With his Introduction and his translation of Hendrik G. Stoker's Conscience: Phenomena and Theories, Philip E.Blosser has provided the English-speaking world with an important piece of the complex puzzle of the development and transformations of the schools of phenomenology in early 20th-Century German philosophy. Max Scheler, for whom the book was originally written as a doctoral dissertation, played a large role in that development. The appearance of the work gives students of Calvinist theology, especially in South Africa, new insight into the philosophy of a man closely associated with the Calvinism of its time and place. Blosser's scholarship is impeccable, and the translation is both accurate and very readable. Any reader who has occasionally mulled over the disputed questions of conscience and its role in moral insight and moral action will have much to learn from Stoker's insightful and comprehensive survey.
Stoker's book is the most comprehensive treatment of conscience available in any language today. It surveys the history of the concept from ancient times through medieval and modern thinkers like Joseph Butler, Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, Cardinal Neuman, F. J. J. Buytendijk, Scheler, etc. It surveys the linguistic and etymological background of words we use for conscience, such as the Latin "conscientia," the Greek "synteresis," "syneidesis," etc. And Stoker's phenomenological approach, which focuses on essential description, allows him to distinguish four types of theories of conscience: those that emphasis the elements of (1) intellect, (2) intuition, (3) will or inclination [the German word here is Drang, which may be closer to 'urge'], and (4) emotion. In Stoker's view ##1-3 are elements in our experience of conscience, but not the essence, which he identifies with the feeling of culpable guilt. One could know what one is doing is evil but have no feeling of bad conscience about it; therefore knowledge (intellect) alone is insufficient. One has to experience the feeling of responsibility for something that has been willingly embraced as evil in oneself. His descriptions of examples of this emotional experience of bad conscience are particularly brilliant.