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Durham University

Department of History


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Publication details

2015 Reinhardt, Nicole 'How individual was conscience in the early-modern period? Observations on the development of Catholic moral theology', Religion 45, pp. 409-428

Author(s) from Durham


This article investigates how the notion of individual conscience has to be understood within the early-modern development of Catholic moral theology. It highlights that 16th-century Catholic theologians continued to understand conscience mainly in Thomist terms as a rational judgment. Yet they also came to investigate more deeply questions of intention and individual circumstances that might interfere with the perfect execution of moral reasoning. Particular emphasis is given to the question of probabilism and whether this new method of analyzing moral agency provided a stepping stone towards a more individualized conception of conscience, as some intellectual historians have contended. The article argues that whilst probabilism sharpened the awareness for problems of conscience, this development cannot be disconnected from the culture of counsel of conscience, inscribed into the fundamentally Thomist definition of it.

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