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Is it Ok to Lie to help?

  1. Yes (always)

    2 vote(s)
    22.2%
  2. Yes (depends)

    7 vote(s)
    77.8%
  3. No

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. Undecided

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Nov 29, 2004 #1
    Do you think that lieing is alright when done to help someone?

    This could be interpted in a number of ways.
    It could be as simple as telling someone there beautiful when you don't truely believe it. Or telling someone how much of an impact they have had on your life when truely they have not impacted your life in any significant way.

    Can a lie exist without hurting someone?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2004 #2

    James R

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    In your example, would the ugly person who was told they were beautiful be hurt by the lie? In the short term, probably not. In the long term, maybe. Would they benefit from the lie? In the short term, maybe. In the long term, maybe. So, is the lie morally justifiable? It depends, doesn't it?
     
  4. Nov 30, 2004 #3
    Yes the example can depend, but in any case is it alright to lie, I assume you mean
     
  5. Nov 30, 2004 #4
    Well, in the case with the ugly person, they would not benifit from the lie. They might feel better about it. God knows I have lied many times to ugly girls/girls i didn't like. What they need to do is accept their appearance, that is the only way they can truly benifit in life. If someone does not accept themsevles they will never make any real progress, not to metnion find a soul mate. By lying to them, they might feel better in the short term, but they would be mislead, usually discovering that you lied to them.

    It always sucks to find out someone lied to you to make you feel better; it makes you feel pathetic.
     
  6. Nov 30, 2004 #5
    Indeed but lets not stay constrained to the specific examples this is more of a general question
     
  7. Dec 1, 2004 #6
    I doubt false praises will help anyone for most of the falsely praised people are already aware of their shortcomings, and will perhaps like what ke1n said, 'make you feel pathetic'. If they are not aware it's a lie, it will hurt even more when they later realise that they don't possess what they thought they have. So such false praises are basically useless or even harmful.

    But lies to help yourself get out of sticky situations must really be given a thumsb-up. :biggrin:
     
  8. Dec 1, 2004 #7
    False praises... What about in a situation where say a girl has bought something and really likes it and asks what you think of it? Or a parent whose child comes home sad because someone said they sucked at a particular sport... how can one be honest and be like, yes honey you suck at soccer.

    Also I am curious that noone voted that lieing is wrong in any circumstace... hehe
     
  9. Dec 1, 2004 #8

    russ_watters

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    Do you know any women at all? The answer to "do these jeans make me look fat?" Is always No!.

    Serously though, it depends on the case - there is an ethics case study that is essentially the Anne Frank story: if a Nazi knocks on your door and asks if you have any Jews in your house and you do, do you say yes?
     
  10. Dec 1, 2004 #9
    Thats very true russ, with that example it pretty much answers the question, except from the biblical standpoint. Would that still be considered a sin... thou shall not lie. Beyond that one drawback now I guess its time to decide when is it alright to lie and when is it not alright to lie.

    Basically now were trying to come up with a set of ethics... it seems like.
     
  11. Dec 2, 2004 #10

    russ_watters

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    It does, but its still not necessarily a simple answer: you do, after all, risk your own life with that lie.
     
  12. Dec 2, 2004 #11

    selfAdjoint

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    And so the ethical question of the lie becomes trivial next to the ethical question of risking your life for another. So that case is useless for determining the ethics of lying; it's almost "orthogonal" to a question that would settle that.
     
  13. Dec 2, 2004 #12
    How is it possible to have detrimine the ethics of lying when outside factors such as the one Russ mentioned are not taken into consideration
     
  14. Dec 3, 2004 #13

    selfAdjoint

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    Tom, if you were trying to find how far north or south of you some building was, and you were busily measuring east-west distances, and somebody pointed out that that was useless for the purpose, would you respond "How can I determine the distance unless I consider all the evidence"?
     
  15. Dec 3, 2004 #14
    Lying in order to prepare a surprise party or gift is not so bad. In this case, the lie is temporary and the consequences of a failed plan aren't drastic. The important thing is that the truth comes out in the end.

    If the lie is intended to be permanent, you run the risk that the person lied to finds out and that your relation degrades heavily.

    I believe the smartest people find words to keep good relations without lying.
     
  16. Dec 3, 2004 #15

    russ_watters

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    I consider the two to go hand in hand - virtually every decision has both positive and negative consequences which must be weighed against each other. If every decision had either a positive or a negative consequence, but not both, ethics class would be very short indeed:

    -A lie is wrong if someone gets (or may get) hurt.
    -A lie is right if it helps someone.
    Class dismissed!

    The fact that there are virtually always both positive and negative consequences is critical to the Moral Imperative because the Moral Imperative states that you have the obligation to help if you can.

    I love case studies though, so if you have a better one, I'm all ears (eyes).

    In the meantime, another common case study is 'is it ethical to steal food to avoid starvation?' Once again, there are both postitive and negative consequences. I don't like this one as much, though, because it doesn't reflect any reality I can relate to (I've met Holocaust survivors, but never met a person {other than a Holocaust survivor} who had ever been in danger of starving to death). Plus, there may be ways around this case (begging for food), whereas with the other case, you can be reasonably certain that not lying will result in the death of the Jew in your basement.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2004
  17. Dec 3, 2004 #16
    I guess I get what you are saying, however in the case of lying the purpose of the lie will influence the ethics behind it. Russ showed that in somecases it might be ethically wrong to tell the truth... after all if you know the east or west distance and the angle to the north/south distance that your all set.
     
  18. Dec 4, 2004 #17

    selfAdjoint

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    All I can say, Tom, is that I'd sure hate to be on a car trip with you as navigator. :biggrin:
     
  19. Dec 4, 2004 #18
    hahahahah... I would hate to be with you driving through intersections
     
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