The Intersection of Conscience and Civilization: Exploring Morality and Technological Advancement

Lucas Charbonnier

Lucas Charbonnier

Sep 20, 20235 min read


The Intersection of Conscience and Civilization: Exploring Morality and Technological Advancement


In this article, we will delve into two thought-provoking questions: Does conscience form the basis of morality? And, can the value of a civilization be measured by the development of its technology? While seemingly unrelated, these questions share common points that offer unique insights into the human condition. We will explore the concepts of conscience and morality through the perspectives of Rabelais, Kant, Nietzsche, Durkheim, and Freud. Additionally, we will examine the relationship between civilization and technological advancement, considering the benefits and potential pitfalls of a technologically driven society. By connecting these ideas, we aim to shed light on the intricate interplay between conscience, morality, and civilization.

Part 1: The Role of Conscience in Morality

Rabelais famously stated that "knowledge without conscience is but the ruin of the soul." This implies that knowledge alone is devoid of value and can be used for both good and evil. To truly understand the moral implications of our actions, conscience acts as an internal judge, guiding us in discerning right from wrong. Kant's perspective further delves into the foundations of moral conscience, asserting that it relies on reason and a good will. According to Kant, reason dictates that moral actions must adhere to a universal form, known as the categorical imperative. The good will, on the other hand, chooses actions based on pure intentions and disinterested considerations. These perspectives highlight the importance of conscience in shaping morality and guiding ethical decision-making.

Part 2: The Impact of Moral Conscience on Life and Society

Nietzsche introduces a contrasting viewpoint on moral conscience, suggesting that it weakens individuals by burdening them with guilt and resentment. According to Nietzsche, moral conscience consists of these negative feelings that convince the strong that their power is inherently evil. This perspective challenges the traditional notion of conscience as a virtuous guide, raising questions about its potential drawbacks and effects on personal and societal well-being. Durkheim further expands on the concept of conscience, proposing that it is a product of social conditioning. He argues that different societies have varying rules of social functioning, which shape individuals' internalization of conscience. Freud adds to this idea by asserting that moral conscience is a result of education, which inhibits and represses societal-condemned desires and impulses. This notion of conscience being contingent and relative suggests a departure from the universal demands that Kant placed upon it.

Part 3: The Relationship Between Technological Development and Civilization

Moving on to the second question, we explore the correlation between a civilization's value and the progress of its technology. Some civilizations, such as Western Europe, have prioritized technological advancements more than others. The mastery of nature through technology has the potential to improve human life by satisfying material needs and making life easier and more comfortable. Technological development also signifies a civilization's power, as states with advanced technology often assert dominance over others in economic and political realms. It is tempting to hierarchize civilizations based on their technological achievements, perceiving them as stepping stones in an ongoing evolutionary process towards increasingly technologically advanced societies.

Part 4: The Relativity of Civilizational Values

However, it is crucial to consider the relativity of values when assessing the worth of a civilization based on its technological development. The risk of ethnocentrism arises when civilizations tend to disregard or belittle others due to their differences. Ethnocentrism occurs when we consider our ethnic group as the standard for comparison. According to Levi Strauss, there is no universal model for the hierarchical valuation of civilizations. This lack of universality can be attributed to the fear that each civilization harbors towards what is dissimilar to them. It is important to question whether technological progress should be the sole criterion for assessing a civilization's value. Other factors, such as adaptability to challenging geographical environments, may hold equal or even greater significance.


In conclusion, the intersection of conscience and civilization offers a fascinating exploration of morality and technological advancement. Conscience acts as an internal judge, guiding our moral decisions, and shaping our understanding of right and wrong. However, perspectives from Nietzsche, Durkheim, and Freud challenge the conventional notions of conscience, highlighting its potential drawbacks and societal conditioning. Similarly, the value of a civilization cannot be solely determined by its technological development. Ethnocentrism and the relativity of values remind us to consider other criteria when assessing the worth of a civilization. As we navigate the complexities of conscience, morality, and civilization, it is essential to cultivate self-awareness and embrace diversity to create a more holistic understanding of the human experience.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Foster self-reflection: Cultivate a habit of introspection to develop a deeper understanding of your conscience and moral values. Regularly question your actions and motivations to ensure they align with your ethical principles.
  • 2. Embrace moral empathy: Practice empathy towards others by making an effort to understand their perspectives and experiences. This will broaden your moral compass and foster a more inclusive and compassionate approach to moral decision-making.
  • 3. Promote ethical technological development: As technology continues to advance, advocate for the responsible and ethical use of these innovations. Consider the potential consequences and ethical implications of technological progress and work towards solutions that prioritize the well-being of individuals and societies.

By integrating these actionable advice into our lives, we can strive for a more conscientious and morally grounded existence, while also fostering the development of a civilization that values both technological progress and human welfare.


  1. "La conscience fonde-t-elle la morale ?", (Glasp)
  2. "La valeur d'une civilisation se reconnaît-elle au développement de sa technique ?", (Glasp)

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