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Jean-Charles Longuet

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Telling the truth: are there limits?

Two recent talks focused on "Truth" as something good/moral. Practically, however, some information may cause havoc: the Wikileaks diplomatic data disclosure, for example, coulad have put some people at risk.

How should we manage the decision to disclose (or not) such information? Or manage the moral dilemma when telling a lie may have a positive outcome?

[update 2012/11/25] The conversation initially mixed a few things : Truth is something that is not as obvious as it seems, and Lies are more related to a deceiving/manipulative intention that to the hiding of some Truth.

Anyway, all points of views are welcome.

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      Nov 21 2012: Wikileaks seems a good example to me as it show the impact of full disclosure. I used former Wired journalist Kim Zetter as a source (in http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/media/july-dec11/wikileaks_09-06.html). She was shortlisted for investigations prices and seems a correct source to me. To cite her :

      "So what we have are about between 2,000 and 3,000 names of people identified by U.S. diplomatic sources whose identity should have been -- should have been protected.
      We have about 150 whistle-blowers identified, about 1,000 activists named in the documents. So, previously, all of these would have been blacked out and protected."

      As giving explicit names can only point out people already at risk, not hearing more about them does not seem an argument to me...
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          Nov 22 2012: I read the full article, and while I I fully agree that this specific publishing was not deliberate, the fact still stands : some data disclosure occured, that may present a risk (I was assertive with the Wikileak example, I should have be more cautious) .

          Now, just to make my point clear : I used the Wikileaks disclosure as an example regarding the moral behavior that is required (or not, depending your opinion) about information communication, not as a trial against Wikileaks.

          So, maybe indeed nobody hurted, nobody was put at risk. I doubt we could ever have a clear view about it
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    Nov 17 2012: "Telling the truth: are there limits?"

    Truth has no limits except absolute.

    The correct question to ask is "How much deception and how many lies are allowable from politicians?"
  • Nov 14 2012: Honesty is the best policy.

    All policies must be applied on a case by case basis.
    There are values of more importance than honesty.
    Speak the truth or the lie, whichever will cause the less harm.
    Every lie causes some harm to the liar.
    When in doubt, be honest.
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      Nov 17 2012: Re: "When in doubt, be honest."

      It's just easier this way - fewer things to remember and worry about.
  • Nov 30 2012: If everyone is honest all the time, there would have been no reason to hide anything. There would be no danger if all is open and clear. To lie to someone not only harms them but harms yourself. You have to spend more resources on continuing the illusion. When you tell the truth, you do not have to remember what you said, and you do not have to be worried about what may be coming for you. If the truth causes that same trouble (example of pissing people off) you shouldn't have dealt with that violent and primitive person to begin with.
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    Nov 27 2012: The perception that lying can act as a solution is an underlying problem. More often it opens an inevitable can of worms which cannot be undone. Truth will out....
  • Nov 25 2012: First, it’s a matter of definition. I think ‘Truth’ certainly means more than ‘facts’.
    To journalists, "No, there's no limit. You should do your best to tell the truth to the readers."
    To the pathological truth-tellers(such as who can never lie..even white lie), "Telling the truth and being so uniquely obsessed with telling facts are different. So there are limits in this case."
    To anyone, let’s not being manipulative when it comes to telling the truth.
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    Nov 25 2012: Beyond the irrefutability of facts, I think we all lie, and should just come to terms with it. That is the complication of being human.

    As said below, we live in a highly politicized environment, and are constantly hedging what we really want to say, just to keep the peace. Yet, others have said that we weave a tangled web in society if we don't speak the truth. Both are "true"! Ha ha!

    I find that our "evolved" sense of fashion, appearance, esp. in the West, is the perfect analogy for all this. We don't smell this good, we can't travel this fast, we aren't this tall, this pretty, this enhanced, yet, we pretend we are in order to secure a mate, a job, a loan. We even train ourselves to "see through" all of that in others in order to be on top of the game.

    At this point, I don't think anyone can say with a straight face that there are absolutes in terms of: should we lie or shouldn't we, except about facts. We all know it's political. For the issue of Wikileaks, governments owe their taxpayers, funders and international supporters, a level of care. If there are facts showing flagrant abuse of that, then, as painful as it is, they need to be known and addressed.
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    Nov 25 2012: "If you always tell the truth, you don't need a good memory". .... I always liked that one until, I realized that truth is subjective and arguable. ..... I realize that this topic at this particular forum is not addressing this type of truth but, I can't help but to add that truth and reality could be twins. ..... I am often unsure about either one.
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      Nov 25 2012: The current topic is quite open, so your input is welcome.

      Truth is indeed not that objective : facts are subject to our perception flaws, and things are even worse when we enter the field of our thoughts, feelings, etc. And thereafter, the fact of hiding/distorting our perception of Truth is another point : it it is done with a positive intent, is it morally acceptable or not ?
  • Nov 24 2012: As many of us, I grew up with that constant reminder from my parents, particularly my Mom, to always tell the truth. Naturally I tested the boundaries on that and yet always feared being "found out." Now having experienced truth both from being trusted and trusting others I know this is the foundation of humanity. I get the data that the written word is more true than the spoken--more accountability in the written word. And that's a sad state isn't it? I wonder if the research looks at other dimensions of people who do their "inner work" and have a deeper radar for truth speaking than others. Plus there's a cultural pattern of letting people get away with "white lies" as a given vs. having direct accountability.

