• god must be atheist
    2.1k
    Immanuel Kant has categorically declared that all lies are unethical.

    He said that in an era of absolutism. It's either black or white, no shades of gray; it's either good, or evil, no shades of nuances. Either male of female, no shades of gender realization. Either mature or immature, no shades of the Autism spectrum.

    That's why I thought of lies, lying, today. Have been thinking about it, for a while, actually. My girlfriend often tell me lies. But they are not upsetting. Despite my having come from a home where my mother had tried to instill only three life lessons into us, her children: don't lie, don't steal, don't engage in fights.

    Well.

    There are different types of lies, depending on the types of act it achieves for the teller and for the listener.

    1. Malicious lie, to hurt the listener; to vindicate the teller.
    2. Malicious lie, to hurt the listener, but leave the teller neutral.
    3. Benign lie, to leave the listener unharmed, but to vindicate the teller.
    4. Benign lie, to leave the listener unharmed, but to help the teller cut a long story shorter.
    5. Benign lie, to make the listener be worried, and to make the teller happy, when the teller tells the listener that this was a lie, and, releived, the listener laughs with the teller.

    Please note that 6. and 7. are missing: listener maltreated or left unharmed, and the teller maltreated. Nobody lies to harm their own causes.
    Please note that 8. is missing: Benign lie, to leave the listener unharmed, but leave the teller neutral. Lying for lying's sake with no detectable difference in reaction between truth and lie is done only by pathological liars.

    Sometimes there is an appearance of teller getting harmed; for instance, a kid kills a teacher, and the father confesses wrongly to the crime, and gets locked up or the chair. This seems like the father lied to harm himself; but for the father, it is less hurt to be locked up in penitentiary or get hanged than to see his son be locked up there or executed.

    My girlfriend notoriously uses 3. if she is late for a date, and 4.

    For those interested, they can create a table of sorts, with rows and columns, and add a third variable: a third party gets unharmed or malicious wronged by a lie, for all cases possible of the teller and the listener being unharmed or maliciously wronged.

    If you were Immanuel Kant, and you were presented the above structure, what would you say about the ethical value of lying? Is lying moral, immoral, and which is when, under what arrangement of malice / vindication for the teller and the listener?
  • 180 Proof
    1.5k
    Immanuel Kant has categorically declared that all lies are unethical. — god must be atheist

    No doubt, categorically he's (a) K_nt ...

    ... what would you say about the ethical value of lying? Is lying moral, immoral, and which is when, under what arrangement of malice / vindication for the teller and the listener?god must be atheist

    Only an untruth used to do, or increase, harm is a lie (and more promiscuously, even egregiously, then it's
    bullshit
    ) in a moral sense.
  • tim wood
    4.9k
    There are different types of lies,god must be atheist
    Nice OP! It leaves the question, is lying a one or a many? Is there something that all lies have in common in virtue of which they're lies, and lacking, they're not? Aristotle says approximately that a lie is when your mouth says other than what your mind knows (thinks, supposes, understands) to be the truth.

    For the sake of discussion, let's suppose Aristotle is correct. Let's also suppose Kant is correct. Let's even suppose that 180, just above, is correct. And finally lets suppose that the OP's listing along with his explication is correct.

    A question then might be, can they all be correct? Or another form, can they all be reconciled?

    Aristotle seems unassailable. And I am unaware of anywhere that Kant says that lying is unethical (citation?). He famously argues that lying violates the categorical imperative (CI) against lying. The relationship between his ideas of CIs and his ethics is not simple. In his Metaphysics of Morals he says explicitly that when CIs are in conflict, then one rules and the competing CIs fall away. This leads me to conclude that Kant could find some lie acceptable. That is, I suppose that by and in itself, for Kant, lying is unacceptable, but that in some conceivable circumstance it could be acceptable. I am not aware of his describing any such circumstance.

    I further understand Kant's argument as taking the lie as (logically) prior to the motivation for the lie - motivation being different from the CI - and as prior, always already ruled out before motivation even has its say. That is, the lie is always already (for Kant) categorically wrong, while the motivation, the thing to be accomplished by the lie, is provisional and speculative and after-the-fact (which is in substance his argument in The Liar at the Door).

    180 @180 Proof seems to be on this, but has it upside down. Let's suppose that Kant opposes the lie, unless it already is the good lie (the lie that is already good before it is said - assuming there can be such). 180 argues (it seems) that the lie that does no harm is OK. 180 seems to leave a middle ground that Kant does not leave, the lie that does no harm.

    I think Kant would argue that there is no such thing. Each lie, even small lies, tears the fabric of truth, communication, community, and the basic trust necessary for even just the world's work to be done, never mind considerations of what the good man does. How often in the reader's life has he encountered the small lie and because of it found he could not trust the speaker? And what would be the value of truth as any sort of cloak, rent to pieces by a prevalence of lies told for some convenience?
  • 180 Proof
    1.5k
    180 Proof seems to be on this, but has it upside down. Let's suppose that Kant opposes the lie, unless it already is the good lie (the lie that is already good before it is said - assuming there can be such). 180 argues (it seems) that the lie that does no harm is OK. 180 seems to leave a middle ground that Kant does not leave, the lie that does no harm.tim wood

    Not at all. A "lie that does not harm" is not a lie, just as murder that does not kill is not murder. An untruth that "does no harm" is "ok" morally because it does no harm (or does less harm than the alternative(s)). A "good lie" is an oxymoronic muddle (like good murder). Clarity requires operative distinctions. Telling untruths, for example, to a rapist or thief, kidnapper or liar in order to stop (e.g. capture) him helps protect actual or prospective victims more than it harms the perpetrator, thus is - not merely "ok" - obligatory. In other words, whereas some positive degree of untruthfulness is the necessary condition of lying, inflicting, or increasing, harm is the sufficient condition - without which there are only untruths, not lies.
  • TheMadFool
    6.5k
    Immanuel Kant has categorically declared that all lies are unethical.

    He said that in an era of absolutism. It's either black or white, no shades of gray; it's either good, or evil, no shades of nuances. Either male of female, no shades of gender realization. Either mature or immature, no shades of the Autism spectrum.

    That's why I thought of lies, lying, today. Have been thinking about it, for a while, actually. My girlfriend often tell me lies. But they are not upsetting. Despite my having come from a home where my mother had tried to instill only three life lessons into us, her children: don't lie, don't steal, don't engage in fights.

    Well.

    There are different types of lies, depending on the types of act it achieves for the teller and for the listener.

    1. Malicious lie, to hurt the listener; to vindicate the teller.
    2. Malicious lie, to hurt the listener, but leave the teller neutral.
    3. Benign lie, to leave the listener unharmed, but to vindicate the teller.
    4. Benign lie, to leave the listener unharmed, but to help the teller cut a long story shorter.
    5. Benign lie, to make the listener be worried, and to make the teller happy, when the teller tells the listener that this was a lie, and, releived, the listener laughs with the teller.

    Please note that 6. and 7. are missing: listener maltreated or left unharmed, and the teller maltreated. Nobody lies to harm their own causes.
    Please note that 8. is missing: Benign lie, to leave the listener unharmed, but leave the teller neutral. Lying for lying's sake with no detectable difference in reaction between truth and lie is done only by pathological liars.

    Sometimes there is an appearance of teller getting harmed; for instance, a kid kills a teacher, and the father confesses wrongly to the crime, and gets locked up or the chair. This seems like the father lied to harm himself; but for the father, it is less hurt to be locked up in penitentiary or get hanged than to see his son be locked up there or executed.

    My girlfriend notoriously uses 3. if she is late for a date, and 4.

    For those interested, they can create a table of sorts, with rows and columns, and add a third variable: a third party gets unharmed or malicious wronged by a lie, for all cases possible of the teller and the listener being unharmed or maliciously wronged.

    If you were Immanuel Kant, and you were presented the above structure, what would you say about the ethical value of lying? Is lying moral, immoral, and which is when, under what arrangement of malice / vindication for the teller and the listener?
    god must be atheist

    I think Kant would've said all lying is impermissible. @180 Proof seems to have tinkered with the defintion of a "lie" to exclude untruths that have no negative consequences but that's probably not how Kant would've seen it. Kant, from what I know, uses the categorical imperative to determine what's good or bad. The effects of an action are, well, inconsequential. There's "something" immoral about telling untruths whether they have bad or good consequences. What that "something" is is probably unexplained but Kant had his categorical imperative rule which taps into the collective intuition on morality and never outputs an action that violates this intuition as permissible.

    I've heard people say things like "if everybody did x then society would collapse, etc." which makes Kantian ethics ultimately an offshoot of consequentialism which it shouldn't be. My personal view on the matter is Kant specifically wants to avoid basing his ethics on consequences of actions because of situations like the one in your OP i.e. lying to make someone happy which even to the consequentialist translates as: doing something bad to achieve something good. No matter how much of a consequentialist fanatic you are you will never be able to eliminate the feeling that lying, just telling an untruth, no matter what the consequences, is immoral. You will ultimately defend such acts by saying something like "I had to lie. I didn't have a choice. I didn't want to make him/her/them unhappy" which throws into relief the fact that consequentialists subscribe to the Kantian moral doctrine in principle and permit of intrinsically immoral actions only when they have no other choice.
  • 180 Proof
    1.5k
    Kant, from what I know, uses the categorical imperative to determine what's good or bad. The effects of an action are, well, inconsequential. There's "something" immoral about telling untruths whether they have bad or good consequences.TheMadFool

    So making art viz. truths via fictions is always "immoral" because it violates the CI prohibition on "telling untruths"? :chin: Does K ever really square this circle ... How can we square it using K's "inconsequentialist" deontology?
  • TheMadFool
    6.5k
    So making art viz. truths via fictions is always "immoral" because it violates the CI prohibition on "telling untruths"? :chin: Does K ever really square this circle ... How can we square it using K's "inconsequentialist" deontology?180 Proof

    Looks like we've to switch places here. Art-fictions are untruths that we know are false and although there may be a few out there who want to pass off fiction as truths, we usually never mistake fiction for the truth and artists generally don't claim their creations are truths.

    Lies, on the other hand, are clearly deceptive in nature in that a falsehood as deliberately presented as a truth. It's these kind of untruths that are lies, True Lies and Kant aims his guns at these kinds of immorality.
  • A Seagull
    610
    My girlfriend notoriously uses 3. if she is late for a date, and 4.god must be atheist

    The trouble with lies is that they not only attempt to deceive the other party but also lead to self-deception by the liar and a distorted self-image and this can lead to problems.
  • creativesoul
    8.4k
    There are some rather strange notions of "lies" being put forth in this thread. I think that better question, prior to taking account of all the different kinds of lies, is to take proper account of what counts as a lie to begin with.

    The question is...

    What do all lies have in common such that anything and everything sharing this set of commonalities counts as being one?

    Deliberate misrepresentation of one's own thought and belief.

    I think that that covers them all.

    Anyone have an example to the contrary?

    Any examples that satisfy that criterion which are not?
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    @180 Proof presents that lies are not bad if they do not cause bad things.
    @tim wood sets up an interesting dilemma: can lies in the Aristotelian sense be compatible with CI, and with the classification I presented? @tim wood presents Kant's view of every lie being bad is actually a correct assessment, and gives an empirical acount of how very probable each lie is to foster distrust.
    @themadfool further argues that Kant was not a consequentialist, but his arguments used consequentialism; and that consequentialists on some level accept non-wonsequentialism, judging from the wording how one would defend his or her most well-meaning lies as well.

    Humans, one of the arguers above expressed, are programmed to reject the moral validity of lying, even when it leads to good things. We are all apologetic; we try and rationalize why we lie; we don't want to be caught lying by others when we lie to effect a greater good to individuals.

    I think, personally, that consequentialism wins out over the initial bad feelings one generates by the sin of lying. If betrayal is not generated, distrust won't be, either.

    If one wants to bring the three presentations of lying on a moral field, one must realize that hurts get generated by lying, but the hurts are not necessarily permanent, and can be forgiven. This does not contradict the Kantian CI, since the view accepts that lying is bad and ought to be avoided; but if it happens, then (this does not contradict the CI) it can be of a forgivable nature. And some of the types of lies I presented are such.

    While all along, lies are "words spoken that the speaker knows are not true."

