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Lying

but...
An excerpt from an earlier thread (spawned new 'cuz it's largely incidental to that thread):
Sisela Bok's excellent book Lying also points out that when you lie, you don't open your judgment up to anyone else, but get to make all the decisions yourself without fear of being overruled. This creates a great tendency, once you allow lying for necessity, to lie in situations where it simply is not necessary. [..] Her point is the one that the mechanics of lying leave no room for someone else to ever--ever--really say, "Hey, are you sure that's appropriate?" One makes the decision purely internally, and the whole point is to keep it a secret.

The thing that bugs me about this statement is that it treats the world as homogenous when it just ain't.

Lying to group A does not mean I don't open my judgement to anyone, it just means I don't open it to group A. I might cheat on my taxes and tell my friends about it. I might lie to my friends and tell my lover. I might lie to my lover and tell my therapist. I might lie to my therapist and tell my confessor. I might lie to my confessor and tell the IRS. One does not necessarily make the decision purely internally.

For that matter, I might lie to everyone and then seek input in a hypothetical mode... ie, if I cheat on my girlfriend I might later talk to her about a friend of mine who is cheating on his girlfriend and what does she think about that?

In fact, this seems like a decent barometer to use when considering a necessarily lie... that is, if I do feel that lying to this person about this thing is necessary, I ought to ask myself whether I'm willing to tell people not connected to this person about it. If not, then I probably don't understand my motives well enough yet.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
thomb
Apr. 3rd, 2004 01:03 pm (UTC)
This is actually one of the things that Bok suggests. When we do decide it's right to lie sometimes, then it's really good advice to check with some trusted people first about what they think, and to do so before the fact, when you could still change your mind, and not after.

Her book is really a wonderful book; it's not Kant. She isn't saying "never never lie, no matter what", but what she does do is try to examine some of the self-deception that often goes on around lying.

Especially important is: "would I mind if I were lied to in this way", a question that people can be amazingly self-deceiving about, if they ask it at all.

I would strongly suggest reading it; it is probably the best book on applied ethics that I have ever read, bar none. Short and conversational in style too.
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