    To me it's not morality, it's at the essence of what makes me feel good about myself and sleep with ease vs. not. It's an internal radar.
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      Nov 25 2012: Why is it that "telling the Truth" is perceived as something "Good" for you ? For example "helping Others" is something as important from a social point of view. Is "telling the Truth" preferred because it costs nothing ?
      • Nov 25 2012: I believe "the truth shall set you free" is spot on Jean-Charles. In fact it costs the most--telling lies does. Look at Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Madoff and the list is endless. There is no upside to being anything but honest. The systemic problem in my humble opinion is people are unwilling to be honest with themself.
        • Nov 25 2012: ex.

          Do you tell your friend, who his wife just died, that his wife had been having an affair...Being asked if you know who the guy in the background of the funural was, even though you really know everything..
          What would be best for your friend, if lets say, he takes his wifes death extremely poorly. What is best for their children etc?

          Should guys tell there wifes they look fat in that dress, when they do?

          Should girls stop acting like all our faults are ok/not there most of the time?

          I'm not sure i would answer the same on all, but those questions are indicators that the wrong truth might ex. make someone depressed, a killer, or take their own life

          I was actually a huge fan of extreme truth telling at one time, but I found out most can't handle it and will react very irrationally (from my point of view) when presented with truths they even asked for in the first place. People dont want the truth alle the time. So now I lie all the time like everybody else.

          My mother is a Jehovas Witness, and even they lie, all the time! To protect and serve each other (avoid conflicts f.ex.). But they don't percieve it like that though (when asked about it, they respond they never lie, which ironically also is a lie :)
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          Nov 25 2012: Kaare,
          You ask..."Do you tell your friend, who his wife just died, that his wife had been having an affair..."

          If I am directly asked the question, I tell what I know. If the person is asking the question, s/he probably already knows. How does it serve anyone to lie?

          If I am asked a question such as this, I ask the person...."do you honestly want the answer"? If we do not honestly want a truthful answer, I suggest we do not ask the question.

          Guys no not have to tell their wives thay look fat. If a guy is creative and intelligent enough, he might say something like..."that dress does not look as good on you as that other dress that I really like". If the wife (or husband) is overweight, you can tell him/her that you care about them very much, and you are concerned about their health.....suggest that you walk together each day, or some other exercise together.

          Many people CAN handle truth Kaare, and truth has to start in ourselves. Perhaps it is how you present the truth? I am getting an idea of how you communicate based on your comments,.

          Everybody does not lie, and I'm glad you say your comments are from your "point of view", because it certainly is not truth.

          "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes...."
          (Marcel Proust)

          Sometimes, when we have a certain "point of view", it is helpful to consider information from a different perspective, to discover the real truth. As long as your point of view, is that everybody lies, you are, of course justifying it in yourself.
      • Nov 25 2012: Telling the Truth is perceived as something "Good" for you because people can choose how to respond (act) under the circumstances. If the used car salesman will just tell me the shiny blue car has a broken motor then I can choose to find another one. At the heart of social responsibility is violating the free will of others. Some even say human free will should be considered as sacred. Extreme crimes are obvious examples of such violations but hiding the truth from another person impedes their ability to choose a course of action, like a husband or wife who does not want to live with a cheater.

        I disagree that telling the truth costs nothing. Just ask the used car salesman. He failed to sell me the blue car because in a brief moment of altruism he informed me about the broken motor and I bought another car (from another salesman). People lie to protect their investments. Spouses hide infidelity because they want their home life and their extra-marital adventures as well. To tell their spouse would "cost" them their happy (if half-hearted) home.

        One has to care about other people in order to tell the truth just because it is the right thing to do. Compassion and empathy are qualities that accrue to the evolved in our society. Such people invariably find it wise to live a life that does not require hiding the truth from others. The Golden Rule--to do unto others as you would have them do unto you--is in my opinion more of a warning or a recommendation than just nice advice to be nice to other people. The Biblical phrase "the truth shall set you free" is matched with “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows (Galatians 6:7-9).” Those who fear God's wrath for lying do so due to the notion that in the next life (a just place) one will not know the truth somehow and that will be an unfortunate situation. In the end, it is right to tell the Truth because the absolute truth about us is, in Itself, our Salvation.
        "Know thyself."
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      Nov 25 2012: Bobby and Jean-Charles,
      I agree Bobby, that telling the truth does not come up on my "radar" necessarily as a moral issue, although it certainly can be intertwined with morality. For me, the question is....what feels better? Telling the truth....or not? Wherever we go, there we are with our "self". How does it feel when we are carrying a lie around with us?

      "Oh what a tangled web we weave,
      When first we practise to deceive!"

