Gnome Says:
August 26th, 2008 at 10:22 am

I agree with you Grace……
Guilt is the way our consciousness found to stop us from doing something that we shouldn’t.
Although the feeling sucks, is still a good thing we have it.
I would hate end up as a psycopath…

I was reading all the posts and then I came across Grace and “Gnome’s” entry and I started thinking… What is this “consciousness” that we speak of? Is this in fact that “Jiminy Cricket” conscience that speaks up when we are making a mistake? Or doing something bad? Where does this “cricket” come from and does everyone have one? And if everyone does have one, how come what is ok for some people isn’t ok for others? Is it different than me? Is it something other than me that controls me in some way?

I feel like this is just a deeper look at our discussions we were having on free will and beliefs, what do you guys think?

It’s funny, because I blame a lot on my conscience, as though it’s this annoying thing that controls me, or parents me in some way. Like it’s something outside of me that I am forced to listen to if I want to be good.

I went and saw The Dark Knight last night and it brought to light so many questions that I can’t wait to share with you all, but really, one of the major topics that stuck out for me was the whole concept that someone like the Joker exists. Someone who’s sole purpose is destruction. What happened to his conscience?

Tell me what you think?!


Add yours Comments – 119

  • Lauren

    on August 29, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Simply put, a conscience is a set of morals, beliefs, rules, ect… instilled in us to stop us from doing something wrong. We are all born without one,(feral children are good examples of that) and we need to be taught what is good and what is bad. Without that teaching, a person can grow up on a survival instinct–only caring for themselves.

    There is a tv show out now called Dexter–about a serial killer with a false conscience. It’s really interesting.

  • Lauren

    on August 29, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    James, sadly, those who do not have a conscience are like that for there entire lives. It can’t be rebuilt; it’s not broken; it’s simply just not there. The disorder for one who lacks a conscience is classified as psychopathy, and if you read ‘Mask of Sanity’ Cleckley does a good job of setting the record straight, as he studied psychopaths for years. The Joker would be considered a psychopath. He probably exhibited homicidal tendencies as early as the age of 6. Abuse plays a role, and it is more likely in men then woman, however if you are taught and treated with neglect and abuse, chances are that is all you’ll ever know, and sometimes that is all it takes.

  • Medina

    on August 29, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    why you so serious?

  • Scott

    on August 29, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    “Denebola Says:
    August 29th, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    That’s good! I’m not saying everybody has that opposing voice in their head, but a lot of people do, and I’m one of them. What I was talking about is that voice that guilt-trips me over inconsequential things, not my actual, inherent conscience.”

    Ah, I see. I… don’t know what to call that. I have a lot of shoulds, but they’re not any part of my conscience. They’re simply an element of something I don’t particularly want to do, or can’t do at that moment for a good reason. I typically follow the urges granted me by my conscience.

    “# Medina Says:
    August 29th, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    why you so serious?”


  • Medina

    on August 29, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Wrote i wrong?

    i did again…

  • arash

    on August 29, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Y so C ri S

  • Anthony V

    on August 29, 2008 at 9:35 pm


    I think like many other things in life, our conscious partially comes from the way that we’re raised. We learn what is right and wrong when our parents either praise us or they punish us (Operant Conditioning….i think im wrong thought). As we move on, we begin to think of things on our own terms. We follow our own path and try to figure out things on our own. We develop our own sense of right and wrong.

    You do bring up a good point with The Joker. I saw The Dark Knight opening night, and it kind of got me thinking about the same thing, what got him to be so…evil?

    Im not too sure if you’re familiar with the comic book, but The Joker never really had an origin. Even in the movie he never really had a specific origin (he would change his origin whenever he told people ‘about his scars’). I think thats always the first place to search for an origin. Im sure you’re also familiar with the origins of Clark Kent and Lex Luthor since you’re on Smallville. Clark was raised with a loving family where they taught him what was right and what was wrong. Furthermore, he also had a loving family that would work with him to find the right solution to life’s problems. Lex on the other hand didn’t have a stable life. His dad was always pushing him to be great no matter what it meant. You see some of the effects of this during the series.

