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Conscience

An emotional identification with others that leads to a level of empathy sufficient to energize a strong feeling of responsibility for the impact of one's actions (or lack of taking action) on others. A common misunderstanding is that conscience is primarily an intellectual phenomenon, but as Harvard psychologist Martha Stout has pointed out, those without the ability to empathize with others also appear to lack a functioning conscience, regardless of their intellectual capacity. The evolution of conscience seems to involve both the deepening of feelings of empathy and an increasingly nuanced understanding of how one's actions affect others. As conscience develops, it can expand to include an abiding concern for the well-being of all those who are enduring injustice, oppression or violence, as well as a commitment to come to their aid whenever possible. It has been suggested that the often cited Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto to you," is surpassed by the Platinum Rule "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them." To live according to such an advanced principle necessarily requires in-depth understanding of how others experience and value various aspects of their lives.

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