|The consciousness of what is right or wrong according to certain
principles of reference. It either produces peace of mind or guilt as a
result of the action performed. The Western understanding of conscience
was particularly influenced by Thomas Aquinas. It is a sentiment that may
have a social dimension beyond the individual one. Indeed, for Durkheim,
the "collective conscience" (conscience collective ) is
the "total of the beliefs and sentiments common to the mean of
members of the same society." There is often confusion between
consciousness and conscience. The latter concept is older and refers to
aspects of a moral nature, whereas the former has a more sociological
dimension—for example, in "class consciousness," a context
where the religious dimension may also be studied.
É. Durkheim, Division of Labor in Society (London: Macmillan, 1933)
P. E. Hammond, "Conscience and the Establishment Clause," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 35(1996):356-367.
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