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Bishop Joseph Butler (1692–1752), in his famous Sermons, said of conscience that it was a principle in man by which he approves or disapproves his attitudes and actions. He added that this faculty tends to restrain us from doing mischief and incline us toward doing good.

The history of the concept of conscience is instructive as one seeks to understand its contemporary meaning. Originally, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, conscience was understood as a common quality in which individuals shared: A man or a people had more or less conscience, as persons or groups had more or less science, knowledge, intelligence, prudence, and so on. The word came gradually to be used as an individual faculty or attribute, so that my conscience and your conscience ...

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