(a) What is conscience? Explain the following quote with respect to that – “In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place”. (Mahatma Gandhi)
• The inner conscience is defined as that part of the human psyche that induces mental
anguish and feelings of guilt when we violate it and feelings of pleasure and well-being
when our actions, thoughts and words are in conformity to our value systems.
• The conscience is a servant of the individual’s value system. An immature or weak value
system produces a weak conscience, while a fully informed value system produces a strong
sense of right and wrong.
• In the above quote, Gandhiji has stated that decisions should be taken based on the conscience, the principles of right and wrong not what majority demands in the society.
• The decisions should be based on the ethical principle of good to greater number of people.
• Many a times in democracy majority wins over minority and programmes and policies get
moulded according to their needs rather than being based on universal ethical principles.
One’s Conscience should always guide oneself.
(b) How is conscience shaped by the education, law, and authority? What is the importance of conscience in decision-making?
• A human being always comes across ethical dilemmas in decision making process.
• An ethical dilemma can be described as a circumstance that requires a choice between competing sets of principles in a given, usually undesirable or perplexing, situation. Conflicts of interest are possibly the most obvious example that could place sector leaders in an ethical dilemma.
• At this point conscience acts as the guide for taking correct decisions. Conscience of an
individual helps in analyzing the situation from different perspectives and help in taking the right decision.
• Conscience is a special act of the mind that comes into being when the intellect passes
judgment on the goodness or badness of a particular act. It is a practical judgment on
particular, concrete, human actions.
• Conscience is not innate rather developed with time, value syatem, etc. It is shaped by
education, law and authority.
• Proper education develops wisdom which helps in differentiating between right and wrong. It helps in taking rational decisions.
• Law and authority instill fear of punishment to develop conscience. Forbidden actions in the society are accompanied by punishment becomes associated with pain and the threat of
• Thus, conscience is, in effect, a social mechanism for the development of ethics in a society.