Conscience vs. Conscious: What’s the Difference?

Marcus Froland

Have you ever found yourself pondering the difference between conscience and conscious? These two terms are often mistaken for one another, but they represent entirely different concepts. In this article, we’ll delve into the conscience vs conscious debate and help you gain a clearer understanding of conscience and conscious in order to use them accurately in your everyday life.

Understanding Conscience: The Moral Compass Within

Conscience, often described as the moral compass within us, represents the inner sense of right and wrong that guides our actions and behavior. Deeply rooted in our personal beliefs and values, it influences the morality of our intentions and weighs the associated consequences.

This internal moral awareness is metaphorically depicted in various cultural representations, such as the classic angel-devil duo, where opposing forces encourage either moral or immoral choices. Another prominent example is the character of Jiminy Cricket in ‘Pinocchio,’ who acts as the voice of conscience guiding the mischievous puppet towards the right path.

When we act against our conscience, we may experience feelings of guilt or obligation, which subsequently affect our emotional well-being and future decision-making processes. Conscience surfaces in numerous phrases, illustrating its significance in daily language and moral responsibility. Some examples include:

  1. Not wanting something on one’s conscience
  2. Going against one’s conscience
  3. Acting in good conscience

To act with a clear conscience is to take responsibility for our choices and ensure that they align with our ethical values and beliefs.

Understanding the meaning of conscience, and recognizing its role in our lives, is essential in navigating the complexities of moral dilemmas and making informed decisions that align with our inner sense of right and wrong.

Defining Conscious: Awareness of Ourselves and Our Environment

Conscious is an adjective that suggests wakefulness, alertness, and the mental faculty to understand occurrences. It denotes awareness of facts or feelings, concern for specific issues, and deliberate actions which may result in feelings of guilt. The ability to stay conscious, possessing consciousness, and being aware of one’s thoughts and surroundings characterizes the condition of being conscious. Aspects of psychology like subconscious thoughts, which are not fully in our awareness, also fall under the umbrella of consciousness.

The state of being conscious entails a heightened mental awareness encompassing our thoughts and surroundings.

The Science Behind Being Conscious

Consciousness refers to our personal awareness of internal sentiments, ideas, memories, and experiences. It encompasses our moment-to-moment perception of ourselves and the environment, analogous to the visible portion of an iceberg in Freudian theory, with the larger unconscious mind lying submerged and hidden. This metaphor characterizes the conscious mind’s accessibility and ability to clearly articulate internal processes within psychoanalytic thought.

Conscious Decisions in Everyday Life

Everyday examples of conscious decisions include being aware of the potential consequences of one’s actions, as well as the intentionality behind such decisions, exemplifying a mindful state in various aspects of life. This can entail a deliberate and informed approach to personal conduct and interaction with societal factors. In other words, being conscious empowers you to make aware and well-informed choices.

  • Mindfully choose healthy meals
  • Plan trips considering environmental impact
  • Assess priorities when balancing work and personal life

The Link Between Consciousness and Psychology

Consciousness interconnects with many psychological processes, like remembering and perceiving, but is not synonymous with any one of them. It represents an intricate interplay of mental faculties affecting awareness. William James described consciousness as something instantly recognizable until one tries to define it explicitly, illustrating its complexities within psychological understanding.

  1. Consciousness as a process of perceiving
  2. Memory’s relationship with consciousness
  3. The morphing connection between emotions and conscious awareness

Developing an understanding of conscious as a state of being awake and alert can enrich your perspective on mental awareness and its significance in your daily life.

Etymology and History: Tracing the Origins of Conscience and Conscious

As we explore the origins of conscience and the history of conscious, it is essential to first understand their etymological roots. Both words can be traced back to the Latin term conscire, which means “to be aware of guilt.” However, since their introduction in the 13th and 16th centuries, respectively, the meanings of these words have evolved to relate to moral and mental awareness.

Conscience, with its suffix ‘-ence,’ denotes a state or quality, giving it the meaning of our internal sense of right and wrong. The notion of conscience has played a significant role in shaping moral beliefs and philosophies throughout history.

The origins of conscience can be traced back to the Latin term conscire, meaning “to be aware of guilt.”

On the other hand, the word conscious is an adjective characterized by the suffix ‘-ous,’ which typically implies the presence or possession of a trait. In this context, it refers to one being aware of their surroundings, thoughts, and emotions. Consciousness is a fundamental aspect of human psychology, encompassing both the conscious and unconscious mind. The concept of consciousness remains a subject of ongoing research and debate in neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy.

To appreciate the relationship between the two terms and their relevance, it is crucial to examine their historical development. Conscience has roots in Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman ethical theories, where it was often associated with a sense of guilt or righteousness tied to personal integrity and accountability. As society evolved, the concept of conscience became more secular and universal, extending beyond religious confines. Meanwhile, conscious gained importance in literature, art, and philosophy, as well as in scientific studies of the human mind and behavior.

