Sources Of Ethical Guidance: Laws Or Conscience

Sources of Ethical Guidance: Laws or Conscience

There are two sources that help people make moral decisions from a deontological standpoint. The first is external to the actor and consists of laws, rules, and regulations; the second is internal to the actor and consists of the actor's inner conscience. These two sources impose an ethical obligation on moral beings, requiring them to do well and avoid evil. They provide a theoretical framework for ethical guidance when taken together.


•    The concept of law as applied to ethics differs from that of law as applied to other subjects such as physics. Law has a moral connotation in ethics.
•    Law, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is defined as "An ordinance of reason for the common good, promulgated by the community's caretaker"
•    As a result, law establishes a course of action that must be followed. The legislator, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, must act reasonably when devising a course of action. The legislator's orders must be good, feasible, and equitable. 
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1.    Laws must be compatible with human nature, that is, they must be physically and morally feasible to follow. 
2.    Laws must also be just, equally distributing benefits and burdens.
3.    The law is for the common good, not for private gain. 
4.    Before anyone can be expected to follow a law, it must first be promulgated or made known to the public. Citizens will be unaware of the existence of a law if the legislator does not promulgate or publicise it, and the legislator cannot expect obedience.


•    The main distinction between rules and laws is the severity of the penalties for breaking them. While both are intended to promote order, fairness, and safety, the weight of a law is far greater than that of a rule. 
•    The legal version of rules are laws. Your parents establish rules for you to follow when you are a child. In a society, the government establishes laws that must be followed.
•    Laws are written in a specific code that can be easily interpreted. When you break the law, you will face legal consequences. Rules are more flexible and have minor ramifications. You can make rules for games, for your home, and even for fighting. As conditions and circumstances change, rules are frequently adjusted.
•    To take effect, laws must be passed through the proper channels. A law begins as a bill that must pass a series of checks, balances, and votes before becoming law. The rules are simply set and adjusted as the situation demands.
•    Rules assist us in learning how to prepare for life in society. We learn as children that there are rules about speaking, stealing, lying, and wasting money. Laws are in place to be enforced, not to set teaching boundaries.


Sources of Ethical Guidance: Laws or Conscience?
•    Regulations can be defined as a method of monitoring and enforcing laws, as well as a written instrument that aids in the enforcement of laws.
•    The executive usually makes regulations to ensure that the laws are followed. In most cases, the law provides a skeletal framework for addressing a topic. 
•    Regulations are intended to provide a detailed and complex framework for implementing the law.
•    Regulations frequently assist in the clarification of laws, though they do not always do so effectively.


•    Is there anyone who is above the law? Some philosophers argue that the sovereign, as the source of all rights, is above the law because no one has the authority to pass judgement on him or her.
•    The sovereign is not above the law, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, because the sovereign can submit to the law. "Whatever law a man makes for another, he should keep for himself," he says. If a person is in a country or territory other than the legislator's, he may be breaking the law.
•    A law is generally inapplicable outside of the territory over which the legislature has legislative authority. The laws of the United States, for example, are not applicable in India.

case study: 

When asked if he had ever used drugs during the 1992 presidential primary, Bill Clinton made this distinction. When asked if he had ever broken any laws in the United States by using drugs, he replied that he had never done so. He admitted to using marijuana while a student at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. He was implying that the laws of the United States do not apply to Americans living in England. Despite the preceding distinction, something interesting happened in Ireland in the spring of 1992. As a result of an alleged rape, a fourteen-year-old Irish girl became pregnant. She and her parents travelled to England to obtain an abortion, which is illegal in Ireland under the Irish Constitution. The case was brought before the High Court in Dublin by the Irish Attorney General. The Court decided that the fourteen-year-old could not have an abortion in England because of the Irish Constitution. The Supreme Court of Ireland heard the appeal, but did not rule that the young woman had the constitutional right to travel to England for an abortion, as most scholars expected. Rather, it ruled that she was entitled to an abortion because she was threatening suicide. Her right to life was given precedence over the foetus’s right to life.
It appears that, at least in this case, the Irish courts believe that the law – the Irish Constitution – applies outside of Ireland, at least when it comes to pregnancy termination. The right to travel, which all members of the European Community, including Ireland, subscribe to, is deemed secondary by Irish courts to the right to life. The courts have deferred to Ireland's legislative process to resolve these issues. However, we must seriously consider how an Irish law or the Irish Constitution can bind an Irish citizen living in the United States, whether legally or illegally. Despite having dual citizenship, many Irish Americans have never visited Ireland. It's difficult to see how the Irish Constitution or Irish laws can bind them together.
The goal of the law is to benefit the general public. However, if following a law would be detrimental to the common good in a specific case, there is no obligation to do so. The spirit of the law takes precedence over the letter of the law in this case.


•    The word "conscience" comes from the Latin word conscientia, which means "privilege of knowledge" or "knowledge with." The word "conscience" in English means "moral awareness." The "voice within" and the "inner light" are two metaphors for conscience that are frequently used. It refers to a person's moral sense of right and wrong, as well as awareness of his or her own actions.
•    In simple terms, conscience is an ability, intuition, or judgement that aids in determining what is right and what is wrong. When a human acts against his moral values, conscience is often described as leading to feelings of remorse, and feelings of pleasure and well-being when our actions, thoughts, and words are in accordance with our value systems.
•    Conscience is a judgement – an act of the intellect – from a deontological standpoint. It is an intellectual decision rather than a feeling or an emotion. It's also a decision made in preparation for a specific action. 
•    Conscience can make a practical decision about the morality of a past action or a future action. The terms "gut feeling" and "guilt" are frequently used in conjunction with the word "conscience." In this sense, the conscience is something that can be influenced by one's parentage, social class, religion, or culture, rather than being the result of a rational deduction.
•    Conscience is broader than law because it applies the law or rule to specific actions. Some have compared conscience to a paintbrush when it comes to law.


•    John Locke claimed that the conscience proved the existence of innate principles, but he debated whether these principles provide moral absolutes and whether they are objective or subjective. "If conscience is a proof of innate principles, then contraries may be innate principles, because some men of the same conscience commit what others avoid."
•    Similarly, Thomas Hobbes noted pragmatically that because the conscience can be misunderstood, opinions formed on the basis of conscience, even when formed with full honest conviction, should not always be trusted.
•    According to Erich Fromm, we are guided to achieve our full potential by "a reaction of ourselves to ourselves; the voice of our true selves." Sigmund Freud believed that conscience is a part of the human mind that seeks to make sense of disorder and resolve internal conflicts caused by guilt. He believed that both early and later life beliefs influenced one's conscience.
•    Immanuel Kant proposed the concept of the critical conscience, which he likened to a mental courtroom where the prosecutor or conscience defends or condemns thoughts and actions. He also argued that, while moral people experience inner peace as a result of following their conscience's instructions, they should not do good deeds for the sake of experiencing this inner peace, but rather as part of their duty.
•    Similarly, Rousseau believed that conscience connected man to a greater metaphysical unity. A conscience aims to make moral decisions despite the risk of negative consequences when confronted with "overwhelming forces of inescapable situations." Everything collapses if conscience is lost; conscience is central to our identity and a component in the moral decision-making process; however, failure to acknowledge and accept that conscientious judgments can be seriously erroneous due to their relativistic nature may only promote situations in which one's conscience is manipulated by others to provide unjustified justifications for non-virtuous and selfish acts.
•    Without adequate external, altruistic, normative justification, conscience may be regarded as morally blind and potentially dangerous to both the individual and humanity as a whole.