    The thing that scares me about our conscious is the fact that sometimes we can’t explain why people are so evil (like The Joker). One of my favorite video Games (Final Fantasy VI) has a memorable villain named Kefka. He does some of the most henious things ever, like poison an innocent castle. He even succeeds in becoming the world’s “god”. Actually, he’s kind of like The Joker, because he finds alot of humor in doing all of these things. At the end of the game, he says this:

    “Life… dreams… hope… Where’d they come from? And where are they headed…? These things… I’m going to destroy! ”

    Some people find joy in taking others hope, joy, love and other things away. I know this is just a fictional character, but there are people like this in real life as well. Not to that extent, but they’ll bring others down to bring them up. They might not have the right mindset that they don’t need to bring others down to be happy. They might not have had the proper upbringing.

    Man, this is pretty long, so I better sum it up. I think that our conscious is something that tells us whats right and what wrong. This can be due to our upbringing, our experiences, or even what we believe in. Unfortunately, some people dont listen to their conscious, or they just choose to do bad things because they enjoy it. As we continue to grow, I hope it causes are conscious to grow as well.

  • Libby

    on August 29, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    I think, the Joker (who we’ll use as a reference for all psychopaths) managed to “tune out” his conscience. He was born with one–the same as anyone else–but through everyday, little things, managed to slowly override his nature to do the right thing.

    I live in Minnesota, and I recently toured an artist’s gallery. Her name is Della Conroy, and, since I toured with a small group, she gave a mini-lecture afterwards. Someone asked her how she feels about talent–if it’s acquired, or given.

    She told us she believes everyone is born with the same abilities, the same level of skill. But our interests, our passions, cause us to do what we like, so we gain skill through practice. For example, a young girl loves to draw, so she does a little everyday, and by her teenage years, she’s quite talented.

    I believe the same of conscience. We’re all born on the same level. So, when Batman and Joker are born, they’re the same. Outside influences–insults, praise, bad parenting, good parenting–are what truly guide us.

    The conscience is a defult; black and white, good vs. evil. So, as a child, you see this clearly; it’s why children are so often called pure.

    But then, say you’re eight, and you see your big brother bullying the neighbor. You know it’s wrong; your conscience is telling you that. But, can logic overrule emotion? Here your conscience is logic; the black and white, and your big brother is emotion; the gray, that you have an emotional connection to.

    At this point, you’re back to nature vs. nurture. Which skills you’ve honed; have you become a logical adult, or an emotional adult?

    So, Joker becomes an emotional adult. Trauma in his life, that he decides to handle poorly (as compared to Batman, who represents the non-psychopaths), affects his conscience. He’s hurting, so he wants to make others hurt–to hell with Jiminy Cricket.

    And each time Joker ignores the little guy, it gets easier.

    Now, since we’re on this topic, I do have to put this out there; Lex Luthor. I am a Superman geek, as well as (obviously) a Smallville one.

    I think my above rantings fits with Smallville’s version of Lex Luthor. In the beginning (Season One), he know’s his father is bad. This is his conscience. He fights outside sources, trying to force him to his “nature,” his badness. But he fights them.

    This is conscience. Fighting the bad, because, logically, you strive for good.

    So he has all of these outside forces pushing him one way. Well, eventually, they’ll probably win out. Emotion usually does win over logic. So, he starts to ignore the conscience, the logic, and listen to the outside influences.

    As he slowly ignores Jiminy, it gets easier. This is what we witnessed over last few seasons.

    I think it’s really interesting that you can find so many examples of consciousness (at least how I percieve it) in classic tales of good vs. evil. Granted, they may be the more emotionally probing versions, like Smallville and Dark Knight, but it’s always there, even in small doses.

    I hope my opinion serves you some purpose 🙂

  • Puffy

    on August 29, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Lauren – I love Dexter (TV version thought, not book version) and am intrigued by what you called his false conscience. I didn’t see if as false but rather a constructed and carefully defined conscience, as opposed to most people who have a conscience that evolved, is fluid and is based on a variety on factors, including emotion.
    But then again, like the Joker, part of the joy of Dexter is the ambiguity.

  • Kirk D. aka "Spartacus"

    on August 29, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    Hey Alli-Mack & everyone else that reads this,

    I hope your Friday went well!

    Anyways…Here goes.

