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9 - Pierre Bayle

An Enlightened Alternative to John Locke

from Part II - Conscience According to Major Figures and Traditions

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 June 2021

Jeffrey B. Hammond
Affiliation:
Faulkner University
Helen M. Alvare
Affiliation:
George Mason University, Virginia
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Summary

Edward Andrew discusses Pierre Bayle, who held that conscience was the “voice of God,” but that humans can still err. Enlightenment thinkers increasingly insisted that social approval, not God’s voice, guided conscience. Thus, conscience became not about certainty concerning the right course of action, but rather about alignment with social forces that might create stability. Bayle maintained that conscience was a faculty of the person, although subject to error. This distinguished him from Locke, who referenced conscience in his political writings. However, in his Essay concerning Human Understanding, Locke asserted that conscience was only one’s abiding beliefs. Bayle, however, proposed that conscience was the development of applications of natural law and Scripture. Harold Schulweis and Harold Berman are conversation partners for Bayle. Schulweis sees conscience as a force of judgment outside law. Morality is not fixed; rather, the person with an active conscience constantly recalibrates her actions and judges the right thing to do. Berman, however, thought conscience as a force beside law, like a jury that renders its judgment about the right decision under the circumstances.

Type
Chapter
Information
Christianity and the Laws of Conscience
An Introduction
, pp. 170 - 186
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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References

Andrew, Edward G. Conscience and Its Critics: Protestant Conscience, Enlightened Reason, and Modern Subjectivity. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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Curran, Charles E., ed. Conscience. New York, ny: Paulist Press, 2004.Google Scholar
King, Martin Luther Jr. The Trumpet of Conscience. New York, ny: Harper and Row, 1968.Google Scholar
Schulweis, Harold M. Conscience: The Duty to Obey and the Duty to Disobey. Woodstock, vt: Jewish Lights, 2008.Google Scholar
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Witte, John Jr. The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion, and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.Google Scholar
Witte, John Jr. and Alexander, Frank S., eds. Christianity and Law: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.Google Scholar

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