•    It's debatable whether the conscience is the most reliable source of information for making decisions. When it comes to making decisions, however, there are many different perspectives on conscience.
•    The concept of the conscience originated in early Christian beliefs, but it has since evolved through psychological views of it as being linked to or a part of the mind. 
•    Later on, Sigmund Freud developed the concept of the conscience, arguing that scientific knowledge, rather than religious views and opinions, was the best way to explain the conscience.
•    The statement that the conscience is not a reliable guide to ethical decision making is supported by secular perspectives on the conscience, which demonstrate that our moral values are subject to subjectivity due to individual experiences and upbringing. 
•    When it comes to moral judgement, ethical decision-making assists us in making the best choices. Secular approaches, on the other hand, do not provide an accurate method of determining what the correct path is. 
•    The conscience, according to St Paul, is a moral guide that lives within us and does not require any rules or theories to be followed. You don't have to be a Christian to relate to and use the conscience as a moral guide because St Paul's concept of the conscience is universal to everyone. According to St Paul, everyone has a conscience that serves as a moral compass.
•    However, using our conscience as a moral guide may not always be the best option. Assuming we do use our conscience, how can people be held accountable for crimes if they believed they were doing the right thing?
•    Butler was a Christian theologian and philosopher who believed that the ability to reason was bestowed by God on the conscience. Many of St Paul's and Butler's ideas were in agreement. Butler believed that the conscience should be viewed as a judge within each of us, a judge who makes moral decisions for us, and that because it is within each of us and appears to have a higher authority, we must listen to it and accept the decisions that our conscience makes. One of the major flaws is the assumption that not everyone can have the same level of conscience as young children, and that people with mental illnesses will have a lower level of conscience.
•    The conscience, according to Saint Augustine, is God's voice speaking to us from within – it is the law of God in our hearts that we use to understand right and wrong actions. According to him, conscience will always guide us toward the good and away from the bad. 
•    As a result, from a religious standpoint, conscience is a reliable guide to ethical decision-making because it is based on our inherent ability to discern what is good and bad. Secularists, on the other hand, may not agree with it entirely.


•    The inherent intuitive capacity to distinguish between right and wrong is known as conscience. "Inner Voice" is important in democracy because it involves multiple stakeholders such as citizens, NGOs, and corporations, all of whom must be administered by politicians who are solely elected by them. 
•    Individually, however, everyone has a conscience that aids them in making important decisions. As a result, it can be a powerful tool for avoiding individual self-centred thinking. 
1.    Political Leaders: - Corruption, nepotism, and profit-seeking behaviour can all be reduced with the help of conscience. As a result, they are compelled to act in the general good of society and to uphold the constitution's principles. They should remember that they were elected to serve the citizens, not their own needs and greed, when making decisions.
2.    At the bureaucratic level, a moral dilemma exists as to whether to simply follow orders from superiors or to follow the right path of judgement. As the link between citizens and politicians, the inherent voice of serving the nation while maintaining the highest standards of integrity and probity is critical. 
3.    Citizens at large: - Citizen Consciousness, both collective and individual, is critical because it defines the current state of society. For example, keeping the environment clean, actively participating in elections, dissenting from undemocratic principles, and so on. As a result, following it will help to prevent mob injustice such as riots and lynching’s of criminals.
4.    Furthermore, it is critical to strive for excellence and improvement on an individual and institutional level. Thus, moral degenerescence can be curtailed and faith in governing institutions can be reinstituted if everyone acts and adheres to their principles values.


The following principles govern conscience as a result of the discussion of conscience:

1.    A person must exercise reasonable caution in order to maintain a clear conscience.
2.     A person is obligated to follow a particular conscience, even if that conscience is false. For example, if I am certain that lying to save another's life is morally right, I am obligated to lie.
3.     It is never ethical to act based on a shaky conscience. Invincible ignorance is not an excuse; the individual must make an effort to resolve the uncertainty. If efforts to resolve the doubt are unsuccessful, the principle lex dubia non obligatory ("a dubious law does not bind") is invoked.

When is a law questionable? There are four principles that apply, and the actor is free to follow whichever one appeals to him the most.