      Lies do indeed become tangled, because once a lie is spoken, one generally needs to continue with the lie to keep covering it up. No point in living like that, in my humble opinion.

      Along the same line, I also agree with what Vincenzo Sergi writes on this thread... "If you always tell the truth, you don't need a good memory". It must be very confusing when someone is weaving his/her web of lies, and forgets what s/he said to whom!!!

      You write in your introduction...."some information may cause havoc". This is true, and in making the decision to tell a lie, we are making a judgement based on our own perceptions. We are actually trying to control the beliefs of the person to whom we lie....are we not? And what kind of "havoc" is sometimes the result of the lie? Once a lie is told, we undermine our "self", so that people are less willing to trust any more. It is important for each of us as individuals to know what our own limits are, do you think? How do we want to "BE" in this world in each and every moment?
      • Nov 25 2012: Kaare--I see the distinction as "staying on my side of the street" vs. stepping into another's integrity (or not). This rule only applies as the internal radar. Do I judge, as in thinking my wife needs to loose weight etc., absolutely I judge? Do I need to speak everyone of those? No.

        I'm talking about those lies I tell myself and so skillfully I start to believe they ARE the truth. That internal talk. If I take the time to get quiet and allow my inner guidance to truly speak, then perhaps I allow for the deepest truth to be revealed.
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        Nov 25 2012: Colleen, you are right when stating that lying or, more generally, misinforming is a way to control the reaction of people. However, people have great consideration about not being lied to, but are perfectly ok when being convinced by apparent logic. And I want to point out "apparent" because when you look more carefully, people are not convinced only by logic, but also by their own biases, by storytelling, by rhetoric, etc. So a manipulative intent is not always a lie, and trying to control or change someone's beliefs can be done while speaking the truth.

        I won't tell a dying woman that her son was just killed in an accident, if asked, I would blatantly lie to her saying he's ok, because I want her to be in peace for her last minutes. I may stay silent about some facts when the one who committed them shows repentance.That is my point of view, and I can understand that people can disagree. I just consider that following basic rules is not adapted to all situations, and that choices are required in such cases. At times, governments themselves had dark times and speaking the truth made dramas occur. So I care more about outcomes than on rules to feel ok with my conscience.
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          Nov 25 2012: Jean-Charles,
          I agree that if they let themselves, people can be controled by the reaction of people, by misinformation, by apparent logic, which can also be lying or deception, by biases, storytelling, etc. etc.

          Yes...absolutely...some folks can indeed try to control or change someone'e beliefs with speaking their own truths.

          Your theory about not giving a dying person information because you want her to be in peace for her last minutes, doesn't feel good to me, because some of us are able to sense when someone is not telling the truth. So, lying to me because I am on my death bed may actually cause more distress for me...I could probably sense a lie, and may not actually know what the lie is. I may simply know there is an untruth.

          Perhaps it boils down to what we would prefer ourselves? Do unto others, as you would want them to do unto you? I personally, would prefer truth...whatever the circumstances, and that is what I give to others, to the best of my ability. With lies, we are usually trying to create our own comfort and/or protection, not that of the one we are lying to.

          I agree with the idea Tim Spahn brings to light...
          When we tell the truth, we give people accurate information and they can choose how to respond (act) under the circumstances. If we do not give them accurate information, we deny them that opportunity. Hiding the truth from another person impedes their ability to choose a course of action.

          I agree with you Jean-Charles, that at the end of the day, I care more about outcomes, and that is the important piece of the puzzle. I always feel much more content with truth and honesty:>)
  • Anne N

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    Nov 19 2012: My stand on this is as follows:

    We should tell the truth as far as possible. However, I think there are two types of times when the truth will hurt someone. 1) When the truth will hurt someone irreversibly or 2) When it will hurt someone and then gradually help that person/ make the person glad that at least they knew the truth early on.

    When the truth we tell would lead to option 2, we should tell the truth.

    However, what do we do when we think a truth will irreversibly affect someone? Well, we can do two things.

    1) Lie or 2) Tell the truth in a more well-packaged manner i.e deliver the truth while keeping the facts there.

    In this case, I feel that people should go with the second approach.

    Lies do snowball.
    Telling lies often do lead to positive outcomes but I believe they lead to short term positive outcomes, not long term ones. The truth on the other hand, can lead to both positive/ negative outcomes in the short and long term but at the end of the day, people are MOSTLY glad to know the truth.
    • Nov 21 2012: "When the truth will hurt someone irreversibly"
      Do you have an example of this? I can't think of any possiblility of that.
      I happen to think that the truth applies in the second way almost exclusively.
      • Anne N

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        Nov 23 2012: Hmm. My take is that the truth would hurt someone irreversibly if the person does not have the personality to let go of the truth and move on from the truth especially if the truth was packaged in such a harsh way that it affects the person's self esteem.

        For example, I shall give a scenario of a student that tries extremely hard but fails every subject and does terribly in his or her school activities, and a teacher telling the student "You're a failure in everything you do". To a person who has the ability to let go of this harsh comment, he or she may decide to prove the teacher wrong and try even harder or find another passion which he or she can excel in etc.

