Conscience in Moral Life

Rethinking How Our Convictions Structure Self and Society

By (author) Jason J. Howard

Publication date:

19 March 2014

Length of book:

226 pages


Rowman & Littlefield International

ISBN-13: 9781783480104

The notion of conscience remains one of the most widely used moral concepts and a cornerstone of ordinary moral thinking. This book explores where this widespread confidence in conscience stems from, examining the history of conscience as a moral concept and its characteristic moral phenomenology.
Jason Howard provides a comprehensive reassessment of the function of conscience in moral life, detailing along the way the manifold problems that arise when we believe our conscience is more reliable than is actually warranted.

The result is a step-by-step evaluation of our most accepted assumptions. Howard goes on to argue, from a phenomenological perspective, that conscience is indispensable for understanding moral experience. He capitalizes on a dialectical perspective developed by Hegel and Ricoeur, in which conscience is seen as the recognition of the other, and integrates this with work in the philosophy of emotion, arguing that conscience is best seen in terms of the function it serves in moderating the moral emotions of shame, guilt and pride.
'This is a smart, timely, compelling book. Howard persuasively argues that the convoluted history of conscience is responsible for some of our thorniest moral puzzles: both theoretical puzzles (for instance about moral emotions) and extremely concrete puzzles about US constitutional law and universal health care. Both historically illuminating and genuinely relevant to contemporary ethical thought.' -- Lydia Moland, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Colby College