    -----------

    Another angle to consider the dilemma would be: can an unethical act be beneficial for all mankind?

    According to the Kantian CI, yes. Because immorality lies not in the consequence, but in the intention. If one asks himself, "If everyone did what I'm about to do, would it serve mankind to create a better world?" then one only has to imagine the scenario, and decide whether to execute his planned act or not.

    However; the question posed by the CI bases the desirability of the action on the consequence.

    So whether the actual consequence is good, or bad, is of no consequence. What is important, is that the person who is about to solve a moral dilemma, imagines the outcome one way or the other, and he acts the way which according to his imagination better serves mankind.

    But different people have different powers of imagination.

    So suppose that one asks himself, "Would mankind be better off if everyone uttered a white lie in the situation I've found myself in". His answer is "yes". This negates the categorical rejection of all lies on moral grounds, yet it satisfies the rigorous criteria for the CI.

    -----------------

    "Truth hurts but it liberates."

    Another way to examine our question would be to say, does knowledge liberate enough so it is worth the pain to go through that hearing the truth generates?

    This is not at all an offshoot of Kant's CI, yet the impact of its strength is staggering. Here, not merely moral dilemma is present; but a social significance of being excommunicated from the community if an individual tells everyone every opportunity he gets, what the others are doing wrong. In this situation the person benefits the community, because he eliminates incompatible or undesirable behaviour; but he does not benefit himself, but rather, harms himself. Is this compatible with CI? NO, it is not, because the individual does something that serves NOT all mankind. It serves most of his community, but not himself, and he is part of mankind. So the CI fails here too.

    ---------------------

    I venture to say that most moral conundrums can be made compatible with most moral theories, except with that of the CI of Kant.

    This is not to discount Kant's genius. Instead, I am amazed that he managed to create a system that teaches people not to be categorical, but be instead flexible in their moral judgments, because the field is full of nuances that can be turned against each other. But only until you remove CI from the comparable set of moral theories.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    Deliberate misrepresentation of one's own thought and belief.

    I think that that covers them all.

    Anyone have an example to the contrary?
    creativesoul

    Yes, it covers them all. That is true. But just like there are big circles and small circles and yellow circles and blue circles, the circles are all circles, except they have attributes that makes them different from each other, while maintaining each circle's circleness.

    Same with the categorization of lies. They are all lies. But they have different effects. They are all different in outcome. Therefore though they have differences, they are still all lies.

    ----------

    A lie is a deliberate misrepresentation of one's own thought and belief. Contrary example would be if Fred saw a bedsheet, and he remembered it as being blue; but he lies, and he says the bedsheet was pink. But in reality the bedsheet is pink.

    Fred's statement satisfies the criteria of a lie inasmuch as he speaks other than what he believes to be true. But he inadvertently spake the truth. If you speak the truth, notwithstanding your intention to lie, is that a lie, or not a lie? If Fred called a gun blue, and the gun were indeed blue, then would anyone accuse Fred of lying? While in Fred's memory or mind the gun was pink.
  • softwhere
    111
    Deliberate misrepresentation of one's own thought and belief.creativesoul

    This seems like the prototypical or ideal lie. Beyond that we have metaphor and ambiguity. '

    'Tell me lies. Tell me sweet little lies.'

    'Truths are lies that help us survive.'
  • softwhere
    111
    The effects of an action are, well, inconsequential. There's "something" immoral about telling untruths whether they have bad or good consequences. What that "something" is is probably unexplained but Kant had his categorical imperative rule which taps into the collective intuition on morality and never outputs an action that violates this intuition as permissible.TheMadFool

    I think you are on to something here, especially with 'collective intuition on morality.'

    I connect this to Sartre.

    When we say that man chooses himself, we do mean that every one of us must choose himself; but by that we also mean that in choosing for himself he chooses for all men. For in effect, of all the actions a man may take in order to create himself as he wills to be, there is not one which is not creative, at the same time, of an image of man such as he believes he ought to be. — Sartre

    I think Sartre gets it half-right. We don't create this 'image of man' in a vacuum. We are always already responding to an image in place, which yet can be modified.