    I believe we all have a moral sense, that is naturally embedded in the heart of each of us by God. I believe that by nature a person will approve or condemn their own acts. And I believe it is what we use to judge others acts. Though we can’t force anyone to do or believe anything, we need to understand that our actions do influence people to go against their conscience, either for the good or the bad of that persons moral health. No one is an island unto themselves. We live in a small community called Earth and we all have moral responsibilities.
    But there seem to be those that have a conscience but it has been seared, like with a hot iron, and left them insensitive to others and even their own needs in this moral tapestry of wills. They seem to be left with the inability to respond normally.
    Life isn’t fair and it never will be, at least not on this side of heaven and can lead to people to lose hope, lose respect for themselves, for others, and for God.
    We can’t always choose the things that happen to us in life, but we can choose how we respond to them. Some are more sensitive and some are less sensitive to right and wrong than others, but that doesn’t remove them from responsibility for their actions.

    I believe we all have the framework for a good moral compass, but if the user (us) doesn’t keep in touch with the designer of that compass, we will all lose our way.

  • Kirk D. aka "Spartacus"

    on August 29, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    Not sure if that helps,

  • christa link

    on August 30, 2008 at 3:31 am

    i believe that we all have a consience. there are some people like me, who chose to ignore it. when i was 22, my boyfriend of only one month, he asked me to marry him. i heard that voice in my head and i chose to ignore it. it was the worst decision i ever made. i did for personal reasons. but i did learn a lot from it. it did make me the person i am today. i am now remarried and very happy with my child and husband. i loved the dark knight to. looking forward to when you direct smallville allison. i know you will do a great job!

  • magic coco

    on August 30, 2008 at 4:02 am

    Hey !!
    I guess we all have a good side and a bad side.We all wanna do bad things sometimes, but fortunately, most of us had the chance to have a good education, and I think that’s the reason why we choose the best thing to do.Unfortunately, having a good education is not enough sometimes.But I’m quite sure of something, to stay on the right and the good direction, you have to consider that the value of the RESPECT (of the others and of yourself) is essential.
    Thanks Allison for everything you’re doing.
    Le bonjour de la France

  • David Hayes

    on August 30, 2008 at 11:24 am

    This is off topic, but I don’t agree with the opinion of Della Conroy as posted by Libby. People should be born with equal freedoms and rights under the law … but I don’t believe we are born with equal abilities and potentials for all skills. Interest, passion and commitment will to a very large degree tell how far a person goes in life but some people do start with an advantage and some have the deck stacked against them. Extreme examples are child prodigies whom some believe are proof of reincarnation (skills picked up over several lifetimes). Another extreme would be children born with severe physical deformities and who could never be exceptional athletes or dancers even if that was their ambition. But between the extreme examples and the normal human aptitudes is a wide range of physical predispositions that would aid or hinder certain professions. I have a friend whose artwork is excellent. You would never guess that he is color blind. He has excelled far beyond what his physical condition would seem to allow. I strongly believe that someone with very little physical predisposition for an avocation but an intense desire and drive can excel beyond what someone with innate skills and very little motivation can do. A personal example would be me and my younger step-son. I showed some ability to draw at an early age but had to really work to make myself a passable but not professional artist. My step-son could pick up a pencil any time he chose and create something very good without trying. It was so easy for him that he never felt the need to apply himself. Had he really tried, he could have surpassed anything I ever did. But he didn’t. I have some friends that pick up languages with about as much effort as I pick up my cat (granted, he is a very heavy cat). I am lucky that I understand my native language and it feels like those skills are slipping away from me every day. So my opinion is that we are not born with the same potential for learning any given task.

    Another side issue is the weight we give to what a successful person has to say about how to succeed. Della Conroy is a successful artist so when she says that everyone can be as successful as her in art if they want to be, people buy it. One of the most successful artists in history in my opinion was the man that invented the yellow smiley face. He earned a total of less than $100.00 for what he did and I don’t know anyone that even knows his name (no, it wasn’t Forrest Gump). But his masterpiece impacted the world and was duplicated and displayed all around the world. What was his secret to success? What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone and equal efforts don’t always or even usually earn equal rewards. Again, this is my opinion. I have this story in my head about 2 people on a talk show arguing their divergent philosophies for success. One man says “Always look up!” The other man says “Always keep grounded – look at what’s in your path immediately in front of you!” They each followed their philosophies to great wealth and they are both convinced that their method is the best way to succeed. The one man looked up and saw a satchel snagged on a tree limb. It was full of money. The other found a large bag of money on the curb. Did the sudden influx of money make them suddenly brilliant? I think not. Again, that’s just my humble opinion.

