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consciencea persons sense of right and wrong which constrains behaviour and causes feelings of guilt if its demands are not met. These moral strictures are learnt through SOCIALIZATION and therefore vary from person to person and culture to culture. The most important influence is that of the parents, who set standards for their child's behaviour both by example and by establishing rules, and who enforce the required behaviour by a system of rewards and punishments (see CONDITIONING). Parental and societal standards thus become internalized as the conscience.
FREUD's theory is particularly specific about the formation of the conscience, which he labels the SUPEREGO. This develops through IDENTIFICATION with the same sex parent and is essentially the child's idealization of the parent's moral values.
This emphasis on the parental and societal role may be considered limited by those who regard moral judgements as absolute. This view would suggest an innate moral sense and is particularly expressed in religion and mysticism. Compare COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE.
an ethical category that refers to the ability to exercise moral self-control, to formulate moral obligations independently and to demand of oneself their fulfillment, and to evaluate one’s actions.
A manifestation of the moral consciousness of the individual, conscience is revealed in rational awareness of the moral meaning of one’s actions and in emotions, such as “the gnawings of conscience.” Idealist ethics views conscience as the voice of the “inner self,” a manifestation of the “moral sense” inherent in everyone. Marxist-Leninist ethics demonstrates the social and historical character of conscience.