Conscience and Consciousness
A very important, though not much discussed, factor in psychology is conscience. Apparently psychopaths (or sociopaths) are people lacking in conscience; but not much is said about the character of the conscience that people who do have conscience possess. In fact, different people's consciences contain different things; and it is this that is the most significant but least discussed issue in this matter.
In Huckleberry Finn, the main character felt guilty for freeing a slave. In contemporary world what he did would be seen as heroic; but the conscience of the main character was differently constituted. Similarly, there are people whose conscience tells them to murder their daughters for getting raped; to massacre people who don't follow their religion; or to go around guiltlessly plundering what they cannot conceivably recreate. What does this mean in reality?
It means the following: That conscience, like all things human, can be wrongly constituted and does not offer a perfect guidance for choices in life. Does this mean that one should go without conscience as we are told sociopaths do? Absolutely not. What this means is that conscience can be wrongly constituted; and if one's conscience tells oneself that one should murder one's daughter for getting raped, or to massacre people for not practicing one's religion, or to plunder what they cannot recreate, or to beat their wives, or to keep the slaves with their owners, then one's conscience is wrongly constituted and needs to be reworked.
Now the idea of reworking such things can be threatening, and the reality of reworking such things can be both perilous and highly unpleasant. What we are dealing with here is instructions that have been put into one's mind before one developed capacity for critical thinking; that compose one's sense of right and wrong; and that, when challenged, can make oneself feel like a terrible person. But ultimately being conscious of such things and making such changes can create a better and more informed conscience: Conscience that's not a result of childhood-transmitted instructions, whatever their degree of rightness and wrongness, but rather a result of conscious and informed choice. And this will lead to better and ultimately more actually conscientious decisions: Ones that are informed by reality of the world and that allow oneself to make choices that are sufficiently informed by reality of the world to maximize benefit and minimize wrongdoing.
The task therefore is to make concience conscious and rework it into the shape that is adequately informed by reality; by one's adult knowledge; by one's experience and of course by what is known of the world. And the outcome is a better conscience that is no longer a product of beliefs introjected into the mind prior to one's development of critical thinking, but that accords with critical thinking and becomes a more informed guide to better moral choice.