Sources of Ethical Guidance: Laws or Conscience?
A.     When there is more probable evidence on the side of liberty than against it, a law is doubtful and does not bind. This is the concept of probabilism. A person in doubt about what day it is, for example, looks at four calendars. The numbers three and four indicate that it is one day and the number four indicates that it is a different day. If more liberty is desired, the person may follow the date indicated by or deduced from the three calendars.
B.    A second version of probabilityism states that a person may choose liberty if the evidence in favour of liberty is solidly probable, even if the evidence against liberty is more probable. In the same example, even though the other three numerically appear to offer more probable evidence, the person may choose to follow the time indicated by the fourth calendar.
C.    Equirobabilism is a variant of probabilism that states that if the evidence on both sides is equally balanced, a person may follow an opinion in the interest of liberty. If two calendars show that it is one day and the other two show that it is a different day, the person can choose between the two options.
D.     Compensationalism states that when deciding which option offers the most liberty, one should consider not only the evidence favouring and opposing liberty, but also the gravity of the law, the reason for acting against the law, the inconvenience of following the strict interpretation of the law, and the justness of the cause.
Some laws may be debatable, but they provide people with more options. These serve as additional guidelines to the previously discussed principles of conscience. However, one final question about conscience remains: Is there an additional obligation for people to have correct consciences based on their stage of life or educational status? The question, framed in terms of public administration, is: Are public managers or administrators obligated to educate their consciences in accordance with their responsibilities?
In other situations, management entails getting things done with the assistance of others. That assumes that management entails completing tasks correctly. The argument here is that doing things correctly is only one side of the equation. Getting the job done is also part of management. What is the correct course of action? What is the ethical course of action?
If public officials are expected to not only do the right thing but also do the right thing, they must educate their consciences in accordance with their current situation. This includes ethical theory and practise as well as management theory and practise. Managers who do not do both risk becoming not only obsolete, but also neglecting true managerial responsibilities. If managers are educators and teachers, they must understand both aspects of the job if they are to effectively teach and coach others.
There are two extremes to avoid when it comes to educating and updating the conscience. One is unconcerned about con-science, making no effort to learn what is right and wrong, or perhaps showing no interest in right and wrong at all. 
This is a trait that some public officials have. The other extreme is the person who can't tell the difference between serious and non-serious actions, whether it's getting things done correctly or doing the right thing. 
There are a few public-sector executives who fit this description. The concept of conscience, which involves a practical judgement on the morality of human action, is at the other extreme.


•    Ethical guidance can be found in laws, rules, and one's own conscience. Laws, rules, and conscience provide guidance in determining what is right and what is wrong, in addition to relying on the nature of an action, its consequences, and its purpose. 
•    Regardless of how useful laws, rules, and conscience are to a public administrator, they do not guarantee infallible judgement. While laws and rules appear to provide a deontological sound framework for making ethical decisions, there are numerous civil laws, rules, regulations, court decisions, and opinions that govern almost everything, including ethical decisions.
•    It is virtually impossible for a public official to be aware of all laws and regulations. However, by linking civil laws, rules, and regulations to natural law and human reason, the discussions attempted to provide a framework for understanding them. 
•    The debate on conscience aimed to broaden this framework and provide a foundation for ethical decision-making. The final product is far from ideal.
•    Public administrators have information on the nature of the action performed or about to be performed, the circumstances surrounding the action, and the purpose of the action at their disposal when deciding what is right and wrong. Additional guidance is provided by laws, rules, and regulations. 
•    Except for what religion and theology have to offer, which they do, everyone has a conscience that can apply those laws, rules, and other moral criteria to specific actions, and they have a lot that all public administrators have to make discretionary administrative decisions. They may, in fact, be short-changed by ethics. 
•    However, if it does, it deprives people from all walks of life. The preceding is the best theoretical framework for evaluating morality that human reason has to offer. As a result, we can conclude that what is right for individuals is largely determined by their rights and the obligations they are obligated to fulfil.

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