TED Conversations

Jean-Charles Longuet

This conversation is closed.

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.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Nov 12 2012: When opening the conversation, I was thinking about the positive outcomes of some lies [or the negative outcomes of telling the truth]. Consider for example that you're a teacher. You tell one student that "he will make his exam" that will occur within minutes, despite not believing a single word of it : you lie.
    Now, consider you're doing it to boost his self-confidence, because good performance is related to self-confidence. You're lying (and also manipulative), so that is completely against "Truth as an imperative". The outcome is positive as it raises the probably of success of your student.

    Is it morale or not to lie here ? Would you do it ? Are there cases where the positive outcome completely outweighs the moral issue of telling a lie ?
    • Nov 12 2012: I understand what you are saying, however I believe if the teacher is truly lying, ie: does not believe the student will pass the exam, then she is giving the student a false impression. This might very well lead the student to have false confidence which may then lead to them not fully studying or applying themself. They might in truth believe the teacher will pass them regardless of what they do. (not unheard of in this day and age)

      Self confidence does not come from false flattery, it comes from successful accomplishment.

      The student would be better served to be told, if you studied the material and apply what you learned you should do well.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.