Provide a summary of the chapter "The Authority, Fallibility, and Normative Reach of Conscience" in Practicing Medicine and Ethics: Integrating Wisdom, Conscience, and Goals of Care by Lauris Kaldjian. Provide four discussion questions.

In his chapter "The Authority, Fallibility, and Normative Reach of Conscience," Lauris Kaldjian discusses the paradox between the power of the conscience and its identifiable imperfections. He says the conscience is a fluid relationship between the individual and the individual’s community. He seems to claim that a person’s conscience achieves “universalizability” once people understand that their moral reasoning impacts others. As for discussion questions, think about if the internet and social media has altered the meaning of community and “universalizability.”

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Lauris Kaldjian’s chapter “The Authority, Fallibility, and Normative Reach of Conscience” starts off by talking about authority.

Kaldjian discusses the power—or “authority”—granted to the conscience. He tells how a conscience can spur someone to do something even if it might produce opposition.

Part of the power of conscience, according to Kaldjian, has to do with its vulnerability or “fallibility.” This is a paradox or a rather conflicting statement. Again, part of what makes conscience so strong is that it’s quite sensitive and susceptible to mistakes.

He then brings in Martin Luther. If you don’t know, Martin Luther was one of the main figures of the Reformation. His critiques of the Catholic Church jumpstarted Protestantism and other forms of Christianity. According to Kaldjian, Luther deals with the vulnerability of the conscience by moving the imperfect conscience into the realm of God. For Luther, the belief and embrace of God centers conscience on “solid ground.”

Moving away from religion, Kaldjian tells how the conscience can be used as a way to justify and excuse some rather selfish behavior. For this part, Kaldjian brings in the philosopher Charles Taylor. Taylor links the conscience to a rather decadent strand of individualism.

Next up, Kaldjian deals with Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas appears to think that the conscience comes from moral reasoning. For Aquinas, moral reasoning should be followed regardless if it’s right or wrong. Aquinas also has some knotty ideas about when to excuse and not excuse unconscionable behavior. If a person isn’t knowingly acting unconscionable, then it can be excused. If a person is willfully acting unconscionable, then there should be consequences.

After Aquinas, Kaldjian discusses the relationship between an individual’s conscience and the conscience of the individual’s community. He seems to allow for quite a bit of fluidity between the two. A person’s community impacts a person’s moral reasoning and conscience. However, since a community is composed of individuals, individuals can also impact the community.

An individual’s conscience reaches other individuals because of its, to use Kaldjian’s term, “universalizability.” That is to say, other people see how a person’s moral reasoning relates to them and their world in general.

As for discussion questions, there’s lots to talk about. You could ask how Charles Taylor’s link between conscience and individualism is exemplified on social media, where people can be praised for doing, saying, and wearing what they want.

You could also ask a question about morals specifically. In this chapter, Kaldjian uses that word a lot. You could discuss its possible meanings. You might then discuss the term “universalizability.” You might ask if it’s possible to act in a universally moral way right now.

Lastly, you could ask about community. You could discuss how the internet and social media is altering the notion of communities and perhaps how consciences are formed.

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