Identifier

etd-04152013-143750

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

This dissertation examines the problems confronted by claims of ‘freedom of conscience’ in contemporary political society, and argues that freedom of conscience is a critical foundational component of any free political regime. Yet, conscience is often invoked as the final authority or justification for any choice, regardless whether the action or choice violates the common good. In this case, there is a risk that conscience can become identified with subjectivism, radical individualism, or autonomy. I suggest that a re-examination of the theory of conscience found in Aquinas, especially as it relates to human reason, natural law, and prudence, contributes toward a better understanding of conscience and its place in political life, especially in shaping the common good. I argue that Aquinas’s understanding of conscience points to critical individual, relational, and transcendent elements that constitute and form conscience. The first chapter examines what many scholars consider the contemporary ‘crisis of conscience’ that has been experienced acutely in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and I introduce Aquinas as the interlocutor whose understanding of conscience I examine. The second chapter analyzes the sources that Aquinas draws from to formulate his own twofold theory of conscience as consisting of synderesis and conscientia. Specifically, I examine the important contributions of Aristotle, Cicero, Jerome, Origen, and Augustine. The third and fourth chapters focus on Aquinas’s texts. Chapter three evaluates the development of Aquinas’s work on conscience in two of his earlier works, viz. Scriptum Super Libros Sententiarum and De Veritate. The fourth chapter examines the Summa Theologiae and the Commentary on Romans, wherein Aquinas situates conscience within the framework of natural law. The final chapter juxtaposes Aquinas’s terminology of the primary level of conscience, synderesis, with an alternative concept, viz. anamnesis. Political philosopher Eric Voegelin has also proposed this term as a way of understanding human nature qua rational and political. This chapter considers both the possibility and implications of this alternative term for the primary level of conscience and helps to clarify the place of conscience in political discourse.

Date

2013

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Secure the entire work for patent and/or proprietary purposes for a period of one year. Student has submitted appropriate documentation which states: During this period the copyright owner also agrees not to exercise her/his ownership rights, including public use in works, without prior authorization from LSU. At the end of the one year period, either we or LSU may request an automatic extension for one additional year. At the end of the one year secure period (or its extension, if such is requested), the work will be released for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Sandoz, Ellis

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