Crisis of Conscience

Conscience is defined as the moral principles and values that modulate one’s behaviour and decision-making. It starts functioning when a person faces an ethical dilemma and requires self-assessment and analysis of the scenario. Such types of situations can create a crisis of conscience.

It is quite a vital topic of Ethical Decision Making which is a part of the UPSC syllabus. This article will discuss the topic and the solution that can be helpful in the UPSC Exam.

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What is a Crisis of Conscience?

A crisis of conscience is a situation when people are confused between right and wrong. People often worry about their actions that may turn unfair or morally wrong in such situations. This happens due to the moral principles rooted deep within, which involve self-evaluation and introspection. Further, this feeling of judging the self leads to regret and other emotions.

Many philosophical, religious and regular concepts can define this crisis. However, all of these include some distinct aspects as follows:

  • First, conscience is some underwritten values and moral principles, including self-conviction in different situations. This refers to opposing one’s moral self-conviction to stand against conscience.
  • As per the second aspect, conscience may depict one’s ability to distinguish moral truth.
  • Third, it involves scrutinising self-desire and action, which brings out emotions such as regret, guilt and shame.

Interpretation of Crisis of Conscience

  • A crisis of conscience is a time when a person faces severe difficulty to decide if his or her action is ethically correct.
  • Apart from this speculation while choosing between right and wrong, the crisis can work in retrospect. It is when a person is undergoing some punitive feelings because of the thought of doing something morally unfair or wrong previously.
  • This situation of moral dilemma can also turn into a more substantial feeling. It is when a person fears to end up doing an action that is ethically wrong by not following the voice of conscience.
  • It also often becomes hard to act in accordance with self-value and principles. People end up refusing their voice of conscience for some materialistic demand or greed and behave contrarily. This course of action, due to worldly need and desire, starts eroding the voice of conscience and human nature.
  • Nevertheless, humans, for some uncontrollable reasons or circumstances, often end up going against their beliefs. Such situations can also create a sense of guilt and regret.

Also, read:

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Examples of Crisis of Conscience

  • The health care and medical sector provide a clear example of a crisis of conscience. Often, medical practitioners refuse to perform specific treatment due to their conscientious objection.
  • Military service is another instance of such a crisis where a conscientious objection comes before duty. Although it was previously a religious approach, some pacifists present it beyond any distinct affinity of a religious justification.
  • Kevin Carter, a photojournalist, committed suicide due to repentance and grief for feeling he has done something ethically wrong. He was covering famine-ridden Africa, where he was not allowed to touch anyone for professional purposes. Subsequently, the journalist could not help a child from dying. Despite his photographs rattling the morals of the world, he suffered from a crisis of conscience. The guild of inability to save the child compelled him to attempt suicide soon after returning from Africa.

Ways to Resolve a Crisis of Conscience

  1. One must hold and consider the dimensions of the situation.
  2. Also, pursuing silence and solitude to assess the self.
  3. Affirmation, prayer and meditation bring strength, self-belief and self-control.
  4. The most effective action is to free the mind from materialistic desires, miserable interests and outer influences.

A crisis of conscience brings a tough moral question to a person. In this situation, he or she must consider what is fair and just to answer this question. One also must remember that it is imperative for a human to always follow the voice of conscience and be ethically right. Therefore, it is not always possible to eliminate remorse from within.

That concludes the thorough discussion on the crisis of conscience for UPSC for the aspirants. They can find all the essential details in this article to boost their IAS preparation.

Other Related Links

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Frequently Asked Questions


How should one deal with a crisis of conscience as a public servant?

One can surpass such a crisis as a civil servant by considering every dimension of the issue. Also, the person must liberate him or herself from earthly desires and external pressures. Last but most importantly, the person must keep calm and remain true to the civil service ethics and legal framework.


What is the voice of conscience?

The voice of conscience helps judge one’s behaviour and evaluate the self. It brings out the moral principles that control someone’s thoughts and lead to ethical actions.


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