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Overview Of Crisis Of Conscience

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  • Last Updated : 02 Jul, 2022

The moral beliefs and ideals that guide one’s behaviour and decision-making are called conscience. It kicks off when a person is confronted with an ethical problem that necessitates self-evaluation and scenario analysis. These kinds of circumstances can lead to a moral crisis.

Conscience and Nature of its Sanctions:

We become aware of our strongly held moral values through our conscience and are compelled to act on them; evaluate our character, and conduct, and ultimately follow those ideals. According to the self, consciousness entails introspection, awareness of one’s activity, and self-evaluation from a psychological standpoint. Being ‘judged’ by one’s conscience can result in guilt and other ‘punitive’ feelings. A person’s feeling of good and evil is referred to as conscience. Being conscious of the moral rightness or wrongness of one’s conduct or the goodness or badness of one’s intentions is what it means to have a conscience. The concept of conscience may be divided into the following parts in philosophical, theological, and ordinary contexts.

  • To begin with, conscience can relate to a person’s moral ideals and beliefs. In this sense, going against one’s conscience involves going against one’s fundamental moral principles.
  • Second, conscience might relate to a capacity via which humans learn basic moral principles.
  • Self-scrutiny is the third feature strongly tied with a conscience: conscience entails a person’s investigation of their own goals and behaviour and is linked to self-evaluation feelings such as guilt, humiliation, regret, and remorse. The painful experience of being found morally lacking by the lights of one’s self-scrutiny is captured in the word “pangs of conscience,” which identifies the painful experience of being found morally lacking by oneself. It’s difficult to live with uncomfortable feelings like remorse and shame. 

Freedom of Conscience:

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,” protects freedom of conscience today (art. 18).
  • The Indian Constitution expressly states that freedom of conscience is a basic right and pledges to defend it by the most immediate measures available, such as writ petitions. This is due to the crucial function of conscience in an individual’s development and self-realization. 

Crisis of Conscience:

  • When determining the right thing to do is extraordinarily difficult, a crisis of conscience emerges. The word is also applied when a person is concerned that they have done anything unethical or morally incorrect.
  • It’s an ethical issue, but usually in a more serious meaning. When a person experiences a crisis of conscience, he fears that his actions will conflict with his conscience and so ethically incorrect. 
  • We cannot always act in a way that is consistent with our values and ideals. We may ignore our conscience and behave counter to our conscience due to material avarice’s external exigencies.
  • If done for monetary gain, this lowers our humanity and inhibits our conscience. However, there are times when we are unable to behave following our values owing to external factors beyond our control. Such circumstances also give us guilt and humiliation.
  • Life Experience– When I was a kid, I stole a few sweets from a shop and didn’t pay for them. On the other hand, the shopkeeper assumed that the sweets had been stolen by a poor person standing next to me. He began thrashing him mercilessly. I was so terrified that I didn’t tell him the truth. Despite my desire to spare the guy from the undeserved agony brought upon him as a result of my wrongdoing, I suppressed my conscience for fear of being beaten by him.

Conscience Crisis in Public Life:

  • Public officials experience such crises in the form of dilemmas, in which they must choose between two comparable acts that are legal in their particular realm. It’s intriguing to examine whether an official chooses his inner conscience or duty in such situations.
  • For example, a municipality officer has been instructed to evict squatters who have built unlawful shelters on government land. According to the official, the inhabitants are impoverished folks who are illegal settlers. In this instance, the official must decide whether to obey government orders and do his duties or follow his conscience and give them time to evacuate.

A. Whistleblowing:

  • A ‘crisis of conscience‘ and its impact on individuals can be seen in the form of ‘whistleblowing‘, in which a person brings irregularities occurring inside an organization to the public’s attention.
  • For example, a revenue officer discovers that certain coworkers conspired to sell government property that was intended for an orphanage illegally. He has been promised a sizable sum of money in return for his quiet. Due to a “crisis of conscience,” the official will be compelled to disclose this information to the public, even if it is anonymous due to his integrity.

B. Public Participation:

  • If a public official cannot perform what his conscience requires, they are obliged to engage in public activism. He may choose to engage in political or social engagement in this circumstance.
  • For example, an officer is working hard to approve a drinking water project for a low-income neighbourhood, but concerned officials are unaware of the situation. They are compelled to submit a court petition to carry out the job.

Examples of Crisis of Conscience:

  • The healthcare and medical industries are prime examples of a moral dilemma. Because of their conscientious objection, many doctors refuse to conduct certain treatments.
  •  Military service is another example of a situation where a conscientious objection takes precedence over duty. Even though it was formerly a religious method, some pacifists now offer it a non-religious strategy.
  • Photojournalist Kevin Carter committed suicide out of regret and sadness after believing he had done something unethical. He was reporting from famine-stricken Africa., where he was forbidden from touching anyone for professional reasons. As a result, the journalist could not prevent a child’s death. Despite his images shaking the world’s morality, he suffered from a moral dilemma.

Ways to Resolve Crisis of Conscience:

The following passage from the Baha’i teachings provides three precise instructions for coping with a Crisis of Conscience:

  • Justice and equity;
  • Mercy and charity;
  • All people should be treated with kindness.

When we’re suffering a moral crisis and attempting to figure out how to respond to a difficult moral matter, we need to ask ourselves: What’s fair and just? How might I be the fairest in this situation? The Talisman of Gandhi exemplifies the same qualities. Conscience is our reaction to ourselves, the voice of our true selves that directs us to our maximum potential. As a result, it is critical to align our conscience with our value systems to reduce, if not fully eradicate, feelings of remorse, guilt, and other negative emotions.


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