  • Adam

    on August 30, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    The Big C. What is it? I think that part of it is the way that you are brought up. If you are taught to respect certain things then certainly, you should know the differance between right and wrong. But saying that, you still get the complete nut jobs who just don’t give a monkeys. Take the example from the Dark Knight; the Joker. There’s a guy who just does exactly what it says on the tin – create anarchy. He could have been sane, but for one instance in his life he snapped. Now he doesn’t go by any rules. (The Killing Joke Graphic Novel explains a bit of this I think). The other part should be down to individual self. How many of us knows right from wrong. Example, if you found a wallet on the street with a large sum of money in it, do you hand it in to a police station? Or keep it?

    Some would argue that this is the greatest gift (I use this term lightly as I am not religious), that we have. Choice.

    And that’s me finished talking rubbish!

  • Brittany

    on September 1, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Hey Allison, I believe our conscience is formed by our surroundings. The right and wrong can be very different for some people, because of what the’ve been through or what they have witnessed and so on. The Joker in the Dark night, I really want to see that movie. Hmm maybe the Joker was good, then again maybe when he was little he was placed in an environnement where evil was the only thing that could get him through paths or whatsoever. Who knows, maybe he could have been placed in situations where doing the wrong thing could save his life. I have the gut feeling all the time when I make decisions. Altighty well bye for now! XXXOOO Britt

  • Brittany

    on September 1, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Hey Allison, I believe our conscience is formed by our surroundings. The right and wrong can be very different for some people, because of what the’ve been through or what they have witnessed and so on. The Joker in the Dark night, I really want to see that movie. Hmm maybe the Joker was good, then again maybe when he was little he was placed in an environnement where evil was the only thing that could get him through paths or whatsoever. Who knows, maybe he could have been placed in situations where doing the wrong thing could save his life. I have the gut feeling all the time when I make decisions. Alrighty well bye for now! XXXOOO Britt

  • Kim Son

    on September 2, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Morality, the ethics of rights and wrongs, is all based on what was built from human history. It’s basically to put humanity on a pedestal, for being beings of higher consciousness than any other in the animal kingdom. Still, other species would kill mostly for a purpose of survival or protection, whilst human beings can do horrid things for a reason that we would not think of as being valid.

    One of the Joker’s lines, “Let’s introduce a little anarchy”, confirms that he doesn’t follow any rules, whether it be from social conditioning or from a higher power. A teacher once told me that one of the first groups of anarchists actually meant to do good by opposing against an oppressive government (i.e.: a monarchy or something in the likes of Robin Hood or… The Green Arrow! Haha!), etc… but those who have a different conception of anarchy just think that they can do anything they want in a radical way, and it can, sadly, include unnecessary violence.

    As most of the previous comments said, people like the Joker are socially conditioned by many factors that make them how they are.

    I recently saw a documentary on how nurturing is passed down from a mother to their children and to future generations. The animals that received good nurturing somehow keep a “gene” that allowed the species to pass down good nurturing instincts or what we, humans, would see as “love”. The young ones that didn’t receive any nurturing from the mother would eventually lose that “gene” and would not give good nurturing to their own children, and they would live under high stress levels. This might give a clue to how someone like the Joker could exist (absence of love?). (I would like to remember where I saw this documentary on what seems to be the science of nurturing, or “love genes”… It was probably something on PBS.) As the Beatles would sing: “All you need is love”, probably to make life better for yourself and others around you.

    Wow, being drained from a concert sure gives me inspiration to write a lot!!!

  • Matt Johnson

    on February 16, 2009 at 8:32 am

    So I’m a late entry to the conversation, I suppose, but I was intrigued by this discussion and had to stop. Miss Mack, It’s refreshing to see a person in your position giving sincere thought to these sorts of things. It may not be so unusual, but so many celebrities appear to be too shallow for such things.

