In q. 2 of Quodlibet XII, discussed in 1295, the secular master of Theology Godfrey of Fontaines poses the question whether an erroneous conscience if acting against binds us to commit a mortal sin. As a matter of fact, it is one of the few texts in which the master from Liège deals with two fundamental concepts of medieval ethics, i.e., conscience and synderesis. Both are unanimously agreed by medieval philosophers to be the two inclinations of the soul that allow human beings to pursue the good and just and avoid evil. According to Godfrey, synderesis works on an universal level and, as habit of natural intellect, like the speculative principles, is innate, inextinguishable, and cannot be overcome by sin. Conscience is defined as a kind of practical knowledge (notitia) regarding particular decisions and as the result of a moral syllogism that takes its start from the will and ends in the will. However, because the will chooses always, according to Godfrey, based on the judgement of reason, conscience concerns mostly the way how reason acts. From the Godfreydian texts about conscience and synderesis emerges an optimistic view of the human being and his moral life, typical of many medieval authors. Although someone may be vicious and yield to sin, he remains, according to Godfrey, master (dominus) of his acts, owing to his psychic inclinations essentially related to reason. Thus Godfrey’s clearly betrays ‘intellectualistic traits’ in his ethics; possessing and exercising right reason, the human being can better develop his moral virtues.

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Periodico iscritto al n. 216/2013 del Registro della Stampa del Tribunale Civile di Roma. Direttore responsabile: Antonio Lamarra - Condirettore: Roberto Palaia