Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund


  • Carl N. Still
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-1151-5_560-1


Medieval thinkers inherited from Jerome (d. 420) a perhaps unintended distinction between conscience and synderesis, or the “spark of conscience”. Once accepted, the distinction required an explication of how conscience and synderesis relate to each other. Philip the Chancellor posited that synderesis straddles the distinction between a potentiality (potentia) and a disposition (habitus). As a dispositional potentiality, synderesis could either supply truths to conscience (as in intellectualistic accounts) or motivate the will to do good (as in voluntaristic accounts). Both types of account held that conscience binds us to follow it, but also allowed that conscience could be mistaken and yet still binding. While Bonaventure had recognized that conscience can learn from experience, Thomas Aquinas took the step of connecting conscience with prudence. This latter move anticipated later medieval accounts, where conscience would be treated in relation to the moral virtues rather than synderesis.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySt. Thomas More College, University of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada