Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Cannot Tell A Lie

American mythology tells us that Washington said that.  Of course, if someone says "I never lie," you cannot tell from that statement whether it is true or not.  And if they say "I always lie," it's hard to make sense of what they are saying.  But that is beside my point here.  There are a number of ethicists and theologians who tell us that we should never lie.  Kant, for instance, says that lying is a violation of the Categorical Imperative.  That is, when you lie you are acting according to a rule that you wouldn't want others to adhere to, and you're manipulating what others believe, which is a way of using them as means rather than respecting them as ends.  Augustine and Aquinas both tell us that all lies, even "jocose" or humorous lies, are sinful because they are ways of bearing false witness, something we're commanded not to do.

Are they right?  Is there never a time when lying is justified?  What do you think?

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