        However, to a person who does not have the personality to forget and move on, he or she may drop out of school and continue to believe that they are not capable of doing anything. Thus, his or her life may be ruined from this remark.

        Having said that, I believe that the teacher should not lie to the student. Rather, the teacher should have delivered the truth in a "better package" whilst keeping the facts. For example "I see that you have been failing your subjects and doing badly in your school activities. I know that you are trying really hard. However, from my experience, every student has their strengths and weaknesses. Maybe you have yet to find your passion."
        • Nov 23 2012: I think this is a good way to approach the matter. It is akin to the question of how your life changes in relating to this person.
          "It's not 'what' you say, it's 'how' you say it."

          "if the person does not have the personality to let go..."
          Is it ok to fore-go a "yes or no," and give an answer which can be remembered and learned-from as that person ages & changes? (And what-then if they demand a yes or no?)
      • Anne N

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        Nov 26 2012: Thanks, Steve! Hmm. I would say that if the person does not have the personality to let go, a yes or no should still be given but following that/ before that, words which can be remembered and learned from can be given.
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    Nov 17 2012: Let there be no doubt about it: There are times when you should lie. When all of us would lie.

    I'll start with a 'Reductio ad absurdum' argument (latin for a philosophical argument called reduction to absurdity). A killer breaks into your house and asks where you hide the cash. You have a large bag of cash under your mattress. Perfectly OK to lie here and say you have no cash, right? I mean, I don't think there's any moral dilemma here about lying.

    Then there is the classic: "Honey, do I look fat in this outfit?" Let's say that person's right about to go on stage and make a major political speech. You don't want to mess them up, ruin their mojo, so one could argue it's OK to say "No", no matter what. Some would agree that's ok, some would not.

    And so it goes on from here. We can keep expanding the scope, question by question, asking, "Would it be OK to lie in this hypothetical situation?" What if a homeless man broke into your home and asks you for some food. OK to lie and say you have no food then? We'd get general agreement on many scenarios, maybe some debate on others. I suppose I'm describing a hypothetical crowd-sourced polling system where we could poll large enough groups of people to determine under which situations most people agree it's ok to lie. Crowd sourced morality, if you will.

    I am guessing there are probably studies about such things, from which you could derive more general rules that would begin to describe the limits to telling the truth.

    You could also adopt a strict religious or moral framework without question, rather than try to build up a sort of moral filter based consensus thinking or on the society in which you live.

    There is an inverse question, almost sinister in its inception: Telling lies: Are there any limits?
    • Nov 17 2012: The unmentioned assumption throughout these posts is that there an objective and knowable reality "out there" against which we measure a truth. I would argue that language, the matter of lies and of science also, is never value-free and context-free, that context is ever a part of our construct of reality, of what really happened.

      Perhaps a story will suffice. A farmer hauling a cow in his truck gets blindsided by another vehicle. The farmer sues the other guy. In court now, the lawyer for the other guy says, "The police report indicates that when asked, you said you were fine."

      "Look, I'm hurt and your client did it"

      "But at the scene of the accident, did you or did you not tell the officer that you were fine?"

      "After your client hit me, I was stuck in the cab, but I could hear my cow moaning. That's when the policeman drove up, approached my cow, and shot her between the eyes. He then opened the cab, gun drawn, and asked, 'How are you doing?' Oh, I'm fine, I said."
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        Nov 18 2012: I understand what you're saying about the assumption that there's a knowable reality out there. However I don't think that's relevant to lying, as lying requires an intent to deceive, regardless of what the reality is or whether there is an objective or knowable reality.

        I think the ontology of truth, while related to the subject of lying, is a different philosophical inquiry.
    • Steve C

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      Nov 18 2012: "A killer breaks into your house"... hmmm, you tell a lie; he leaves & goes to your neighbors & kills them instead. Or tell him the truth & hope he appreciates the truth enough to let you live. (Or is this "immaterial," since we can't know his motives or reactions? Does the question then revert to "Is it wrong to lie," - (regardless of the situation)?
      "do I look fat in this" I would say that if they knew you well enough to trust you, then I would hope they trusted that you valued them much more as a person than the amount of value they placed on their appearance! The "truth," then becomes secondary; trust, value, integrity are in effect.
      "Crowd sourced morality" is that like "two wolves and a sheep voting on dinner"?
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        Nov 18 2012: Are you saying that if you believed you had the opportunity to prevent a violent crime like rape or murder to yourself or a loved one by lying, you would not lie in that situation?
        • Nov 21 2012: (Sorry for the delay, life intervened.)
          To reply to your question... I believe I addressed that in my first reply. Again, *what evidence* could lead me to that beliefe? (I've seen contradictory outcomes on tv shows: "Why'd you kill her, I told you where the gold is!")
          And how could a lie cause a good response? If rape is the intent, a lie would only enrage the attacker to commit murder as well.
          Further; as to your question of rape &/or murder: one syllogism is "shit happens" amungst our society. To lie is to admit you do not believe in the grander system of the value of letting other people know the truth and building rapport; that you only believe in saving your own thin skin.
          Is your question merely: "do I have enough faith in a value system to see my own sacrificed, rather than let some other unknown person take a harder sacrifce in my place?"

