a strong binding force and as such, man is bound to follow its dictates.

 

1.2            STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Conscience, though a subjective norm of morality is the dictate of reason applied to practical and particular acts.  Many philosophers as it were believed that conscience helps man in making a moral judgment.  Likewise,  synderesis.  In any case, one may wonder what these concepts “conscience” and “synderesis” are.  What is the relationship between them? St. Thomas Aquinas, as we shall see, attempted these questions.  In addition, he established the fact that conscience, whether it is a true or an erroneous one binds.  At the same time, he was of the view that one who follows an erroneous conscience is not exempt from bad act.  Is this not a contradiction? In fact, here lies the problem on the binding force of conscience.  One may ask:  if that is the case, where then lies the binding capacity of conscience?  Does it mean that somebody with an erroneous conscience must always act wrongly? What then happens to the error involved in the erroneous conscience? Can the error be corrected? Or does one depend solely on the fact that one is bound? Aquinas’ approach to these problems is not firm, for he only advised that the error in erroneous conscience be put away.

 

1.3            AIM OF THE STUDY

Having seen the possible questions, problems and confusions that arise in the discussion of conscience and its binding force, there is the need therefore, to highlight them.  So, I wish in this research work, to expose how Aquinas’ explanation of synderesis and conscience solved the problems raised above.  Similarly, I would like to examine the problem of error in conscience, that is to say, examining the problems involved in the binding force of conscience, and in addition, find a better solution to the problems.

 

1.4            SCOPE OF THE STUDY

Many philosophers and great thinkers as we had pointed out earlier, hold varied opinions on conscience and its binding force.  But, it is worthy to note that the development of the study of conscience was very much influenced by St. Thomas Aquinas.  Therefore, the study is based on his line of thought especially as it concerns the binding force of conscience.

 

1.5            METHODOLOGY OF RESEARCH

Our method of study shall be an exposition of Aquinas’ concept of conscience and its binding force.  After the explanation of this concept, there is an evaluation and the final conclusion.  These are aimed at making us clearly understand the relevance of Aquinas thought.

 

1.6            DIVISION OF WORK

This work is divided into five chapters.  The first chapter, which we have already seen, is the introductory part of the whole research work.  In the second chapter, we shall look into the views of some thinkers before Aquinas who discussed this concept “conscience”.  Then, the third chapter would be the general notion of conscience and its kinds.  In the fourth chapter, we shall involve ourselves with the exposition of Aquinas’ teachings on conscience and its binding force. Lastly, chapter five will be the evaluation and conclusion of the research work.

 

 



1 B. Eboh, Living Issues in Ethics, (Nsukka:Afro-Orbis publishing Co., Ltd, 2005), p.11.

2 J. Omoregbe, Ethics, A systematic and Historical Study, (Lagos: Joja Educational Research and Publishers Ltd, 1993), p.57.

3 A. Flannery (ed), Vatican Council II, Vol. II, (Dublin: Dominican Publishers, 1988), p. 916.

4 T.Aquinas, Summa Theologica Vol. II (New York: Christian Classic 1981), p.408.

5 F. Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Vol. II (New York: Continuum 2003), p.405.

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