A Study Of Conscience -- By: Charles Caverno
BSac 58:231 (July 1901) p. 556
A Study Of Conscience
I use the term “conscience” as equivalent to moral nature. I mean by conscience, man’s total capacity for moral action or passion—moral function or affection. I want it understood, at the outset, that I do not limit the term “conscience” to moral sentiment or sensibility. It will cover a much wider range than that in this discussion. Conscience is sometimes treated as a sentiment merely, and then it is said that there is no light in it. Now to say that, as a sentiment, conscience has little or no light for man, is to say something with which I should not violently disagree. No receptivity or sensibility fills itself. If it be said that it is best to confine the term “conscience” to the province of sentiment in morals I would not be a pugnacious objector. Only let us understand ourselves. I think, however, such limitation of the term would be unfortunate, for in customary use, I am persuaded, the word “conscience” is understood as covering the whole moral capacity of man. To use the term as simply equivalent to moral sentiment or emotion, without conveying the idea that such treatment does not exhaust the moral nature of man, does not even treat the most significant parts of that nature, is, in my judgment, a grave and sad mistake.
The psychologists say that man has certain leading faculties which they denominate intellect, sensibility, and will,—or the power to perceive, to feel, to choose. There are certain departments open to man in which he may give these faculties exercise. There are departments in
BSac 58:231 (July 1901) p. 557
which he may give them all exercise—departments broad enough to call for the employment of perception, sensibility or affection, and choice. Take, for instance, the department of knowledge. Man has capacity to perceive things that may be known, i.e., power to grasp, to comprehend them. He has a certain passion intellectually, or appetite or affection or sensibility, for things in this department. We speak of this sensibility sometimes as a thirst for knowledge. Then man has the capacity of will to determine his attitude toward the department, i.e., to say, to determine, whether he will employ his perceptive powers in it—whether he will gratify the appetite or nisus or longing of his nature for the things of this department, and power to make selective choices in the department. Now it would be a poor elaboration of this department, and of man’s capacities in it, to seize on the intellectual appetite or sensibility toward knowledge and to say that there is no light in it. The affection standing by itself, of course, would be barren. But put perception and put will along with affection, and you get light in the department of knowledge. Daniel We...
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