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Should we lie to people for the greater good?


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This is a very good question.

IMO, the only reason to withhold something that you think to be true, after reflection and examination of evidence, is not because it may cause anger or demoralization, but because of the danger of this piece of knowledge being revealed.

I remember this point to have come up before in my life, and I've compared the anger or demoralization that you mention to the cauterization or sterilization of an injury: Pain or annoyance are different from harm. I'm a firm believer that people are better off if they are able to rule out assumptions that are not worth considering. seriously.

As to topics about which I haven't made up my mind yet, I prefer to stay quiet, as you say, and let others talk until I find my position, if at all.

What's your position?

 

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There are many factors to consider...

Should an Oncologist withhold cancer news from a patient because of the emotional 'hurt' it will cause ?

On the other hand, if your wife asks " Do these jeans make me look fat ?", run out of the room. There is no possible answer that will save you from a long scolding. ( no, I'm not married; but this generalization applies to girlfriends also )

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58 minutes ago, VenusPrincess said:

If you believed something was true,

Can you define how you're using "believed" in this context? Is this a gut feeling, wishful thinking, makes perfect sense? Or is this a belief based on evidence and observation, something you could actually trust? 

I have a hard time with the word "true", since it's often used subjectively, and gets defined however the user wants. Your "truth" could be that the QAnon people are right.

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When my mother was near the end of her life she emotionally suffered whenever any of her kids or grandkids experienced any setbacks. We instituted a policy, at my urging, that we lie like crazy to my mom. David got into graduate school. Mary's debt was forgiven. I got that promotion. 

I've never been happier about a decision to lie in my life.

For the most part I believe that people should be told the truth, but I'm sure there are dozens of exceptions depending on the circumstances.

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3 hours ago, zapatos said:

When my mother was near the end of her life she emotionally suffered whenever any of her kids or grandkids experienced any setbacks. We instituted a policy, at my urging, that we lie like crazy to my mom. David got into graduate school. Mary's debt was forgiven. I got that promotion. 

I've never been happier about a decision to lie in my life.

For the most part I believe that people should be told the truth, but I'm sure there are dozens of exceptions depending on the circumstances.

Completely agree, 100%.

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I will point out that op said something you "believe" to be true. My first thought is the level of evidence, but also the motivation to bring it out in the first place. 

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I think in these times people like it when you tell the truth, I read all over reddit about people exposing certain people and groups and companies etc all the time and people love to know about it. It depends a lot also on what people are willing to accept, truth can hurt some if they lived knowing or living by a lie for a period of time but people seem to grow from it and move on and I am talking about stuff that is considered something like conspiracy theories. I've read and watched stuff that show 100% video evidence plus questionable events that happened ON VIDEO that people just rule out because they believe so much in the NORMALITY OF THINGS and that somethings that are possible could never happen.

Overall it comes down to intention, you say what you say, live with it and move on. Sometimes trying to understand what it all leads to is too much to understand.

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On 12/5/2020 at 1:31 PM, zapatos said:

When my mother was near the end of her life she emotionally suffered whenever any of her kids or grandkids experienced any setbacks. We instituted a policy, at my urging, that we lie like crazy to my mom. David got into graduate school. Mary's debt was forgiven. I got that promotion. 

I've never been happier about a decision to lie in my life.

For the most part I believe that people should be told the truth, but I'm sure there are dozens of exceptions depending on the circumstances.

This is a good example of what we would call a white lie. 

When people are talking about lying, they are really only talking about one form of falsehood. It often ends up being a catch all term for all falsehoods. 

On 12/5/2020 at 11:58 AM, VenusPrincess said:

If you believed something was true, but also knew that others would be demoralized and angry at you for sharing that truth, should you stay quiet or lie about it instead?

If you present what you believe to be the truth with a clear argument and justification for believing in that claim, by way of logical consistency and preferably evidence, you should not stay quiet about it or lie about it. To be clear though, just because you are not lying about what your belief is, does not mean you are not just wrong and engaging in a falsehood. 

However, if your argument runs the risk of being dangerously misconstrued, you have a duty to stay silent and be careful about who you are speaking to about it. Once you've said what you say, it is out there in the world and it is your epistemic responsibility to make sure it is not misinterpreted in a way where an outcome that you did not want comes to fruition. Like an argument being used to advocate violence against a group, or an argument that claims superiority of one group over another, which can be misconstrued as justification for said violence. 

If you believe you can make an argument for a moral claim and are confident it will not be misinterpreted to ill effect, then by all means speak it from the hilltops. Reality does not have to match your confidence however and you can still choose poorly. 

