Conscience a priori

Hi all.

I am looking for good ateistic/agnostic arguments for aprioric consciense. In other words theories that doesn’t consist of the notion of a god or similar spiritual conceptions.


sorry my vocab isn’t yet that good. Could you ask the question in a more simple way? Which sort of theories are you talking about? Creation of the universe-theories?

No, i mean creation of the human conscience prior to birth. Religious believers might argue that it is given by god before we leave the womb.

Now, if you exclude the possibilities that a higher deity such as a god or similar created human conscience, are there still reasonable arguments for a “hard wired” conscience before birth?

If so i’m curious to hear/see them.

Read Kant

Please allow: not BEFORE one’s birth. That would imply that the sole exists in one way or another prior to his incarnation, meaning that we face, somewhere on the way, metempsychosis, or that is already a new thing to talk about.

I guess you mean the aprioric categories of sensibility and the faculty of reasoning, prior to any empiric experience.

As I understand what we refer to as the conscience is a subjective idea, it is a culmination of what we are taught and believe to create guidelines for our actions.

The inclusion of god may be incorrect, as we construct what we deem right and wrong throughout the course of our life. God (if you believe in the entity) doesn’t give us a “conscience” we construct it, or destruct it through time.

Stay classy

What gives.
If you read psychoanalytic philosophers like Freud, Lacan and Husserl, they believe that consciousness exists a priori. They probably borrowed this idea from Kant, nevertheless, they believe that all human beings are born with the capability to have consciousness, but it doesn’t necessarily kick in until they are a few months old.


Say we suppose that is correct, that provides no support for a conscience “system” for lack of a better term. The only way we can deem something correct/incorrect, or right/wrong is by experience/information we receive.

Swimming around in a womb, sprouting limbs and such, being conscious of that we be nuts, mused that it was be traumatizing.

Stay classy


I’m afraid you have fallen into the same trap as ‘mr.knowitall’ did recently, by confusing conscience and consciouness. Here, the post was very definitely about conscience.

Jon F


This is merely a tautology. Further, i meant what i wrote. Maybe you misunderstand me for actually arguing for an apriotic conscience myself?

OK, but what has this got to do with aprioric concepts?

Jon Featherstone’s post clears some stuff out about this.

How did you come to this conclusion?

Will do.

I am not very familiar with his ideas, but at a shallow glance he seem to spend a lot of thought on these things.

He made his name on these things

it’s just all very empirical, to me, we seem to form what is essential to the conscience ( our basis for determining what is right from wrong ) through our practical experience, whatever they may be.

I’m not really focused at the moment, I’ll try to explain that further if you deem it necessary, What Gives. I do realize however that I may have diverted from the original question.

Yes, you are correct, I see my mistake.

I confused “conscience” with “consciousness”. Let me start anew on this subject.

Nietzsche would probably agree with your position. In the his book “On the Genealogy of Morals” he goes into detail about how the conscience come into existence. He claimed it was only after a human being is severly punished that a conscience starts to grow inside oneself. Finally after being punished or tortured does one remember “five or six I will nots”. In other words, it has to be rammed home that some acts are not to be carried out. The mind does not know a wrong until it has been told so.

But on the flip side, Emmanual Levias would probably disagree with you and Nietzsche. He claimed in the very first “face-to-face” contact we have with another human being, this situation demands an ethical response from oneself. He stated that the very first thing that comes into our minds when we meet another person, is a demand from the other person that we make a decision on how we are to act.
This position of Levinas’s maintains that some kind of conscience exists in human beings a priori.

Personally, I am inclined to side with Nietzsche on this one. We first have to be taught on what is deemed ethical conduct within the society we live. Ethics and norms differ from culture to culture, so we have to learn what is right and wrong. Levinas implies that we may know what is right and wrong even before interacting with society.

If we were to assume conscience to be an a prioric concept, would it be necessary that there would have to be universal concepts of right and wrong?

Just a thought, clarification on that would be great.

Yes, yes it would.

Kant has a plethora of arguments to support his claims of universal morality. If you haven’t read Kant his Categorical Imperative is pretty much a complex Golden Rule. (You know, “Do unto others…). Kant’s not the only one, the schools of conceptualism, nominalism, and idealism tend to be ethical absolutists. There are is another schools of thought which rests on soft universals which states that there are few universal moral truths that underlie all particular, relative truths. This is usually justified by creating some sort psychological or logical apriori. Chomsky’s ideas on universal grammar are a really great example of soft universalism and aprioric conscience.