Modern Languages | Modern Literature | Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature
Postprint version. Published in Cultic Studies Review, Volume 3, Issue 3, January 1, 2004, pages 152-170.
This article has been peer reviewed.
Teenagers seem easy targets for despotic groups, such as cults. Moral conscience, however, may be a dike against a sea of despotism. John Henry Newman and Miguel de Unamuno were giant defenders of conscience in their respective cultures. Their philosophies and phenomenologies of conscience depict conscience as supreme in the mind of the ordinary person, though subject to pressures, even death. This notion becomes alive in the deep religious crisis and conversion of their adolescence, marked by a sense of personal divine experience, confidence in final predestination or holy trust, and an ethical commitment. Both men, however, dissent from their religious authorities and doctrines within an environment of academic freedom, individual study, and limited coercion. Hence, the interplay of friends and environments along with personal dedication are essential to our understanding of the role of conscience as a safeguard against coercive manipulation, above all in the lives of youth. This article illuminates these themes by examining the teenage years of these two great philosophical and literary figures.