Conscience and the Common Good

Journal of Catholic Legal Studies, 2010

U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-02

18 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2010  

Robert K. Vischer

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Our longstanding commitment to the liberty of conscience has become strained by our increasingly muddled understanding of what conscience is and why we value it. Too often we equate conscience with individual autonomy, and so we reflexively favor the individual in any contest against group authority, losing sight of the fact that a vibrant liberty of conscience requires a vibrant marketplace of morally distinct groups. Defending individual autonomy is not the same as defending the liberty of conscience because, while conscience is inescapably personal, it is also inescapably relational. Conscience is formed, articulated, and lived out through relationships, and its viability depends on the law’s willingness to protect the associations and venues through which individual consciences can flourish: these are the myriad institutions that make up the space between the person and the state. This essay is taken from my new book, Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State (Cambridge Univ. Press 2010). The book seeks to reframe the debate about conscience by bringing its relational dimension into focus.

Keywords: liberty of conscience, individual autonomy, common good, conscience

Suggested Citation

Vischer, Robert K., Conscience and the Common Good (2010). Journal of Catholic Legal Studies, 2010; U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1544084

Robert K. Vischer (Contact Author)

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law ( email )

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States
651-962-4838 (Phone)

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