Conscience, in modern usage, term denoting various factors in moral experience. Thus, the recognition and acceptance of a principle of conduct as binding is called conscience. In theology and ethics, the term refers to the inner sense of right and wrong in moral choices, as well as to the satisfaction that follows action regarded as right and the dissatisfaction and remorse resulting from conduct that is considered wrong. In earlier ethical theories, conscience was regarded as a separate faculty of the mind having moral jurisdiction, either absolute or as a representative of God in the human soul.
Various syntheses of traditional theology with the existential view that knowledge is more emotional than scientific have been developed in Switzerland by Karl Barth and in the United States by Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. In France, Jean-Paul Sartre fused ideas of Marx, Kierkegaard, Husserl, and Heidegger into a conception of humans as beings who project themselves out of nothingness by asserting their own values and thus assume moral responsibility for their acts.
During the 1960s the writings of the American clergyman Martin Luther King, Jr. indicated that Western philosophy had been too remote from the great social and political upheavals taking place throughout the world. Following the principles of the Indian nationalist leader Mohandas Gandhi, King advocated a program of nonviolent resistance to injustice.
In the story "Oedipus" a young man goes on a personal journey where he is overwhelmed by the moral responsibility, his moral responsibility as the newly crowned king of Thebes. He has to find the murderer of the former king to rid his new kingdom of the curse, bestold as a punishment to the criminal. In the process his morals are put to the test, he take responsibility for all of his actions.
In the story "Oedipus", in Greek mythology, king of Thebes, the son of Laius and Jocasta, king and queen of Thebes. Laius was warned by an oracle that he would be killed by his own son. Determined to change his fate, Laius pierced and bound together the feet of his newborn child and left him to die on a lonely mountain. The infant was rescued by a shepherd, however, and given to Polybus, king of Corinth, who named the child Oedipus (swollen foot) and raised him as his own son. The boy did not know that he was adopted, and when an oracle proclaimed that he would kill his father, he left Corinth. In the course of his wanderings he met and killed Laius, believing that the king and his followers were a band of robbers, and thus unwittingly fulfilled the prophecy.
Lonely and homeless, Oedipus arrived at Thebes, which was beset by a dreadful monster called the Sphinx. The frightful creature frequented the roads to the city, killing and devouring all travelers who could not answer the riddle that she put to them: What walks on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening? The answer was a human being,...