HAT Forum: Is Lying Ethical?

HAT Forum
Saturday 31 January 2015
519 Church St., Meeting Room #304
Topic: Is lying ethical?
Proposed by: Richard Dowsett

To lie is “to deliberately manufacture falsehoods or conceal important facts to the detriment of others”. In Sam Harris’ short book, “Lying”, he makes a strong case for lying being a corrosive element to all human relationships and well-being and challenges us all to eliminate it from our lives.
 Questions:
1.    1. If you are scrupulously honest yourself, do you judge dishonesty of all sorts more harshly? Can you still be empathetic with other’s lies and why they tell them?
2.    2. “With lying, intent is everything.” Discuss the different sides of this statement.
3.    3. Some people lie to children about the “tough questions” (death, religion, sex, violence) as they are deemed not ready for the truth. Is this ethically justifiable?
4.    4. “White lies” are those made with the best of intentions - to spare hurt feelings or boost morale and self-esteem. What are the pros and cons of “white lies”? Is it possible that we ourselves are the major beneficiaries of the “white lie”?
5.    5. Do you view life in terms of long-term relationships or a sequence of individual transactions? How does this view affect your approach to lying?
6.    6. Some cultures place a higher priority on honour or politeness than they do on honesty. Are there any rules that can be drawn about the value of honesty across cultures?