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Conscience in Context

Historical and Existential Perspectives

Stuart P. Chalmers

In this book, the author presents a detailed study of the notion of conscience from the perspective of its historical development and existential environment. The purpose of the study is to highlight conscience’s dignity and fallibility, as well as its dependence upon the context of virtue and grace, in order to develop as our capacity to perceive the truth in moral action. Starting from the premise that current moral theory is suffering from fragmentation, the author proposes that this fragmented outlook has affected the common understanding of conscience and is therefore in need of renewal, chiefly in terms of the reintegration of conscience with its proper setting. In order to explore this theory, he investigates how conscience has been understood over the centuries, particularly in the New Testament and during the Scholastic period, and analyses a number of important issues concerning its nature and function.

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Acknowledgements xiii Foreword xv Introduction 1 Chapter One Setting the Scene: Fragmentation 7 MacIntyre’s Analysis of Moral Fragmentation 9 Porter’s Analysis of Fragmentation in Moral Theology 15 Pinckaers and the Fragmentation of Freedom 16 Summing up the Evidence 27 Corresponding Fragmentation in the Notion of Conscience 29 Conclusion 36 Chapter Two Conscience in Classical Culture and Sacred Scripture 39 Semantic Background to the Use of Conscience in the New Testament 40 Conscience in the Writing of Saint Paul 54 Jewish and Hellenistic Inf luences on the Notion of Syneidēsis 61 Later New Testament Usage 67 Conclusion 68 Chapter Three Medieval Investigations on Conscience 71 Patristic Sources and Medieval Application 71 Early Scholastic Definitions of Synderesis 78 xRatio Superior, Ratio Inferior and Synderesis 81 The First Treatise on Conscience – Philip the Chancellor 85 Saint Bonaventure 90 Saint Albert the Great 103 Saint Thomas Aquinas 124 Conclusion 150 Appendix 1 – A Shift in the Understanding of Conscience: The Inf luence of the Manuals 152 Appendix 2 – A Comparison of Key Commentary Passages Containing Synderesis 163 Chapter Four Issues on the Nature and Function of Conscience 169 Introduction 169 The Question of Deduction in Conscience 170 The Content and Purpose of Synderesis 228 Josef Pieper on Truth and Being as the Foundation for Morality 236 Joseph Ratzinger on Conscience as the Capacity to Know the Truth 243 What Kind of Content? 261 Conclusion 271 Chapter Five Conscience and Virtue 273 Introduction 273 Constitutive Elements of Virtue 279 Conscience and Particular Virtues 293...

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