          "an inverse question...: Are there any limits?" interesting
          But has the issue been muddied in the ways we view truth & action? We value truth, and we value constructive action, but do the two approach each other from the same direction, or in the same way? One is philospy and one is physics. How ARE the two supposed to meld?
          We treat our enemies differently than we treat our friends; we give our friends , (those who help us), truth & food - our enemies, (those who hurt us), we give lies and bullets.
          If the truth is strength, should we strengthen our enemies? They're usually our enemies because of differing beliefs; "with, and about" truth. Do we believe that our truth is connected to meanings deep enough to connect to them positively; or are we too entranced by our own lies and toys to ever consider other perspectives?
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    Nov 13 2012: Motive should drive your decision and I speak of compassion as your motive. Even the Bishop lied in "Les Miserable".
  • Nov 30 2012: The only truth that truly exists is that of self, an expression of ones feelings.
  • Nov 28 2012: There is no utter truth. There are only things that exist to our senses as being more probable or less probable. If we concentrate on those things that exemplify a certain "reality" to our senses then our most probable situation (i.e. our truth) will be different than that of someone with dissimilar sense stimulation.

    This is why it is wise for people to gain insight into as many experiences and perspectives as possible, albeit with open minds, in order to derive what is the most probable for one's self. This relates directly to telling the truth or telling a lie in that what may seem absolute for one person may be far-fetched or seem lacking in any validity at all. This is not to say that all is relative, for if that is the case then there is no cause for order- if murder is relatively acceptable for someone and that perspective must be respected by society, then expect a chaotic society. The rule of law inhibits those perspectives with good cause, as doe’s society with certain norms. It is with the evolution of these laws and norms that a sensible society can sort through what rules should exist as being more probably acceptable and therefore more "true."

    Lying is all about perspective, and carries an undue negative connotation. If deception is used for a cause that is deemed by the enlightened mind to be of worth (more probably good than bad) then, perhaps it is simply a tool in the tool belt of the good willed. Regardless of your personal perspective of Jesus Christ, it can be said that he was quite benevolent- having said that we must remember that, even he deceived the Romans. Perhaps, we would be better to call it being savvy or witty or able to paint a good narrative. Just like anything else, lying is not a bad thing unless used by bad people toward mal ends.
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      Nov 28 2012: if there is no utter truth, then tell me, the statement "there is no utter truth" itself is an utter truth or not?
      • Nov 28 2012: The operating word in play is "utter" meaning absolute, beyond the fathom of doubt. It is improbable that such a truth exists- thus, it is a statement made based off of its probability being more likely than less.

        Of course there are things that knowledge tells us are, indeed, fact. However, when we examine the trend of human consciousness time itself tends to displace old "facts" because of new discoveries. That is the evolution of probability. The more a person has contemplated and explored a contention the more probable that person is to be right concerning it. This is why wisdom must be sought with each new day and our beliefs must be reinforced daily.
  • Nov 28 2012: Colleen, I guess we are authentic morning people. HAPPY TODAY. I am very glad we express our true thoughts and feelings. We are having a powerfully positive impact on our contemporaries and futurity. I know we shall continue doing all the positive things we do- and more- and the happiness of humanity will spiral up along with us and our spirits.
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      Nov 28 2012: HAPPY TODAY RHONA!
      Yes....I LOVE the morning....well....I LOVE the afternoon, evening and night equally as well...that is the truth:>)

      I know you know about the ripple effect...or the butterfly effect:>)

      "Life begets life,
      Energy creates energy
      It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich"
      (Sarah Bernhardt)

      To "spend" our energy in sharing positive ideas feeds us as individuals, as well as all of humankind...I know you know that:>)
      • Nov 28 2012: Colleen, We sure do agree about a lot of stuff. I'm glad about that. I trust you will continue being as COLLEEN as you can possibly be. Thank you for all the positive everything you generate. I am confident that we are succeeding in accomplishing all of our positive goals. Afternoons and evenings are okay, but I am definitely most vibrant and productive in the mornings.
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          Nov 28 2012: Dear Rhona,
          Who else could I be without telling a lie???
          Thank you too my friend, for being you and sharing the gift here on TED:>)
      • Nov 28 2012: Good point. You are welcome.
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    Nov 27 2012: i would propose that lie can be paralleled to laziness. many questions lead to the same answers. example: is laziness good? certainly no. same for lie. can laziness occasionally lead to more beneficial outcome? yes. for example if i want to do something stupid, but i procrastinate, meanwhile i might learn why it is silly, and do not do that. similarly, in some situations a lie might accidentally make things better. on the other hand one can argue that laziness did not in fact lead to benefit, rather, it was just luck. the same is true for lie, the problem could have been solved in a better way, but by pure luck, the wrong solution worked. is laziness forgivable? yes, in situations. so is lying. can laziness be harmless? yes, in situations. so is lying. is laziness immoral in itself? i would say no. neither lying. on the other hand, if laziness leads to harm, should we blame the lazy? of course! same for lies.

    i assert that lying and being lazy are very similar in their moral and consequential nature. but for some reason, laziness is easier to assess.
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      Nov 27 2012: Interesting parallel, and more suitable for discussion as laziness is less taboo that lies.

