There are many instances whereby there is a conflict between human law and conscience. In such a situation, an individual is always at a loss and a dilemma as to which way they should follow. However, according to the opinions of various philosophers and theorists, people should always follow their conscience as opposed to human laws. This paper aims at affirming the thesis statement that conscience is superior to human laws and that it should be the first thing to be considered whenever there is such a dilemma. There are various circumstances that are bound to influence the individual decision, as explained from the perspective of different contributors described below.
According to Martin Luther King in the Letter from the Birmingham Clergymen, appeals are usually made to all human feelings concerning sympathy as well as conscience whenever there is a chance to apply human law in a given situation (King 3). In Christianity, for instance, the motive of the imitation of Christ's ideal replaces fear, and a universal advance created earlier in Buddhism. It is noteworthy that every part of these appeals can manipulate the conduct of the non-theist as well as that of the theist. The evidence we get from this concept is that the conscience is not a feeling. This is due to the fact that the voice of a pure conscience can never be confused with the view of the super ego.
John Locke also supports the prevalence of conscience over human law (Locke 1). Locke opines that the institution of civil society has the purpose of the preservation of property. Thus, ownership of an individual is his life, liberty and material goods. Considering this fact it is true that the conscience of a person is his property and thus should come first before everything else such as human law. Conscience is a kind of natural reason. Thus, Locke suggests that once men are born, they have a right to their preservation and to do whatever that they feel is right. Following this, here exist a space for human law to prevail over the voice of reasoning and conscience of people.
Locke proceeds to state that history uncovers that men were at first substance to utilization of nature. As communities started to get organized into states and kingdoms started making laws, they started regulating and defining boundaries of their property with different communities. There were still open tracts of land where communities had not formed, yet this was inconceivable in communities that embraced the thought of money (e.g., gold, silver, and jewels). While men knew it was indiscreet to accumulate things like products of the soil, which would spoil or expire, it was doubtlessly conceivable to store cash on the grounds that it would not expire. At the outset of the world when the area was incomprehensible, and trade was unthinkable, there was no arrangement of cash.
Men's willful agreement to this framework started the disparity of private property and the right of the legislature to direct the right of goods. Locke concludes by outlining the condition of the property before money and government- just work made worth, men did not take more than they required, and clash and debate over land did not exist. This shows that conscience was an aspect that was respected since the beginning of human race existence in the world. Human law came later and cannot surpass the superiority of conscience.
Cicero argues that people should take responsibility of their actions (Cicero 3). To be able to assume liability for one's actions obliges that one be the last arbiter of their ethical quality or morality. This statement is true, and we can learn from others, specifically by listening to them to see whether they can persuade us to believe in arbitration. Notwithstanding, we do not acknowledge something from somebody just because they say it. It means that there is no space for such compliance. Moreover, we ought to do what the laws say, yet that is on account of our own judgment of the circumstances. Cicero says that something that is ethically right to do is not to present disharmony in the public arena. We ought to judge what is and what is not to be carried out. The decision is our own: we respond in due order regarding it: we must make it ourselves. Apparently our decision must consider all the realities. One of these certainties is the way that somebody capable and powerful needs us to do something. Yet, we consider accepting what a powerful person says to us to be the right thing, though this should not draw attention from us.
Another instance where it is evident that an individual should follow his conscience has been emphasized in the sentiments of Henry David Thoreau (Thoreau 3). However, Thoreau calls for a government that will be limited to decide the issues that it should consider. He says “a government in which the majority governs in all cases cannot be focused on equity, even to the extent that men comprehend it. He poses a question by asking whether there will be a government in which the majority do not practically choose good and bad, but conscience. He also asks whether there will be a government in which majorities want just those questions to which the principle of convenience is appropriate (Thoreau 4).
“Morality issues must be chosen by an individual as well as his conscience. It should not be through the majority but through the government. The occurrence of the Mexican War, which Thoreau accepts must be ceased, can be ended by individual action, but cannot end through political methods (Stanton 5). He proceeds to say that civil disobedience is a call for restricted government. Through delinquency of assessments, the individual challenges the administration's inclusion of issues over which it has no legitimate influence. This constitutes a "quiet upset" influence, and not a brutal one. Thoreau is still ready to acknowledge that administration has its place by saying: "indeed, I quietly announce war with the State after my design. However, I will in any case make the best out of what can be utilized and get whatever point of interest that I can (Garrison 4).”
All through Civil disobedience, Thoreau presents government as pointless in connection to the right issues. Voting is yet a declaration of a larger part opinion and fails to offer the force of auspicious activity controlled by a single person. The political methodology brings about the race of the individuals who hold office. These are the accessible men who acknowledge the procedure of the race to office, yet are not so much guided by rule. In this manner, the framework sustains itself and worsens over the long run.
Thoreau underscores the force of an individual to impact change (Thoreau 4). He says of the legislature at the start of the Common Rebellion, "It has not the imperativeness and energy of a solitary living man." Later, he urges people to satisfy their ethical obligation by making the move that most would want to consign to outer strengths.
Some are requesting the State to break down the Union and also to nonchalance the orders of the President. However, they should break it up themselves in a manner whereby the union is in the middle of the people and the State, and refuse to pay anything into the country’s treasury. They should remain in the same connection to the relation between the State and the Union (The United States 3). Furthermore they should have the same reasons that have kept the State from opposing the Union, and that have prevented them from opposing the state.
There is an assertion from Thoreau that the government is still unjust, something that does not augur well with conscience. The government is a primary agent of injustice of corruption. The government’s authority should not be used to make people follow laws that are against their conscience. As such, this will not be law but dictatorship of a certain degree. Thus, laws should be made to be followed but not to be imposed on people. In the long run, Thoreau opines that if the government respects the views and ideas of its people, there will be no situation whereby conflict will be possible.
Legislators should embark on making laws that understand the nature of people. This should be done in accordance with the processes that have been set up by the government in general, and in a way that will ensure that the public do not suffer. Additionally, if an individual chooses to follow their conscience, there should be no way in which they should be discriminated against. People’s conscience, he repeats, should always be the determinant of their decisions, irrespective of the situation in which they find themselves. This will ensure that the conflict that usually takes place between human law and culture is remedied.
In conclusion, conscience cannot be surpassed by human law in terms of decision making. Human law is sometimes tyrannical in its provisions, in a manner that does not make the human reason to prevail. It falls short of the ability that can describe it as the human reason, unlike conscience that presents the human side of an individual. Human law is directly connected to natural law, which disregards the nature of human conscience in every case that the two are in a relationship. The conscience of an individual defines humanity. It is the fundamental pointer that a person is connected to other humanity, not through anything tangible but through a different kind of understanding. Thus, the conflict between human law and conscience can only be remedied through allowing conscience to prevail. In this case, the voice of reason will have prevailed in the manner in which human law cannot prevail. Finally, there will be ceasefire between the agents of human law and agents of conscience since all of them will agree on a central point in the superiority battle.