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p. 593. Three critics of conscience: Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Freudlocked

  • Paul Strohm


Many religious thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries promulgated a hopeful view of an accessible and socially beneficial conscience. This overly optimistic view of conscience as a source of moral security attracted critics. Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Freud were united in their disdain for conscience as an unproblematic agent of self-improvement or an unbending advocate of public morality. All three raised questions: what if conscience, rather than the voice of God or enlightened social consensus, presents an unnecessary burden? What if the burden is unnecessarily imposed upon ourselves? What if we accept and internalize the dictates of external forces that are overbearing or untrue, thus yielding to a conscience of prejudice or unexamined inhibition?

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