Moral consciousness: Definition, nature, characteristics and elements of moral consciousness

Moral consciousness is the name of peoples' awareness of the qualities of their volitional actions or the moral importance of their respective characters.

Moral consciousness is a mental process. When people are aware of the sense of right-wrongness; right-wrongness of their volitional actions; then it must be assumed that they are considering their volitional actions in the realm of moral consciousness.

When a person with moral consciousness moves towards an absolute goal, it is called a moral ideal, and when a person progresses slowly towards the ultimate goal to achieve the fullness of life, it is called moral progress. When people are motivated by moral ideals and run towards moral progress, they must have some virtues that are linked to the moral rights and duties of people. Now the question is— What moral consciousness is.

What is moral consciousness?

What does moral consciousness mean?

“Moral” means relating to beliefs about what is right or wrong, and “consciousness” means the state of understanding and realizing something. The meaning of the term “moral consciousness” is an idea or knowledge of right and wrong.

Definition of moral consciousness

Moral consciousness is a special type of mental process that makes people aware of what they desire to do, and what is right and wrong. Moral consciousness tells about what people should keep their promises and not break promises e.g. it tells people that helping a distressed person is always good, and hurting others cannot be a good practice.

Moral consciousness refers to awareness of the rightness and wrongness of our volitional actions which is about volitional actions rather than the passive experiences of human beings.

What does moral consciousness do?

  • Moral consciousness makes people aware of the moral importance of their behavior.
  • It helps people to determine their courses of actions.
  • Moral consciousness helps people to understand the difference between justice and injustice, which is characterized primarily by thoughtful, social, active, compulsive, emotional, etc.
  • The moral consciousness of justice and injustice or right and wrong not only helps people to increase their own happiness and comfort, but also helps to increase the social happiness and comfort of other people. 
  • Moral consciousness makes us aware of the sense of justice and injustice in our actions. This consciousness of the morality of our day-to-day activities makes us aware of our obligation to do just things and refrain from wrongdoing.

Definition of moral consciousness by different authors

According to Cheung et al (2001), “Moral consciousness refers to beliefs concerning moral values in a manner characteristic of the different stages of moral development.”

According to Joseph P. Hester (2020), “The moral consciousness is a revolving flow of ideas and opinions offering views, sifted through reason and communal consultation, about what is or what is not moral behavior.”

Joseph P. Hester farther claims, “Moral consciousness is as communal as it is personal, typifying social behaviors and actively inaugurating moral veracity.”

Nature and characteristics of moral consciousness

Moral consciousness is the name of peoples’ awareness of the qualities of their volitional actions or the moral importance of their respective characters. Moral consciousness has several characteristics and is discussed below: 

Moral consciousness is thoughtful

Moral consciousness is the consciousness of the moral quality of our volitional actions. The fact that volitional actions involve consideration, choice, and determination reflects the thoughtful outlook of our mind. The right and improper sense of volitional actions is determined in the context of moral ideals. An act that is consistent with a moral ideal is called justice and an act that is inconsistent with a moral ideal is called an unjust act. Therefore, the moral consciousness of our sense of justice and injustice in our volitional actions is the result of our thoughtful wickedness.

Moral consciousness is active

Moral consciousness refers to awareness of the rightness and wrongness of our volitional actions; it refers to the volitional actions rather than the passive experiences of human beings. 

Since volitional actions involve human considerations, preferences, etc., moral activism plays a special role in accepting the right action and rejecting the wrong action among alternative actions. Moral consciousness is the awareness relating to the moral evaluation of our volitional actions. These prove that the moral consciousness is active. 

Moral consciousness is social

The great philosopher Aristotle once wrote, “Man is by nature a social animal.” Dalai Lama XIV says, “We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities.”

Being social creatures, people cannot deny the necessity of social background in moral life. The concept of good and bad of people through moral consciousness also involves the question of the good and bad of other people in the society. Human moral duties and responsibilities or good and bad are judged by keeping in mind the relationship of people with others in the society. So it can be said that moral consciousness is social. 

