Ilya Shambat

Ilya Shambat
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Melbourne, VIC, Australia
Birthday
November 21
Title
Partner
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Adda Enterprises
Bio
Born in Russia, family moved to America when I was 12. Got a degree from University of Virginia at 18. Worked for Oracle, translated four books of classical Russian poety, was part of San Francisco and Washington, DC poetry and music scene. Good friends with San Francisco's own Persephone's Bees and acquainted with Patch Adams. Currently married with children, residing in Australia and working on a clean energy technology implementation.

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Salon.com
APRIL 29, 2012 10:44PM

Conscience and Consciousness

Rate: 3 Flag
A very important, though not much discussed, factor in psychology is conscience. Apparently psychopaths (or sociopaths) are people lacking in conscience; but not much is said about the character of the conscience that people who do have conscience possess. In fact, different people's consciences contain different things; and it is this that is the most significant but least discussed issue in this matter.

In Huckleberry Finn, the main character felt guilty for freeing a slave. In contemporary world what he did would be seen as heroic; but the conscience of the main character was differently constituted. Similarly, there are people whose conscience tells them to murder their daughters for getting raped; to massacre people who don't follow their religion; or to go around guiltlessly plundering what they cannot conceivably recreate. What does this mean in reality?

It means the following: That conscience, like all things human, can be wrongly constituted and does not offer a perfect guidance for choices in life. Does this mean that one should go without conscience as we are told sociopaths do? Absolutely not. What this means is that conscience can be wrongly constituted; and if one's conscience tells  oneself that one should murder one's daughter for getting raped, or to massacre people for not practicing one's religion, or to plunder what they cannot recreate, or to beat their wives, or to keep the slaves with their owners, then one's conscience is wrongly constituted and needs to be reworked.

Now the idea of reworking such things can be threatening, and the reality of reworking such things can be both perilous and highly unpleasant. What we are dealing with here is instructions that have been put into one's mind before one developed capacity for critical thinking; that compose one's sense of right and wrong; and that, when challenged, can make oneself feel like a terrible person. But ultimately being conscious of such things and making such changes can create a better and more informed conscience: Conscience that's not a result of childhood-transmitted instructions, whatever their degree of rightness and wrongness, but rather a result of conscious and informed choice. And this will lead to better and ultimately more actually conscientious decisions: Ones that are informed by reality of the world and that allow oneself to make choices that are sufficiently informed by reality of the world to maximize benefit and minimize wrongdoing.

The task therefore is to make concience conscious and rework it into the shape that is adequately informed by reality; by one's adult knowledge; by one's experience and of course by what is known of the world. And the outcome is a better conscience that is no longer a product of beliefs introjected into the mind prior to one's development of critical thinking, but that accords with critical thinking and becomes a more informed guide to better moral choice.

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But what if one cannot do all this on his own, or is not of enough sound mind to make his conscience conscious? Who helps himtodo so? Very thought provoking, if I understood correctly.

R♥
Conscience does not equal magical thinking. There must be some basis of reality in one's motivations and morality.
FusunA: I hear what you're saying, the best way to do this is with someone who's done it.
OLN: I never said it was magical thinking. In fact what I did say is that one's experience of reality as an adult as well as knowledge of reality can help create a conscience that is more informed by reality.
Of course, Ilya, you are perfectly sure your particular version of conscience is the right one and all those nasty people who do things you disapprove of are off track. There's something of a problem here.
I am stating what is not frequently stated but should be: Different people's conscience consists of different things, some of them right some of them wrong.

I am proposing a workable solution: Using one's adult intelligence and knowledge of things to remove the wrong items in one's conscience. That doesn't mean the person implementing my values: It means the person using what they've learned since after the conscience was formulated to remove what is inconsistent with the knowledge and put into place what is consistent with it.

If you have anything intelligent to say against this, please do so. Comments that are irrelevant to the subject at hand do not apply.
I am stating what is not frequently stated but should be: Different people's conscience consists of different things, some of them right some of them wrong.

I am proposing a workable solution: Using one's adult intelligence and knowledge of things to remove the wrong items in one's conscience. That doesn't mean the person implementing my values: It means the person using what they've learned since after the conscience was formulated to remove what is inconsistent with the knowledge and put into place what is consistent with it.

If you have anything intelligent to say against this, please do so. Comments that are irrelevant to the subject at hand do not apply.
There is nothing irrelevant about indicating that much of conscience is constructed at an emotional level immune to rationality. I have had sufficient interchanges with various people of contrary opinions to comprehend that the bases of conscience and deep belief are not necessarily amenable to my sense of reality. Realities between people can differ radically depending upon various factors and those factors are very frequently not available for argument.
"There is nothing irrelevant about indicating that much of conscience is constructed at an emotional level immune to rationality. I have had sufficient interchanges with various people of contrary opinions to comprehend that the bases of conscience and deep belief are not necessarily amenable to my sense of reality. Realities between people can differ radically depending upon various factors and those factors are very frequently not available for argument."

I was in fact stating much of what you have just stated: That conscience is formed at a level preceding development of critical thinking, and that for this reason much benefit can be served by reframing one's conscience in light of the knowledge and experience that one has developed as an adult.
But different frames of reference and interpretations of experience most frequently interfere with any commonality of comprehension. All sorts of social and conventional cultural outlooks stand in the way of everybody coming to the same conclusions.
The never-ending question; "What is consciousness?"

I think your idea that we need “to make conscience conscious”, as you put it, is the issue. But conscience is not conscious, it is an emotion. The conscious aspect resides in the intellect where decisions are often made against conscience in order to maintain social constructs that involve an intellectual sense of duty.

It is true that a person can be subjected to social constructs that may dictate his sense of correct behavior, which I think is what you mean by “wrongly constituted”. I don’t think a person’s “conscience” is actually what is referred to in that statement. I think that statement refers more accurately to a sense of duty, which often creates conflict with conscience. Conscience is an emotional sense. If we look at some basic definitions, conscience is thought of as “an inner feeling or voice” while conscious is “awareness of environment”. That’s why the two sometimes come into conflict; what occurs in your environment may not align with that inner feeling or voice.

Conscience is something inherent in all of us, aside from those exceptions like you mention such as sociopaths and personality disorders. I saw, just today, a video about an Islamic girl, aged 16, who was executed for having sexual relations. Listening to members of her culture talk about the event, it was evident their consciences were troubling them, even though the decision was “correct” and “legal” culturally and according to their sense or religious duty. I think equating conscience with social constructs that may cut against conscience is unwise.

It is, in fact, conscience that, more often than not, overpowers destructive social constructs and leads to a more humane approach.
you have succeeded in having us contemplate conscience and morality.