      However, there seem to be slight differences between both :
      - lying is a deliberate act, while being lazy is more inaction than action
      - lies outcomes are not accidental, but usually chosen (and explaining the lying action).
      This passiveness and unplanned consequences may explain that laziness is perceived as less "evil" than a lie.

      Now, lies (usually asserted as evil) may be done while positive consequences as a target : hiding someone from being hurt, for example. I was trying to point out the moral dilemma between the wrongness of lying compared to the goodness of the outcome. I do not see cases where that apply to laziness to extend your parallel in this rare case, however... Any idea ?
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        Nov 28 2012: the parallel certainly has limitations. however, i would claim that the first two is not that simple as you say.

        action vs inaction. it is just an apparent difference, not a real one. inaction is action. we choose between two possible paths.

        deliberate vs unintentional: that is partially true, but many lies are also unintentional, in the sense that they come automatically, not after conscious consideration.

        but i agree that lie can be aimed to improve things (although the actual gain is questionable), while laziness can not.
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    Nov 27 2012: I don't believe that there is one unifying reality or truth. I believe in motives that make us create beliefs.

    So I always keep things to myself unless someone is wondering or asking me to share my point of view, a.k.a. reality. They would have the motivation to modify their realities since it is not fitting their experience. Everyone is right. Everything is true. There is ALWAYS a way to justify things and to see things from others perspectives.
  • Nov 27 2012: TRUTH is of the highest importance. If one does not have the courage or wisdom to express truth, silence is an acceptable alternative, even though it may slow up the progress of the sender and receiver in accomplishing their positive goals. Truth is powerful. When everyone expresses truth as they know it at the moment of expression, we will all be living happily ever after. Soon, maybe. Anything positive is possible. We all have choice about what to focus on. Some people associate "truth" with negativity, which, in itself demonstrates the negativity of those who believe that. Truth is neutral. We choose what we focus on, what we express. We have the power and freedom to focus on and express positive. May as well. A stream of positive consequences flows.......
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      Nov 27 2012: 'Some people associate "truth" with negativity, which, in itself demonstrates the negativity of those who believe that.'

      That argument seems quite flawed to me : you claim that "Truth is neutral", so associating "truth" to positivity is as flawed as associating it with negativity. Why should one opinion be better than the other ? You could apply the same positive/negative people distinction based on any belief then.

      And "Honesty" is not "Truth". Truth is not only expressed by facts : our perception is involved, our communication too, or way to represent the world... The sentence "Green is a beautiful color" is true for some people and false for other.
      • Nov 28 2012: Good morning, Colleen. Jean-Charles, Each person knows when they express something, if they are expressing the truth as they perceive it and it takes extra energy to lie, so they know when they are intentionally expressing lies. I repeat: truth is neutral. Which truth you choose to express is your choice. If you choose positive truths or choose to focus on negative, that is your choice. It has nothing to do with truth. The point is, people know within themselves when they are expressing truth or lies. We grew up in a society (e.g., religions) that attempt to control human behavior with negativity, e.g., do what I tell you to do or God will getcha and hurt you. This is the brainwashing we must reverse. WE CHOOSE WHAT WE FOCUS ON. Let's focus on positive. This is a separate point from expressing truth, except that I am always amazed at how many people associate the concept of truth with negative expressions, e.g., your dress is ugly, thinking they are being honest. Silence is always an option. TRUTH expression makes society more efficient and ultrimately more positive, if our fellow Earthlings make a conscious choice to focus on posiitive. Sorry I confused you. By the way, for that person, "green is a beautiful color" so that person is expressing a truth as they behold it at the moment of expression.
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          Nov 28 2012: RHONA! YOU CAUGHT ME PEEKING IN!!! I just noticed that you added my name...LOL!

          I agree....agree....agree...people KNOW when they are expressing a lie...it takes extra energy and stress to lie...truth is neutral...how we interpret the information may take it out of the "neutral" state....which truth we express is a choice...we choose what we focus on...silence is always an option...all very well said my friend!
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    Nov 27 2012: Isn't it more about HOW you tell the truth, rather than actually telling it? Also, in terms of things like Wikileaks, I look at telling the truth over such matters to be the same thing as a person who becomes ill through the initial stages of detoxing: if the world were to start tactfully telling the truth, wouldn't the world go into chaos for a period but then calm down as the initial results of turth-telling start to settle? Imagine how the world would be in 50 years time if we all started being truthful now. I would imagine the first X years would be very hard, but eventually start to calm and harmonize.

    I have always felt that all lying does is defer the pain caused by the truth, and simply prolongs the illness. Telling the truth is initially hard but with much better long-term results.
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    Nov 26 2012: "Actions depend upon their intentions" -Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
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    Nov 25 2012: And here is a TED talk by Dan Ariely sharing experimental data that we all find it acceptable to distort the truth under certain circumstances. What's more interesting is that our attitude to cheating depends on the "color of T-shirt we are wearing" or, rather, whether we perceive the cheater as belonging to our social group or as an "outsider".