This is why Wittgenstein only released one book while he was alive and why he detested people taking notes of what he said in casual conversation. Words are dangerous. Talking about ethics, is very dangerous and is very high stakes. A lot of people do not appreciate or understand the gravity of this. 

It's one thing to be wrong when making claims about what the answer to a mathematical problem is, being wrong in ethics, can have some very far reaching consequences. Nietzsche for example is often greatly misunderstood and misinterpreted to ill effect for him and his readers.

 

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  • 2 months later...

I would tell the truth
I think it's funny how people always want you to be honest with them. But this only applies until you are not disappointed with the truth.
I think you have to ask yourself what is actually worse. The lie in itself or having to come to terms with the truth.
It would bother me more to waste my time on a lie.

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25 minutes ago, Zerbo said:

I would tell the truth
I think it's funny how people always want you to be honest with them. But this only applies until you are not disappointed with the truth.
I think you have to ask yourself what is actually worse. The lie in itself or having to come to terms with the truth.
It would bother me more to waste my time on a lie.

You're not very good in social situations are you... [/rhetorical] 

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It's a problem in multi-variable logic. Solutions agreeable to most will vary, depending upon the specifics. The OP offers a general situation which, as such, has no right or wrong answer. But the discussion is valuable and I'm appreciating the answers of others.

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18 hours ago, ltlredwagon said:

It's a problem in multi-variable logic. Solutions agreeable to most will vary, depending upon the specifics. The OP offers a general situation which, as such, has no right or wrong answer. But the discussion is valuable and I'm appreciating the answers of others.

It's only a problem in multi-variable logic.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I don't think people should lie for the greater good because I don't think lying for the greater good exists. Lying is for people who don't have a completely strong conscience because they're corrupt. Lying is just another form of corruption, not justice. Lying is for selfish and/or opportunistic power, not justice. It's why justice is not common at all. It's why wars, systemic racism, systemic classism, systemic sexism, systemic ableism, other systemic things, social credit systems, re-education camps, concentration camps disguised as public schools for children, anti-intellectual propaganda disguised as political correctness, feminazis disguised as feminists, misogyny, misandry, rape, patriarchal stockholm syndrome, stockholm syndrome in general, sexist double standards that abuse the people in the court rooms because of confirmation bias that treats women and men differently based on their biological sex rather than focusing on hard facts, and other things continue to exist because of lying. Honesty helps people have accurate thinking, but lying is corruption that keeps people in the dark from what is really happening. Lying is what caused the people to be cynical and not trust anyone. A lot of people have a hard time dealing with hard facts and brutal honesty enough as it is. If someone were to say that lying is for the greater good, then I would think that they're a psychopath, sociopath, or a person with a weak conscience. Because if I detected a person lying to me to not hurt my feelings, then I wouldn't trust them with my life at all. I would rather be alone and in pain than live with corrupt delusions in my head because I would rather not have my intelligence be insulted from lying.

Edited by Firebirdy
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4 minutes ago, Firebirdy said:

I don't think people should lie for the greater good because I don't think lying for the greater good exists. Lying is for people who don't have a completely strong conscience because they're corrupt. Lying is just another form of corruption, not justice. Lying is for selfish and/or opportunistic power, not justice. It's why justice is not common at all. It's why wars continue to happen. It's why systemic racism, systemic classism, systemic sexism, systemic ableism, other systemic things, social credit systems, re-education camps, concentration camps disguised as public schools for children, anti-intellectual propaganda disguised as political correctness, feminazis disguised as feminists, misogyny, misandry, rape, patriarchal stockholm syndrome, stockholm syndrome in general, sexist double standards that abuse the people in the court rooms because of confirmation bias that treats women and men differently based on their biological sex rather than focusing on hard facts, and other things continue to exist because of lying. Honesty helps people have accurate thinking, but lying is corruption that keeps people in the dark from what is really happening. Lying is what caused the people to be cynical and not trust anyone. A lot of people have a hard time dealing with hard facts and brutal honesty enough as it is.

Ok, I'll be honest with you. You come across as someone who is pissed at the world and uninterested in having a serious conversation. Perhaps you need to start a blog.

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Once we start to lie for the GREATER good , many lines of flight appear to us. Things that did not commonly appear GREATER to us , gradually start to seem GREATER. Many autocratic regimes apply this rule to justify their  repetitive lies to their own nations [AND TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY]. Parents lie to their children for the kids' " good " . 

Furthermore , we have to spend lots of time deciding whether this issue or that topic is the GRATER good. Means almost always wavering and dithering.  In the world of science , cases are not few and far between where peers go for ignoring ( and , thus , indirectly lying to the scientific community as well as to the public ) data + info that do not truly fit in with the " orthodox " science. Another genre of lying. 

WE  HAD BETTER AX THE WHOLE HUE AND CRY BY TAKING A FIRM DECISION TO TELL THE TRUTH . . . . . .. 

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On 3/18/2021 at 2:19 AM, Firebirdy said:

Lying is for selfish and/or opportunistic power, not justice.

This is just silly. It is true that some lying is for exactly the purpose you outline here, but not all lying. A single contrary example is all that is needed to onvalidate your hypothesis. Here is one such example.

A couple of decades ago a friend confided in me that his young daughter was having great difficulty in learning to read. Though he was spending time with her each evening working on her reading there seemed to be little or no progress. I suggested he changed tactics: on the next occassion he should praise her efforts and note that they were a big imrpovement over the previous day. In other words, lie to her. He gave it a try and there was immediate sucess. The eveing following the unwarranted praise there was a genuine improvement. This continued until she had caught up with and in many cases surpassed her classmates in reading ability. She went on to become a primary school teacher.

Will your counter argument be he was merely lying for the selfish wish to see his offspring prosper? I think you'll need a better argument than that to convince me.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lying never generates good, except in cases of self-defense. Lies are a tool of predators, villains and cheaters in order to use the deceived victim for their dirty needs.

In ancient times, people ascended to the heights of military skill and shed tons of blood to defeat a liar

wHxT1CH1eEWmci0ZiLgbpXXqfCgiUfP6uBGaQErV

 

but evil still won

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5 hours ago, altaylar2000 said:

Lies are a tool of predators, villains and cheaters in order to use the deceived victim for their dirty needs.

Glad you think so much of me.

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On 12/5/2020 at 12:58 PM, VenusPrincess said:

If you believed something was true, but also knew that others would be demoralized and angry at you for sharing that truth, should you stay quiet or lie about it instead?

Is there a difference between not telling something and lying to hide it? My brother outed me to my elderly mother, a extreme fundie christian, as an atheist. There was no good reason to do so other than his own peevish need to try and hurt me. My mom immediately confronted me, and I do mean confronted, and has caused a huge rift between us, not to mention several other family members, for three years. She is in her 80s and in poor health, I was too taken aback to think about whether or not to lye and choose to tell the truth. 

I have wondered for sometime if I made the wrong decision, my stance on god was not a big deal to me but to her it was devastating and results in me hearing her beg me to believe to avoid hell every time we talk. An intolerable situation that should never have happened and the truth hurt people in both directions.  

On 12/6/2020 at 1:06 PM, Dr.Amateur said:

Depends on the person lied to and the person lying.

Sadly I think I may have to agree with that. 

On 12/6/2020 at 1:43 PM, StanPon said:

Not the Furum that I would expect this question in.
The answer is no, in my opinion. Bad things happen. Truth is good and bad. We cannot always control evils, but we can at least control the truth.

Not always, sometimes others control the truth and use it to cause harm. 

On 3/17/2021 at 10:19 PM, Firebirdy said:

I don't think people should lie for the greater good because I don't think lying for the greater good exists. Lying is for people who don't have a completely strong conscience because they're corrupt. Lying is just another form of corruption, not justice. Lying is for selfish and/or opportunistic power, not justice. It's why justice is not common at all. It's why wars, systemic racism, systemic classism, systemic sexism, systemic ableism, other systemic things, social credit systems, re-education camps, concentration camps disguised as public schools for children, anti-intellectual propaganda disguised as political correctness, feminazis disguised as feminists, misogyny, misandry, rape, patriarchal stockholm syndrome, stockholm syndrome in general, sexist double standards that abuse the people in the court rooms because of confirmation bias that treats women and men differently based on their biological sex rather than focusing on hard facts, and other things continue to exist because of lying. Honesty helps people have accurate thinking, but lying is corruption that keeps people in the dark from what is really happening. Lying is what caused the people to be cynical and not trust anyone. A lot of people have a hard time dealing with hard facts and brutal honesty enough as it is. If someone were to say that lying is for the greater good, then I would think that they're a psychopath, sociopath, or a person with a weak conscience. Because if I detected a person lying to me to not hurt my feelings, then I wouldn't trust them with my life at all. I would rather be alone and in pain than live with corrupt delusions in my head because I would rather not have my intelligence be insulted from lying.

Yeah, the jeans make you look fat. 

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