Disc. 8, continued, on morality based on knowledge alone

In this discourse of the Idea of a University Newman describes further the morality based on knowledge alone which is acquired by educated men.

In this case the natural distaste or aversion from sin is based on shame or fear. It is the voice of conscience, but it is not based faith or love. Fear normally implies awareness of breaking the law and thus contravening a lawgiver and judge, and thus God, but cultivated men easily forget this. Newman calls this “the ordinary sin of the Intellect” whereby “conscience tends to become what is called a moral sense; the command of duty is a sort of taste; sin is not an offence against God, but against human nature.”

Educated men avoid sins out of a sense of propriety, rather than a religious sense. “We find these men possessed of many virtues, but proud, bashful, fastidious, and reserved. Why is this? it is because they think and act as if there were really nothing objective in their religion; it is because conscience to them is not the word of a lawgiver, as it ought to be, but the dictate of their own minds and nothing more; it is because they do not look out of themselves, because they do not look through and beyond their own minds to their Maker, but are engrossed in notions of what is due to themselves, to their own dignity and their own consistency.”

These men are upset by their faults not because they are sins for which they have contrition but because they feel remorse for failing. They do not turn to the Sacrament of Confession; instead they are absorbed in self-contemplation.

“They call themselves fools, not sinners; they are angry and impatient, not humble. They shut themselves up in themselves; it is misery to them to think or to speak of their own feelings; it is misery to suppose that others see them, and their shyness and sensitiveness often become morbid.”

Newman said this may be called a “heresy” and described it as “the substitution of a moral sense or taste for conscience in the true meaning of the word.” For men who hold this virtue consists in graceful conduct and sin amounts to nothing but gloom and superstition. “Rather a philosopher’s, a gentleman’s religion, is of a liberal and generous character; it is based upon honour; vice is evil, because it is unworthy, despicable, and odious.” In ancient times, pagans, holding this notion looked down on Christians as servile and cowardly.

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