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When Is Telling The Truth No Better Than Lying?

Kant on lying

Kant defines a lie as an “intentionally untruthful declaration”.

Kant identifies truthfulness as an utterance that accurately represents one’s thoughts (including one’s beliefs), regardless of whether those thoughts are themselves accurate.
Kant argues that lying is not permissible, but he allows for engaging in deception through careful word choice or evasion.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

When Is Telling The Truth No Better Than Lying?

When Is Telling The Truth No Better Than Lying?

https://www.philosophersmag.com/essays/154-when-is-telling-the-truth-the-same-as-lyingno

philosophersmag.com

5

Key Ideas

Philosophy and truth

We think philosophy has a role to play in identifying and correcting the disconnect between perception and reality with regard to politicians’ trustworthiness. By providing a theory of lying and truthfulness that is sensitive to lived experience, philosophers can help people to avoid talking past one anotherwhen discussing such important issues.

Augustine on lying

Augustine (354-430) was one of the first to define a lie explicitly as the intent to deceive.

Augustine argues that lying is not permissible regardless of the circumstances that provoked the lie.

Kant on lying

Kant defines a lie as an “intentionally untruthful declaration”.

Kant identifies truthfulness as an utterance that accurately represents one’s thoughts (including one’s beliefs), regardless of whether those thoughts are themselves accurate.
Kant argues that lying is not permissible, but he allows for engaging in deception through careful word choice or evasion.

Mis-value of truth

Mahābhārata, the great Indian epic, reveals through its illustrations that failure to recognise the value of truth lies not in uttering true words but rather in truth’s conduciveness to trustworthiness. 

Both characters, Kauśika and Yudhiṣṭhira, have been untrustworthy: Yudhiṣṭhira, by omitting the full truth, and Kausika in valuing his own reputation for truthfulness above even the lives of innocents.

Understanding truth in context

Rather than lying and truthfulness hinging on the impersonal logic of assertions and declarations, one should also attend to the broader context of the utterance.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Body Language
Body Language

While body language cues can offer clues to deceptions, it is often not good enough. More accurate signals are:

  • Intentionally leaving out important details.
  • If the p...
Ask Them to Tell Their Story in Reverse

The passive process of observing a potential liar's body language and facial expressions to spot lies is limited.

Adopt a more active approach by asking the individual to relate their story in reverse order rather than chronological order.

Trust Your Instincts

People often rely on stereotypical behaviors that are often associated with lying such as fidgeting or shifty eyes. But these signs are simply old wives' tales.

Your first gut reactions might be more accurate than any conscious lie detection you might attempt.

Types of lies
Types of lies
  • White Lies. People tell white lies claiming to be tactful or polite.
  • Broken Promises. Failure to keep one’s spoken commitment or promise.
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The illusory truth effect
The illusory truth effect

It's our tendency to believe false information to be correct after repeated exposure to it.

The illusory truth effect is the reason why advertising and propaganda works.

Why repetition reinforces a belief

The typical explanation is that our brains take shortcuts to save energy:

  • Statements presented in as easy-to-read color are judged as more likely to be true.
  • Aphorisms that rhyme (like “what sobriety conceals, alcohol reveals") seem more accurate than non-rhyming versions.

    Carl Sagan
    Carl Sagan

    “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. ”

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    Lies Motivated By Compassion

    When we decide to lie, we privilege some other value over honesty. The value is often compassion, as people lie more about their feelings than about anything else. 

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    Lies Motivated By Desire for Material Gain
    When a desire for material gain motivates lying, the consequences are likely to be negative. 
    One factor that prevents people from lying for personal gain is the need/desire to see oneself as a moral person. 
    Desire to Maintain a Positive Self-Concept
    • People sometimes lie to themselves or others out of a need to see themselves positively. 
    • People often experience greater positive emotions when exaggerating their intelligence or skill to themselves or others.
    • Liars driven by the desire to see themselves positively can forget that their dishonesty contributed to their success. Consequently, they may make misguided bets about their future performance. 
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    To lie is human
    • Lying is something that most people are very practiced in. We lie in big and small ways, to strangers, co-workers, friends, and loved ones.
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    Lying increases with maturity

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    Why we limit our lies

    We like to see ourselves as honest because we have internalized honesty as a value taught to us. We generally place limits on how much we are willing to lie.

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    Observe and recap

    The Non-violent communication (NVC) process begins with neutral observation.

    In conversations, this is most easily done by recapping what someone has said, without emotional input.

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    For NVC, talk feelings, not issues. 

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    Describing feelings of concern, fear, heartbreak, rage, dismay, or confusion are useful.

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    According to NVC teachings, all of the emotions we experience when we’re upset are connected to an unmet need, which is a requirement for contentment.

    In a heated conversation, returning to identifying needs can remove roadblocks.

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    Jordan Peterson
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    "It [speaking the truth] is the proper way of wending your way through the terrible world without making it worse than it already is and with the possibility perhaps of making it better."

    “Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all res...

    “Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” 

     - Fyodor Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov

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