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BUTLER AND CONSCIENCE
Transcript of BUTLER AND CONSCIENCE
Joseph Butler (18 May 1692 O.S. – 16 June 1752) was an English bishop, theologian, apologist, and philosopher. He was born in Wantage in the English county of Berkshire. He is known, among other things, for his critique of Thomas Hobbes's egoism and John Locke's theory of personal identity. During his life and after his death, Butler influenced many philosophers, including David Hume, Thomas Reid, and Adam Smith.
Analogy of Religion
He is best known for his Analogy of Religion, which he
wrote in 1736 when he was vicar of Stanhope. It “tried to establish the analogy and conformity of Natural and
Revealed Religion to what is observable in nature.”so basicially it tried to address the questions raised by people who accepted the idea of order and regularity in nature, but remained unconvinced by the claims of Religion.
Butler’s ideas are based on the principle that there is a basic “Human Nature”, and that within this nature there is a system. He argues that Morality is a matter of following Human Nature. There are various parts to Human Nature – these are organised hierarchically.
BUT This hierarchical order does not in itself give Human Beings the faculty to behave morally. Instead, Butler argues that the part of Human nature that is at the top
of this hierarchy gives us the ability to adjudicate between the two main parts of Human nature. This “top” is Conscience
This is a desire for happiness for the self. It is "who
can reflect upon themselves and their own interest or
happiness, so as to have that interest an object to
This is the desire or hope for happiness in other people.
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The Conscience adjudicates between these two principles.
§ This is an intrinsic part of Human Nature.
§ To dismiss morality (as social construction or as psychological
projection) is to deny that intrinsic part of human nature.
Conscience is therefore the supreme authority in Human Nature, and we should not disregard it.
The conscience “adjudicates" between the two interests.
Every human being has the ability to make moral judgements,
through the exercise of the conscience. This conscience directs the individual as they make judgements based on the two (possibly conflicting) principles of self-love and benevolence (love of others).
Conscience always argues against self-love and in favour of love of others.
This guidance is intuitive. It is a gift from God, and as such, it’s guidancen is not an option! It has universal authority in all moral judgements.
Intuition is not infallible – the conscience could be misinformed or even wrong!
§ Without an appeal to external, objective moral yardsticks, it is possible that Butler’s idea allows moral anarchy, where an individual can intuit what is best regardless of the moral character of an action.
§ The appeal to intuitive conscience is self-authenticating. It has its authority from within itself.