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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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I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to all those who have helped me in any way to reach the point of publication of this work. The content of this book is largely the doctoral thesis presented to the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical University, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth in 2008, following time spent at the Pontifical Scots College, Rome. I am most grateful to the Rt Rev. Peter Moran, Bishop Emeritus of Aberdeen, for granting me the opportunity to pursue the research and for the warm welcome and support of the staf f and community of the Scots College during my time there. I wish to thank the members of the Faculty of Theology of St Patrick’s College for their courses and guidance, and as communicated by the Rev. Prof. Liam Tracey, OSM, for their permission to publish the thesis. Clearly, more could be done to the text to develop its content and expand areas of the research. However, although present commitments largely preclude any major development, I hope that, despite its inadequa- cies, the reader will derive some benefit from the text in its present form. In the work, I have incorporated a brief study of the modern analy- sis of deduction, as conducted by the field of cognitive psychology, in order to compare it with the medieval attitudes to deductive reasoning in conscience. I am indebted to Dr Paul Kinnear, formerly of the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Aberdeen,...

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