Moral consciousness

A sense of moral obligation is closely related to moral consciousness as we feel a moral obligation to do good and avoid evil as a result of moral consciousness. This sense of moral obligation does not come from externals, it comes from our hearts. Hence, it is self-imposed; therefore, it can be said that moral consciousness is obligatory. 

Moral consciousness is emotional

Admittedly, the moral consciousness has a reverence for moral ideals. Just as a pleasant feeling arises in our mind in the case of a good deed, in the same way an unpleasant feeling arises in our mind in the case of a bad deed. Hence an emotional state prevails in the moral consciousness. It is purely a matter of human feelings. 

Moral consciousness makes people aware of the moral importance of his behavior, and helps them in determining their courses of actions.

Moral consciousness is a special type of mental process that makes people aware of what they desire to do, and what is right and wrong.
Moral consciousness is a special type of mental process that makes people aware of what they desire to do, and what is right and wrong.

Elements of moral consciousness 

It is already discussed that the sense of right and wrong of volitional actions is called moral consciousness. It has some cognitive, emotional and volitional elements. The elements of moral consciousness are mentioned below:

Thoughtful elements of moral consciousness

Moral distinctions and related issues are the intellectual or thoughtful component of moral consciousness.

  1. Moral judgments: Moral judgments about good and bad, sense of right and wrong. It refers to a sense of what should or should not be done. It is necessary to understand what is the right action and what is the wrong action.
  2. Self-awareness: Intellectual elements of moral consciousness include self-awareness. a self-controlling being. Humans must have self-awareness in their moral judgments in order to perform the volitional and habitual actions. 
  3. Sense of duty, responsibility, and right: The concept of right and wrong creates a sense of duty in our mind. We feel an urge to do things that we think should be done, and we don’t feel an urge to do things that we think are inappropriate. The sense of duty also involves the question of rights. “One’s duty is another’s right.” A sense of responsibility is also important. A man of judgment is responsible for his volitional and habitual actions.
  4. Sense of superiority and inferiority: Consciousness of superiority and inferiority is important in this regard when we discuss morality. It makes us praise someone who is dutiful; and condemn someone who is not dutiful in his duty.
  5. Element related to religion: The consciousness of religion and non-religion can be considered as one of the criteria in this field. 

Emotional element of moral consciousness

Moral emotion is the emotional component of moral consciousness. When we consider an action to be righteous, a love arises in our mind and that action wins our approval. And when we perceive an act as wrong, an unpleasant feeling arises in our mind and we do not approve of that act. So it can be seen that, in the case of righteous deeds, there is a feeling of satisfaction and in the case of unjust deeds, there is a feeling of dissatisfaction. Moral emotions like satisfaction and dissatisfaction are present in the case of moral perception. 

Voluntary element of moral consciousness

Persecution is the volitional component of moral consciousness. Moral judgments require us to choose a course of actions, and moral judgment creates a sense of obligation in our minds. An urge to do what seems right and an urge to refrain from doing what seems wrong. is created; And this impulse can be called functional impulse.

Bibliography

  • Cheung, C., Chan, W., Lee, T., Liu, S. & Leung, K. (2001). Structure of Moral Consciousness and Moral Intentions Among Youth in Hong Kong. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth. 9 (2-3). 83-116. DOI: 10.1080/02673843.2001.9747870
  • Hester, J. P. (2020). Reflections on Humanity’s Moral Consciousness: Uncovering the Foundation of Values-based Leadership. The Journal of Values-Based Leadership. 13(2). Article 14.  DOI: https:/doi.org/10.22543/0733.132.1330
  • Paramonova, S. P. (2015). Types of Moral Consciousness. Mediterranean Journal of Social Science. 6 (5). S4. Doi: 10.5901/mjss.2015.v6n5s4p84
  • Shepherd J, Levy, N. (2020). Consciousness and Morality. Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Consciousness. Oxford (UK): Oxford University Press.
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