Conscience, Morality, Civilization

Maybe it’s odd that a passing comment by a character in a Tom Clancy thriller got me thinking deep thoughts this morning, but it did…

“A conscience is the price of morality, and morality is the price of civilization.”
“Patriot Games” by Tom Clancy, Page 97.

I do not agree with this. Especially the last part about civilization.

Many times Morality manages to survive despite the efforts of our civilization to crush it. Having morals in today civilization is thought of, it seems, as uncivilized — as something left over from the dawn of man and best left there.

The more I think about it, the more I think this quote is ass-backwards. Conscience came first. (Call it the Holy Spirit, or an evolutionary adaptation to live in close association with others in order for the group to better survive; it amounts to the same thing.) Then, with Conscience came Morality — someone spelling out the rules that those with a conscience know “by instinct”, by listening to that “still, small voice”. From those rules came Civilization, which sometimes feels like it is actively working to destroy its own foundations.

Seen this way it could be more accurately said that “Civilization is the price we pay for a Conscience”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *