“Conscious…it was merely the name men gave to their mistakes”-Wilde


I’ve been reading The Picture of Dorian Grey, and I came across the quotation “conscious…it was merely the name men gave to their mistakes”. At first I simply continued reading, but the more I mulled over the quotation, the more thought-provoking it became.

If you take conscious as being synonymous with guilt, an emotion one experiences after doing something they shouldn’t have, then surely it is just a way of dealing with our emotions after a mistake. It is rare that we would say we were experiencing a twinge in our conscious for having done the ‘right’ thing, however after a mistake; something we know we shouldn’t have done, we find our conscious plaguing us. 

Although conscious could be synonymous with mistake in negative situations, I also believe that there are differences between the terms ‘conscious’ and ‘mistake’, in that an issue weighing on one’s conscious is something a person is still deliberating over. An issue that is not necessarily a mistake, perhaps a situation that did not go entirely to plan. In fact a conscious can cause an awareness of what is occurring, perhaps triggering positive or negative emotions, not simply guilt. Therefore it can be interpreted as something positive, the correct choice, rather than a mistake. Referring to conscious as a name for mistakes is (in my view) either overly simplistic, or an incredibly cynical interpretation of the word.     

I thought the quotation rather delightful, in that it has triggered so many thoughts about the nature of language and the meanings of words; how the way we use language reflects on our outlook on life.

What do you think of the quotation, is it an accurate observation?

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