The existence of conscience and its authority over mankind has been a common battleground for religious and secular debate. Dr. Peter Kreeft, a world renowned philosopher, unifies mankind and conscience through his “Argument from Conscience”. Giving ample thought to both sides of the equation, Dr. Kreeft describes conscience in its authority and reason, and alludes further explanation in regards to both its ethical and erroneous natures. Complimenting Dr. Kreeft's argument, Dante's Divine Comedy displays mankind's moral discernment and consequences of unrighteous actions. According to the works of Dante and Kreeft, conscience has become an established norm in both universal and divine law, resulting in either life or death, heaven or hell.
Dr. Kreeft's argument conveys that conscience is the voice of God in the soul; that everyone in the world knows, deep down, that he is absolutely obligated to be and do good, and this absolute obligation could come only from God. Dante places a great emphasis on conscience in his Divine Comedy, especially in the following selection, “Well I perceived, as soon as the beginning He covered up with what came afterward, That they were words quite different from the first;” (IX). The lines prior exemplify the realization Dante's character comes to: that the influential words he perceived to be right, were in fact erroneous, and the right words are perceived after the fact, with guilt. This moral intuition we call conscience obscurely defines itself as a means to prove God's existence. The words “quite different from the first” are the God-given words spoken to our conscience and then to us, and in this instance, after the action has taken place. A healthy conscience speaks the right judgment to us before an action, whereas an unhealthy one speaks the wrong judgment first and the right judgment after the action has taken place.
Moreover, these God-given words provide accurate portrayal of God's existence in conscience, for only God knows the true right and the true wrong. Catholic theology defines the traditional meaning of conscience as “the knowledge of what is right and wrong: intellect applied to morality”. God being the most supreme entity of intellectual power would justify His role in conscience and its judgmental process. Authority, on the other hand, has been twisted in meaning over the decades to mean strictness and scorn, but has a root definition of “respect”. Since conscience is the absolute moral authority and binding obligation, so too is God the absolute moral authority, to whom respect is owed, and whose word binds conscience to the truth. And because conscience has an absolute authority over man, so does God have an absolute authority over all mankind.
Dante Alighieri, in the second of his three works of the Divine Comedy, shows a keen instance in which conscience is described. “Polymnestor who murdered Polydorus. Here finally is cried: 'O Crassus, tell us, For thou dost know, what is the...