The voice of conscience; Shakespeare, imagination and judgment
The idea that we may be beset by an inner voice of conscience has been negotiated in philosophy and literature over the centuries. This book project, which builds on articles and lectures written by myself during the last few years, offers a new perspective on this notion. The study observes the close relation between the experience of conscience and aesthetic expression, pointing to the role of imagination for the development of ethical and political judgment. Observing the impact of theater and literature for the negotiation of ethical and political judgment in critical theory, the study looks at 20th century authoritarian times, postwar Europe, and the present. Shakespeare’s monologues offer a locus of multiple perspectives on the function of the inner voice. Conscience is an ethical, political and religious notion, but it cannot be regarded merely in terms of empathy. There is, also, a radicalized conscience that obeys absolute laws and norms. Acts of radicalized violence, such as the burning of books, may express a form of conscience. I propose that conscience must not be seen as either instinct or law. It can be regarded as a complex elaboration of points of view, through an inner dialogue. The study aims towards the completion of a book, and a large part of the material is collected. A final chapter which synthesizes the argument remains to be written.