Throughout history, various schools of thought and disciplines have sought to comprehend these concepts and their implications for human life:

  1. The ancient Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, considered moral conscience and the notion of self-awareness essential dimensions of ethical inquiry and personal development.
  2. During the Renaissance and Enlightenment, thinkers like René Descartes and Immanuel Kant saw the conscious mind as a rational, self-reflective center, closely linked with notions of subjectivity, autonomy, and moral agency.
  3. In 19th and 20th-century psychoanalysis and psychology, pioneers like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and William James studied the complexities and interplay between the conscious and unconscious mind, ultimately shaping contemporary understandings of human psychology.

Understanding the conscious etymology and the history of conscience provides valuable insights into the development of these distinct yet interrelated concepts. By appreciating their origins, meanings, and evolution, you can better comprehend and differentiate between the moral compass within (conscience) and our awareness of ourselves and our environment (conscious).

Common Misuses and Confusions in American English

Misusing conscience and conscious is a widespread phenomenon in American English, primarily due to their similar spellings and pronunciations. Such errors are commonly observed in journalistic and editorial work, where conscious is incorrectly used instead of conscience, and vice versa, leading to misunderstandings.

Examples That Illuminate the Confusion

Instances from various articles and literature show incorrect usage of both terms, highlighting the need for clarity. For example, phrases like “guilty conscious” instead of “guilty conscience” or “conscience” instead of “conscious” when referring to ecological or economic awareness.

Tom’s guilty conscious kept him awake after stealing candy from the store.

In the example above, the proper term should be “guilty conscience.”

  1. Incorrect: The company has a strong social conscience plan.
  2. Correct: The company has a strong social conscious plan.

The cases listed clarify the common grammatical errors, emphasizing the importance of using the correct term in each context.

Mnemonic Devices to Distinguish Between the Two

To remember the difference between these concepts, note that the noun conscience contains the word ‘science,’ helpful in associating it with a state of moral judgment. Additionally, conscious, often found with an ‘-ous’ suffix in adjectives, refers to being awake or aware.

  • Conscience: Focus on the ‘-ience’ – think of ‘science’ and its connection to morality and ethics.
  • Conscious: Observe the ‘-ous’ ending, a familiar suffix in adjectives, hinting at a state of alertness and awareness.

By considering these mnemonic tricks and identifying errant examples, you can improve your language proficiency and use conscience and conscious accurately in speech and writing. Understanding these distinctions ensures clear and effective communication, preventing confusion and misunderstandings in various settings.

The Psychological Perspective: How Conscience and Conscious Influence Behavior

From a psychological standpoint, both conscience and consciousness play significant roles in shaping an individual’s behavior. In this section, we explore the influence of conscience and consciousness in psychology and their impact on people’s actions in everyday life.

Conscience acts as a moral compass guiding us towards morally acceptable actions. Often linked to Sigmund Freud’s concept of the superego, conscience represents our inbuilt sense of ethics that has been shaped by societal values and our upbringing. This internal guidance system helps determine what is right and wrong, enabling individuals to evaluate their choices and act in accordance with their moral principles.

“Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.” – H. L. Mencken

On the other hand, consciousness refers to our perception of ourselves, our thoughts, and the external world. Being conscious means having an awareness of our surroundings, which influences our behavior and responsiveness to stimuli. The awareness of potential consequences connected to our actions can make us more mindful and deliberate in our decision-making process, further contributing to our moral behavior.

Together, conscience and consciousness shape an individual’s actions and reactions in various ways:

  1. Emotions and Feelings: Conscience allows us to experience emotions such as guilt or pride based on our actions, while consciousness helps us to recognize and understand these emotional states.
  2. Decision-Making: Being aware of our moral compass and the potential impact of our actions can make us more thoughtful and responsible in our decision-making process.
  3. Motivation: Having a clear conscience can provide a strong sense of motivation to do what is right, while conscious awareness helps us better align our actions with our values and goals.
  4. Adaptability: Our awareness of the world around us enables us to adapt to new situations and make adjustments in our behavior accordingly.

By understanding the nuances of conscience and consciousness in psychology, we can better comprehend how these concepts influence moral behavior and their impact on our daily actions. This knowledge not only helps improve self-awareness but also encourages a more thoughtful approach to life’s choices and challenges.

Putting It Into Practice: Using Conscience and Conscious Correctly

Mastering the distinction between conscience and conscious is vital for effective communication. By grasping the nuances of each term, you can enrich your language proficiency and confidently convey your thoughts. Remember that conscience refers to your inner sense of morality, while conscious describes a state of alertness and awareness.

For instance, when discussing the feeling of guilt arising from an immoral action, you would mention a guilty conscience rather than a guilty conscious. Similarly, when referring to being aware of a particular situation, it’s appropriate to use conscious.

Demonstrating accuracy in employing these terms enhances your understanding, enabling you to express yourself with clarity and precision. Strengthening your language skills in this manner contributes to maintaining proper communication and fostering meaningful discourse with others.