What Creates Conscience?


What Creates Conscience?

Conscience is attributed to a gene by some psychologists while Freud stated that the conscience is the part of the superego that includes information about things that are viewed as bad by parents and society. These behaviors are often forbidden and lead to bad consequences, punishments, or feelings of guilt and remorse.

If this were so, children of the same family who were taught and disciplined the same way for the same things would all have the same conscience. Also, once the conscience was developed in this manner, it would be unlikely that the conscience could change as new information is acquired.

While discipline clearly does affect conscience, those with no discipline or those who are disciplined for everything whether what they did was good or bad will have a much different take on conscience than others if they develop a conscience at all.

Society can have an effect on conscience. What society deems good or bad can influence the level of guilt a person feels and affect whether or not a person is able to overcome destructive behavior.

Robinson writes.

"Weiner frames his discussion of conscience by distinguishing between what he terms the 'traditional' conscience, and the 'modern' variant of conscience. In short, the traditional conscience is compatible with a therapeutic, or transformational view of ethics. It is an ethics less concerned with obedience to laws than with the moral state of the agent. Overt behavior is of secondary importance compared to the nature of the motivation underlying one's action. For example, being a truly generous person is not to be equated with simply giving alms. Therapeutic ethics has as its goal the transformation of the subject so that one may be, insofar as it is humanly possible, both good and happy in a harmonious whole. In contrast to this transformational view of ethics and the traditional conscience that supports it, there is another significan strain of Western moral tradition--the 'legalistic tradition' and the 'modern' variant of conscience-- that stresses conformity to laws rather than the development of virtue."

Robinson quotes Weiner as follows.

The truly modern variant of it [legalistic ethics] can be said to begin when, in the name of a principled and consistent empiricism, the possibility of a hidden, morally ordered, happiness-bearing human nature is no longer taken seriously. It begins when, without apology or reluctance, the natural, the normal, and the average are taken to be the same, and when, consequently, the nature of human desire is felt to be exactly what it seems to beat best a confusing mixture of good and bad without moral rhyme or reason, and at worst a wild and violent thingdisordered, self-destructive, cruel and bloody, held in check only by the fear of punishment.

The modern variant is a depersonalization of human desires where desires are severed from both moral claims and obligations. It is destructive to both health being primary and natural good and the moral health of virtues.

Conscience is not only based on conscious factors, but subconscious and extra-conscious factors as well. Jung states in "Aion Researches Into The Phenomenology Of The Self."

"But from the standpoint of the psychology of the personality a twofold division ensues: an 'extra-conscious' psyche whose contents are personal, and an 'extra-conscious' psyche whose contents are impersonal and collective. The first group comprises contents which are integral components of theindividual personality and could therefore just as well be conscious; the second group forms, as it were, an omnipresent, unchanging, and everywhere identical quality or substrate of the
psyche per se."

Being that some of the influences are conscious and some unconscious, some being pumped into us by subliminal advertising and other messages pumped in through the media, even in seemingly benign, mindless programming, you can start to understand how conscience has been changed from the traditional which included transformational ethics and virtue to a more legalistic conscience.

Noam Chomsky, in What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream states of Edward Bernays' Propaganda.

"A lot of people were impressed by these achievements. One person impressed, and this had some implications for the future, was Hitler. If you read Mein Kampf, he concludes, with some justification, that Germany lost the first World War because it lost the propaganda battle. They could not begin to compete with British and American propaganda which absolutely overwhelmed them. He pledges that next time around they'll have their own propaganda system, which they did during the second World War. More important for us, the American business community was also very impressed with the propaganda effort. They had a problem at that time. The country was becoming formally more democratic. A lot more people were able to vote and that sort of thing.

The country was becoming wealthier and more people could participate and a lot of new immigrants were coming in, and so on.

So what do you do? It's going to be harder to run things as a private club. Therefore, obviously, you have to control what people think. There had been public relation specialists but there was never a public relations industry."

Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, was responsible for changing the word propaganda to Counsel of Public Relations. He not only helped sell women on the idea that smoking was good by promoting them as a challenge to male power. He showed corporations how to sell people things they didn't need by linking them to their unconscious desires. From this came a political idea of how to control the masses. By appealing to people's inner selfish desires, they made people feel happy and the people became docile.

In order to separate yourself from the programmed 'modern' conscience and get in touch with the 'traditional' conscience, you would have to remove yourself from the world of constant programming which, in today's society, is near impossible to achieve. Even if you remove television programming and Internet, you're likely to be assaulted by billboards and radio commercials from cars at stop lights even if you don't turn yours on. Still, removing yourself from programming as much as possible increases your likelihood of getting in touch with 'traditional' conscience.

Though Stephen Hawking feels that exploring space is the key to the survival of our species, doing so with our 'modern' conscience would likely turn us into Borg-like locusts who would quickly consume the resources of whatever planet we find to inhabit. Then we would move on to destroy more worlds. Getting in touch with 'traditional' conscience may be the only true hope for the survival of our species.


What Is the Conscience?, Kendra Cherry, Psychology, Conscience and Jung's moral vision: from id to thou, David W. Robinson, Google Books,

Handbook of Psychology: Developmental psychology, Irving B. Weiner, Donald K. Freedheim, Richard M. Lerner, M. Ann Easterbrooks, John A. Schinka, Jayanthi Mistry, Google Books,

"Aion Researches Into The Phenomenology Of The Self", C. G. Jung Aion,

What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream, From a talk at Z Media Institute June 1997 , Noam Chomsky,

Hawking: Space exploration a necessity, Space, Houston Chronicle, June 13, 2006,

                       Copyright © 2011 Cal Jennings


Uploaded 07/02/2011
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