Conscience and its Problems: An Introduction to Casuistry

By Kenneth E. Kirk

One of the classic texts of moral theology, setting out crucial moral problems and arguments drawn from religion and the religious community.

ISBN: 9780227679487


Casuistry is a process of reasoning that focuses upon specific cases or moral problems, as opposed to a general study of ethical theories. In this broad sense every moral philosopher may be regarded as a casuist in some sense. The term also has a narrower meaning as it refers to a group of moralists who, in the sixteenth and seventeenth century systematically adopted this method. Casuistry is now one of the options for those who, in the framework of the post-modern anti-systematic attitude, still feel the importance of serious moral debate and reject easy-minded relativism.

A benchmark in twentieth century casuistry, Conscience and its Problems anticipates this development. It recognises the legacy of casuist tradition, and faces moral issues relevant to our own time. One of the great classics of theology unavailable for twenty years, Kirk’s work is at last back in print in a handsome new edition.

Kirk examines in depth all the crucial moral problems, and offers arguments drawn from religion and from those committed to religious worship and community. The influence of this work has been very wide, making it an essential text for those in the field.

An extensive new Introduction by David H. Smith places Kirk’s approach to casuistry in the context of a general discussion of the term, its meaning and the ways in which it has been variously interpreted.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 456

Trade Information JGEN

About the Author

Kenneth E. Kirk was educated at the Royal Grammar School, Sheffield, and St. John’s College, Oxford. After serving as a chaplain in France and Flanders during World War I, he returned to Oxford to become Tutor at Keble College, Fellow at Magdalen College, Fellow and Chaplain of Trinity, and in 1933 Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology. He was Bishop of Oxford from 1937 until his death in 1954.


The Author
Introduction by David H. Smith
Author’s Note to 1948 Edition
Author’s Note to 1936 Edition
Principal Abbreviations

Part I – Conscience and Casuistry
I. Conscience
II. Loyalty
III. Casuistry
IV. Casuistry and Christianity

Part II – Problems of Conscience
V. Error
VI. Doubt
VII. Perplexity

Additional Notes
Index of Authors and Subjects

Endorsements and Reviews

Every so often you come across a book which has to find special place on your bookshelf. It’s a book which is often opened as a point of reference, a book which is never likely to gather dust, a book which earns the well-worn conditions and pages held between its covers. Conscience and its Problems by Kenneth E. Kirk is such a book. It has proved over the years to be a timeless masterpiece in the area of Moral Theology. There isn’t a more appropriate time for such a book to be released. I strongly recommend it.
‘Crosstalk’, the British Forces Broadcasting Service

Kenneth Kirk was the outstanding Anglican moral theologian of his generation. This is a reprint of one of his two major works, with an extensive introduction by David H Smith, setting Kirk into his historical and contemporary context. Kirk’s approach to moral reasoning is surprisingly apposite in the modern situation. That such a foundational text should be made available again can only be welcomed. It will provide a powerful resource for all who are trying to discern how to act faithfully in today’s world.
Theological Book Review, Vol 12, No 1

Shows familiarity with both the Church’s tradition of casuistry and with the philosophy of his day. It is closely argued, and offers a consistent vision of moral character, and the demands of Christian discipleship. The second part of the book applies, with subtlety and insight, an informed conscience to particular moral dilemmas ranging from birth control to general strikes. Throughout Kirk offers a confident and disciplined statement of a catholic Anglican ecclesiology. His achievement and stature is such that any Anglican concerned about the church’s moral teaching must engage with the rigour and breadth of his work. The reader of this book will have his moral perception sharpened and enlarged.
Fairacres Chronicle

A respected study of casuistry by the outstanding Anglican moral theologian of his generation.
Robert Ombres OP, New Blackfriars