General Studies Paper 4 (Ethics): Conscience & Principles

Ethics - Conscience and Principles

IAS Junior Mains Answer Writing June-Sep 2019 Schedule (Click Here)


Syllabus: General Studies Paper 4 (Ethics)


What do you understand by conscience? Differentiate between ‘principles’ and conscience. With suitable examples, explain the importance and role of conscience in ethical decision making process.



A conscience is the voice in our head, and the feeling in your heart, that tells us  if something is right or wrong.  It  is the voice of the inner­self which says “yes” or “no” when we are involved in a moral struggle. It is an internal monitor. 

  • Our conscience is our inner guide and it helps you figure out how to make good choices. As we grow up, we learn right from wrong. Your conscience is the thought and feeling you have that tells you whether something is a right or wrong thing to do or say. “Listen to your conscience” means you hear and feel the messages your conscience sends you and then you make a good choice. 
  • As Gandhi Ji famously said, “there is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.”



Principles on the other hand are set of rule, designed on the basis of past experience, human reason and calculations. While principles are more easy to understand, and involves a degree of subjectivity, conscience is difficult to predict and feel. Conscience may or may not be in line with principles.

  • For e.g. As a Police Officer your principles are to treat every criminal as equal. However, your treatment may change for a criminal who have stolen something because he needed money for his mother’s treatment. You may leave him and even help him because of your conscience’s voice.


Consider another example – ­principle says we shall respect our teachers and obey them, but when we find a teacher harassing a girl student, our conscience asks us immediately disregarding the teacher and saving the girl from his act. We may get affected by other considerations of the teacher giving bad marks, teacher’s ignorance or other factors; It is our conscience which will show us moral path.

In our stressed and self­centrist lives, we are progressively moving away from inner conscience and its voice is fading day by day. We are becoming more and more negligent and this ignorance is causing us more stress and guilt. Conscience is basic guide to us. Spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation, company of nature etc. may bring us closer to our inner true and his voice can be heard clearly and our life may become more moral, less stressful and free from guilt.


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