Research Article

Conscience – An Essay in Moral Psychology*

William Lyonsa1

a1 Trinity College, Dublin


The ultimate aim of this essay is to suggest that conscience is a very important part of human psychology and of our moral point of view, not something that can be dismissed as merely ‘a part of Christian theology’. The essay begins with discussions of what might be regarded as the two most influential functional models of conscience, the classical Christian account of conscience and the Freudian account of conscience. Then, using some insights from these models, and from some comparatively recent work in psychology and especially psychiatry, the author argues for a quite different model of conscience that might be called the personal integrity account of conscience.

William Lyons is the author of a number of books in philosophical psychology and philosophy of mind, such as Emotion (1980), The Disappearance of Introspection (1986) and Matters of the Mind (2001), as well as of some award-winning philosophical plays.


* An earlier version of this essay was delivered as a paper at a symposium in honour of Terence Penelhum at the University of Calgary, Canada, in 2006.