    Not so long ago I was asking so many of the same questions. I was raised in a devout and sincere home, and wholeheartedly accepted the beliefs of my parents at an early age. My parents had the wisdom to teach me beyond our own beliefs and helped me study the philosophies of others. (So much so that Comparative Religions was a required course for me in High School!) But like so many of us do (and should), I began to dig a little deeper in my late teens. What did I really believe and why did I believe it? Fortunately I went to college to study Theology, so I had a tremendous opportunity to answer so many of those questions through my studies, but I still lacked the maturity to come to real conclusions on my own. It’s been in the years since that I’ve been able to nail down some of the more complex issues.

    Conscience is one that took me a long time, for the same reasons you’ve been pondering, really.
    What is the conscience? Why is it seemingly different for so many people? Why, when I had the same core beliefs as my parents, were there some things that I was okay with that they weren’t? The trouble with so many of these questions is that there is no simple, blanket answer to them. We live in a complex world, one that has absolutes, to be sure, but that also has some gray in it.

    Everybody does have a conscience. In fact, it’s a gift from God, when you get right down to it. It’s referred to as His law “written on our hearts”. Why do people try to hide theft, adultery, and murder? Because however they’ve justified it to themselves, a deeper part of them understands it’s still wrong. Tell a two-year old no and watch what happens. Half the time he’ll watch you and do whatever he wants anyway. If his parents are wise, they’ll reinforce the built-in conscience, but too often they don’t. And that’s where things get complex.

    But then there’s still that question of differences, isn’t there?

    The typical response to the fact that people do have different standards of right and wrong is to either ignore it, like I spent most of my life doing; or to jump to the conclusion that there must not be any moral absolutes. Both extremes are fallacious. It’s too complex a question for a simple blanket answer. Even a committed relativist would object to being killed by someone who felt that wiping out relativists is a good idea. Meanwhile, one who believes EVERYTHING is an absolute will very quickly find himself all alone because no two people are going to agree on every matter.

    The answer is that we’re all born with that same basic understanding of right and wrong, but a variety of factors shape and influence it as we grow. Some people set up standards above and beyond what conscience dictates as a protection against accidentally violating right and wrong. For example, since conscience dictates adultery is wrong, married friends of mine strive to never be alone with a member of the opposite sex. Is it wrong to be alone with a woman who isn’t your wife? No. But could it make it easier to do something that is wrong? Sure. Sometimes one practices such ‘security’ measures for so long, that in his mind it becomes a matter of morality where God and conscience don’t say so. Anyone who’s grown up in church will know what I’m talking about. This creates any number of groups and individuals who have in their good intentions gone beyond the absolutes and created a set of substandards that can vary on a million different levels.

    On the other hand, it’s possible to ignore one’s conscience on a matter long enough that one stops hearing it altogether. To step onto some common ground for a moment, the characters on Smallville are a great example. Clark is clearly raised in a home with strong judeo-christian values, but he has no qualms at all about looking people, even friends, in the eye and lying. Why? Because he’s been doing so (and justifying it to himself) for his whole life. Lex is even more intriguing, but this is already long and that would take pages. It can happen to anyone, and it usually starts when we’re kids. You steal a pack of gum, or a pencil, maybe a small toy; and what happens? You can’t sleep, your stomach hurts, and you finally confess? Maybe Mom or Dad catches on and makes you return it and apologize. Or maybe, just maybe you keep it and ignore the bad feelings until they go away. The next time it’s not so bad. The tricky thing about the conscience is that it’s a part of us, not some outside force, and thus subject to our free wills.

    Sometimes people justify things they know are wrong because it serves a greater good. Sometimes doing the morally right thing is difficult and they just take the easy way. Some people are never taught to respond to their conscience, or worse yet are trained against it. Some deny it for simple hedonistic purposes – it’s more ‘fun’ to be bad. The list goes on and on, to the extent that it’s a wonder anybody anywhere agrees on anything! Yet we still find a pattern of core truths that most people accept.

    Another question I’ve asked: If the conscience serves such an important role, why is it so easily dismissed or ignored? Why is it subjected to the whims of an individual, able to be trained and even bent? The answer was simpler than I expected.

    Conscience isn’t enough by itself because it was never meant to stand alone.