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      Nov 26 2012: Dan Ariely is very good at pointing such irrationnal behaviour. I guess we are all lying to ourself, especially when pretending to not lying... I adde this talk to the ones relatedd to this conversation.
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    Nov 25 2012: Steven Pinker had this talk at Psi Chi society titled "Sometimes, indirect speech is the most direct course of action"

    And here is an animated version of it which is more fun to watch:

    It's not exactly about lying. He speaks of why we "dress" our speech in euphemisms, explaining it by the type of social relationship which we try to maintain, namely, communality, reciprocity, or dominance, according to a theory by anthropologist Alan Fiske.
  • Nov 25 2012: Honesty is above all the best choice; however I seem to be confused when telling the truth can we not deny the question with an honest response. If someone asks a question are we compelled to answer or are we not allowed to decline. The goal is to be straight forward with someone to why information cannot be revealed. There is no plausible reason to lie and the fact remains that there never has been a good time to lie. Reveal the truth when appropriate and decline to answer questions when inappropriate.
  • Nov 25 2012: Yes great points Colleen. That tangled web is such a complex one and becomes societal doesn't it? That's where moral issues do come up and get "tangled" with this simple truth (sorry, couldn't resist it)! Every religion is adament on being the only truth. Sad state that is Yoda says.

    Everything does circle back to choice as well doesn't it? The question is how many recognize the cost of their choices when they start to weave that web, consciously or not.
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      Nov 25 2012: Thanks Bobby....good points from you as well:>)

      We (humans) can indeed create a very tangled web, which in my perception, simply complicates our lives, and also, as you say, becomes societal. We observe right here on this thread, that people would very much like to justify lying. What if we need to protect someone? What if we need to spare someone's feelings? etc. etc.? Then people declare that there are "little white lies", and BIG lies.....who decides? Who chooses what lies are ok, and which are not ok? So, people build this very complex "web". How about simply NOT lying? I agree with Yoda..."sad state"!

      I agree Bobby, that it all comes back to "choice"...what choice do we make as individuals? If an individual is already contemplating a little lie, big lie, lie to protect someone, or spare feelings, they have already accepted the idea that lying of some sort is ok. It is not a very big leap from there to justify ALL lies when/if one is not conscious of the behavior and justification. If one already believes that lying is ok in certain circumstances, we can simply mold the situation in our mind to justify the lie.....yes?

      That is how we complicate our own lives because we begin lying to ourselves to justify the outword manifestation of the lie....as you say...it circles back.

      I do not lie, and I've gotten feedback my whole life that I walk my talk, which feels absolutely wonderful, and knowing that contributes to the contentment in my life. I really don't understand why anyone would want to create the chaos and discontent which lies create in one's life experience.
  • Nov 24 2012: It is like a shovel; you can dig a hole or you can smash someone's head. So truth in the hands of liars becomes dangerous, but in the hands of the honest it becomes some kind of enlightment, so I think the motivation behind it is very important. People should be aware of the fact that the truth hurts, but that lies are even more painfull when they come out. If the quest for truth is your absolute motivation, then you are part of a very small group, as most people consider the absolute truth as something impossible - yes, almost as being utopic. But we should question ourselves and all the others, looking deep into the eyes - and then we should be honest - Am I a liar? Is this other a liar? And why is someone lying? Is it to protect? To prevent? Or is it lying for selfish purposes?

    To me there are actually two kinds of people; the ones who want to rule theirselves and the ones who want to rule others... But if you want to rule yourself then you normally prefer the truth, as dominating others is mostly based on lies.
    So it is like the clash between morality and politics, but hey, who wants to hear the truth from a politician anyway?

    A good example of an honest being is the Greek philosopher Diogenes (from Sinope), he was a cynic but he just said his words. I think we all should be more like him. In a truly transparant world based on truth and justice, lies wouldn't even be necessary; so the fact that we all seem to need lies, it just proves how corrupted this society actually is.

    So, even as someone who's way too honest for his own good I should say 'No, there are no limits!' And even if the truth is dangerous, I still prefer this above all the lies - as lies are just short termed certainties for people who live in fear.
    • Nov 24 2012: As a child I was punished for telling the truth, when the honest answer to my father's questions was not what he wanted to hear (e.g. "yes, I spilled the paint on the carpet."). So I learned to lie to protect myself from punishment. As an adult I would lie to others to avoid conflict. Many years later, I overcame this fearful compulsion and now I live life like an open book, like you, sometimes too honest for my own good.

      To the original question of 'How should we manage the decision to disclose (or not) such information?' the point has to be made that often we manage the decision whether or not to tell the truth based on the degree of receptivity we expect to receive from society. American culture is ever ready to persecute people who divulge difficult truth, which turns important information into a scarce commodity sometimes. Bill Clinton got himself impeached by lying about an affair he had with Monica Lewinsky, a choice that was surely induced by fear of social punishment had he told the truth. That someone in his position (US President) would fear the judgment of the American People that much is, to me, a reflection of our intolerance of harsh realities.

