Political and Religious Practices: A Case Study Continued

  • Fred M. Frohock


Religious scaffolding extending to the infinite provides one of the more powerful marks of religious identity, that forged by conscience. Conscience has a distinguished line of meanings in political and religious thought, and in the latter it complements divinity by bringing the external references of religion into the identity of the self.1 In contemporary literatures conscience refers to a type of private knowledge, including especially an intimate knowledge of the self that requires loyalty to the dictates of the moral sense. The Greek terms for conscience begin with a knowing of something with another, and the knowing links to the act of bearing witness to evil. Aquinas expands on the judgmental dimensions of conscience in connecting it to acts of witness, and accusation. The Hebrew derivation of conscience is from the compass sense of north, and in contemporary Hebrew is represented by the biblical word for compass. It is also related to the word for hidden. Tom Green takes conscience into a reflexive judgment on the self and “things that matter.”2 I take an act of religious conscience to be one in which an individual follows an internal command, in religious forms of conscience drawn from a divine source but in all instances of conscience framed within the self and reflexive on the self, that carries the sanction of losing or compromising one’s identity if resisted.


Religious Practice Animal Sacrifice Dollar Bill American Civil Liberty Union Legal Team 
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  1. 3.
    Plato, Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, trans. Benjamin Jowett (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988), p. 68.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    A helpful collection of essays on conscience is Ian Shapiro and Robert Adam, eds., Integrity and Conscience (New York: NYU Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    I am taking some of these observations from a presentation by Nicholas Smith, “Persuade or Obey,” at a University of Miami campus philosophy colloquium on February 27, 2004. See also Thomas Brickman and Nicholas Smith, eds., The Trial and Execution of Socrates: Sources and Controversy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)Google Scholar
  4. Brickman and Smith, Socrates on Trial (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990)Google Scholar
  5. Paul Woodruff, eds., Reason and Religion in Socratic Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    Farrell, with Tony Bentley, Holding On To The Air (New York: Summit Books, 1990), p. 12.Google Scholar
  7. 12.
    For a concise and initial summary of these two models, Ralf Dahrendorf, Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1959).Google Scholar

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© Fred M. Frohock 2006

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  • Fred M. Frohock

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