    The radical egoist might object to Sartre, but I think that this egoist understands his egoist mission as the 'true' revelation of the image. And that's why the egoist craves a union of egoists, which seems to boil down to a free society of enlightened individuals.
  • tim wood
    4.9k
    Better to understand Kant first. The idea of a Kantian categorical imperative is pretty simple and straightforward, once you get it. A common example is the CI not to break promises. You ought to act (in this case with respect to promises) such that the rule you adopt could be the same rule for everyone. If you make promises knowing that you have no intention of keeping them, then, Kant's reasoning goes, so could everyone, and that would be the end of promises and promising. There are three general forms of Kant's CI, easily Googleable. It's in the latter two that CIs become ethical. And in all of this there is nothing consequentialist. All this laid out multiple times in these forums.

    I'll stand by my argument above. As to 180@180 Proof, he's just messing around.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k


    thanks for the lecture. In my mind,
    You ought to act such that the rule you adopt could be the same rule for everyone. — Immanuel Kant
    is a useless rule.

    I think my paraphrasing it "You must do so that if everyone did what you do, would cause no harm to mankind" is a better imperative than Kant's.

    If you consider that Kant's imperative, as expressed, does not prohibit any behaviour, good or bad, moral or immoral, sadistic or not sadistic, survivalist or defeatist.

    For instance, I will make myself the rule, "I will drop an atomic bomb on this town." As long as everyone will drop an atomic bomb on their town, the rule is not violated.

    What is the good in that?

    Or.... or..., "I'll rob this bank now." I adopt this rule, and it could be a rule for everyone. Even for the bank employees. Is this a good rule? A useful rule? NO. But it is completely compatible with the CI as phrased by Immanuel Kant.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    When we say that man chooses himself, we do mean that every one of us must choose himself; but by that we also mean that in choosing for himself he chooses for all men. For in effect, of all the actions a man may take in order to create himself as he wills to be, there is not one which is not creative, at the same time, of an image of man such as he believes he ought to be. — Sartre

    I am sorry, but the passage in and by itself is nonsense. At least I see no sense in it.

    There must be ways in which Sartre defines what he means a man chooses himself. In common language you choose something or someone FOR something else. Without the "for" it is meaningless to speak of choosing one's own self. To do what with it?

    A man creates himself? That is in opposition of the reductio to absurdum. A thing must precede another thing in time before it would be able to create it. Therefore concurrent creation of the self is not possible.

    I am sure Sartre made sense, but from the quoted passage you can't possibly see that without any useful initiation.
  • softwhere
    111
    I am sorry, but the passage in and by itself is nonsense. At least I see no sense in it.god must be atheist

    I should have mentioned that it was from 'Existentialism is a Humanism.'
    https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/sartre/works/exist/sartre.htm

    Is the human being radically free? Is it the human being's nature to have no [other] nature? As I suggested, I can't follow Sartre here, though he thinks that our radical freedom follows from atheism.

    Man possesses a human nature; that “human nature,” which is the conception of human being, is found in every man; which means that each man is a particular example of a universal conception, the conception of Man. In Kant, this universality goes so far that the wild man of the woods, man in the state of nature and the bourgeois are all contained in the same definition and have the same fundamental qualities. Here again, the essence of man precedes that historic existence which we confront in experience.

    Atheistic existentialism, of which I am a representative, declares with greater consistency that if God does not exist there is at least one being whose existence comes before its essence, a being which exists before it can be defined by any conception of it. That being is man or, as Heidegger has it, the human reality. What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards.
    — Sartre

    IMV, humanism is (to oversimplify) the 'religion' or post-religion of most atheists. Also, something like a transcendental subject is implicit in the notions of critical thinking and science. The 'image of man' I mentioned earlier is, as I see it, an ideal or target image of man. That helps makes sense of the categorical imperative.

    It is categorical in virtue of applying to us unconditionally, or simply because we possesses rational wills, without reference to any ends that we might or might not have. It does not, in other words, apply to us on the condition that we have antecedently adopted some goal for ourselves. — link
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/#CatHypImp

    What is rationality? Whatever it is, it isn't idiosyncratic. To be rational is to conform to a social norm, one that is curiously aimed beyond any contingent community ('transcendental pretense').
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