|dc.description.abstract||The question this thesis seeks to address is that of whether there is a basis to be found in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics for developing an understanding of what we now call moral conscience, and, if established, how this compares with a much later, post-Cartesian ethics which explicitly and more organically includes a concept of moral conscience. Our usage of the term today seems to imply that moral conscience is about feeling as well about thinking. Yet accounts of it such as that found in Kant focus on the rational.
I look first at how the term conscience appeared in philosophical writings in Ancient Greece and how the concept evolved and acquired its moral application as it passed through Stoic, and early and medieval Christian thinkers.
I then focus on one example of a modern, developed conception of conscience - that of Kant - and endeavour to examine this concept with a view to evaluating whether it can account for the ways in which we invoke the concept of a conscience today. The internal reasoning of the self-legislated moral individual Kant speaks of constitutes an ‘inner court’ in which one judges the moral value of one’s actions. I try to show how for Kant, conscience, this inner court, is a built-in element of his practical reasoning, whereas for Aristotle there is the awareness resulting from the apparentness of one’s end and the means best corresponding to it, this awareness being an imagination and sensitivity which develops out of the interdependency of phronesis and moral virtue.
I turn then to Aristotle to explore, in an analysis of relevant passages in Nicomachean Ethics Books 1 to 6, what his practical reasoning, or phronesis, is and how it is central to all moments of a moral action. This is with a view to understanding how thought and knowledge relates to action in Aristotle and how feeling is a part of this picture. This reading of Aristotle’s Ethics is of course not exhaustive and focuses, for the purposes of the thesis, on the presence of phronesis in action as developed in this work by Aristotle. But it allows me, in the following section, to argue that Aristotle's ethics is highly useful to us in hammering out our concept of a conscience. I argue that it is useful on several counts, notably for its important involvement of feeling and of phantasia. This, in the footsteps of Nussbaum, Frede, Noel and Fink, I do by concentrating on the dense few lines in Book 6 of Nicomachean Ethics (where Aristotle focuses on phronesis), 1140b 17-20, arguing that Aristotle gives here the ‘apparent’ (phainetai) a place within phronesis. This, I submit, points to an involvement of the imagination within practical reasoning, or phronesis. My argument concludes with a proposal to see this involvement as a basis for conceptualising moral conscience, taking the latter to include a motivating awareness of and feeling for the moral value of actions past, present or future.||
|dc.subject.keywords||Aristotle, Kant, conscience, ethics, morals, morality, moral, prudence, phronesis, phantasia, syndersis, virtue, intellectual virtue, character, imagination, nicomachean ethics||