      I agree this society has become corrupted. People hide the truth and go to extreme lengths in the wake of great emotion to keep from talking about what is actually going on between us sometimes. Massive acts of corruption, betrayal and even treason have and will continue to take place. America needs to develop a means of rewarding the unsolicited declaration of difficult truth by reducing the social persecution we have come to expect. This would seem to have to begin with the media. Thereafter, the movement would naturally evolve into electing to powerful office those individuals who can dispassionately blurt out the truth. Such people tend to have an inner drive to live an honest life, which may or may not desribe the typical politician America recognizes as a qualified candidate today.
      • Nov 24 2012: I completely agree on your point of view, but as I am not an American (-> I live in Belgium) I think that it is not to me to speak about matters like this. But about Bill Clinton; the same once happened to Francois Mitterand (former French president) and he just replied with 'et alors?' ('so what?').

        And this, to me, also proves the greatness of this man - even while I don't know that much about him. So I think this intolerance for harsh realities can be mellowed, just by showing yourself and truth as it really is, that most people will think like; 'ah, what the hell? At least the man is real' as it is sometimes refreshing to meet people who have this honest 'et alors'- attitude. But I also know that this might depend on the openness that various societies strive for - because there are certain differences between countries and cultures that make 'truths' acceptable, or less acceptable.

        But anyway, it was a pleasure to read your reply! Truth is all that really matters!
  • Nov 24 2012: I think these choices must be/are made subcounceously, based on the knowledge that not all things are best said (Now that is something completely different to lying though, and some people -want- others hurt or dead). I guess the alpha factor in this task must be knowledge.

    That should indicate we should improve knowledge on how information can, at worst, hurt or kill people (though the information never had the ability to kill.. hmmmmm..Perhaps the people doing the killing are the real problem, not the information about political choices from the past../the one cheating on his wife is guilty, not the one telling his wife what he did..)

    Maybe we should have a bit more focus on moral and ethics from primary school and all the way to the workplace.. (and maybe, just maybe lots of parents are personally responsible for morally questionable attitudes from their children.

    We should learn to controll our moral aspect in our brain, and how to manipulate it according to the situations we are in in a better way than our newbee methods of today. Thats the only way I can see people taking more responsibility on this subject.
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    Nov 18 2012: The commandment says "thou shalt not bear false witness". It was based on telling the truth for the moral good of all.

    People lie in order to hide the truth. And mostly it isn’t for the moral good. It is to protect the guilty from having to deal with consequences.

    There are some lies that are harmless. There are some lies that protect the innocent. There are some lies that lead to unspeakable horrors. There is no simple answer when it comes to lies – it depends on the motive and the consequences.

    I was at a retirement party. The person retiring points to me and says to his friends; “if you ever want to know the truth, just ask that guy”. That’s a reputation that you can’t buy. And once you’ve lost it, you may never get it back.

    Anyone who tolerates lies has no right to complain about evil because they are willing to defend it.

    I have known people to overlook a lie because it was for the common good that it was told. I can accept that. But I can't accept a lie that is a deliberate deception to avoid having to face the truth. Such lies only get bigger with time.
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      Nov 18 2012: Re: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor"

      I always wondered if this is really a commandment against lying in general. It does not say so. It specifically speaks about lying to harm another person.

      And it raises another question: is it moral to lie "for thy neighbor"?

      Anton Chekhov said: "A good upbringing means not that you won’t spill sauce on the tablecloth, but that you won’t notice it when someone else does." Is it always prudent to "speak the truth"?
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        Nov 18 2012: The answer to your question is who does it hurt? If it causes no harm, then there are many things that can be overlooked. In fact, if a lie prevents an injustice from being done, then it was for a good cause. A prudent man knows the difference.

        Those who bear false witness against their neighbor are trying to pass the blame and have them take the fall as well. People have died because the truth was kept silent. It has to do with righteousness, not whether or not you broke the commandment. It was never black and white to the spiritual leader.
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    Nov 16 2012: Truth and lying are part of the same boat. Yin and yang if you will. You can't know one without the other. I believe that everything has limits, and nothing is absolute. Morals aside, sometimes we have to life, and sometimes we have to tell the truth. That's why you've never find a completely honest man.
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      Nov 16 2012: Interesting point. Truth can indeed be very relative, as it is linked to our perception. Mitch (see below) pointed out that the space of existing facts is subject to distortion as soon as you try to communicate about it.

      So if we have an absolute "Objective Truth" and an individual-dependent "Perceived Truth", the lie can only be regarded as opposed to the "Perceived Truth". Lies occur only when someone do not tell his perception of truth. If his perception is so wrong that everybody else consider his lie as their own Truth, I guess the moral intend is still there and that its still a lie...
  • Nov 13 2012: it comes down to never ask a question you dont want the answer to. and ya Nazi's at the door searching for the hidden jews should not be lied to YOU SHOULD JUST BLOW THEM OFF YOUR DOOR STEP. but dont lie.