Renowned philosopher explores moral conscience from Plato to Gandhi

07 November 2012

What is the most appropriate balance between the three freedoms of conscience, speech, and religion? This was the question explored by esteemed philosopher Professor Richard Sorabji in a lecture at Wolfson College on 5th November on behalf of the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society.
 
In an impressively wide-ranging lecture, Professor Sorabji charted conceptions of moral conscience from the early Greeks to the modern day. He demonstrated how conscience had originally been a secular concept that implied moral defect, before Adam Smith brought back Stoic and Epicurean ideas in which conscience came to be seen as a means to prevent future wrong-doing.
 
In his exploration of the development of these ideas through the present day, Professor Sorabji argued that the contemporary insistence on freedoms of expression and religion could bring about worse compromises in other freedoms, citing the example of the recent assassination of Chris Stevens, the US Ambassador to Libya, possibly provoked by religiously inflammatory material posted on the internet.
 
The lecture formed part of the Foundation’s collaboration with Wolfson College in the Law, Justice and Society research cluster, one of a number of interdisciplinary research centres based at Wolfson College.