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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?
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[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 13 2012: To sum up some ethic informations about "lies" :

    First, a lie could be defined as "the delivery of an information that is knowingly incorrect/misleading". There may be variants here, some considering that a lie can only be explicit, other considering that there are other ways to provide information : by your attitude, by being silent, by not reacting. Note that the "misleading" can induce that you can lie despite providing accurate information. I have no example in mind, you're welcome if you have one.

    Lying is usually considered as wrong for a lots of reasons :
    - it lowers social cohesion by reducing the trust between individuals
    - it creates a bias of power between individuals by allowing manipulation and giving power to the liar
    - it cannot be a universal principle. Always speaking the Truth is conceivable while always lying is not.
    - the responsibility of having a language induces the responsibility to use it "well"
    - ...

    Considering all these consequences, some people consider "not telling lies" as a moral law. This is how Deontologists consider things, disregarding the consequences and only considering the act by itself : right or wrong. Building the laws system is not straightforward and is subject to interpretation, but once a law is acted and included in the moral system, is it universal and suffers no second-thoughts.

    Other people, like Utilitarians (also called Consequentialists), consider lying as an option as they only the outcome of their actions. However, determining the consequences is something complex, error-prone, or even impractical if you must figure all possible lies and their outcome at every spoken word. Usually, Utilitarians consider that the negative consequences outweigh the good ones : lying is not acceptable.
    Act-utilitarian may consider lying on some case-to-case basis, while rule-utilitarians focus on the outcome of the rule (lying) for society, and join Deontologist and stick to stricter observance.

    Do you know where you stand ?
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      Nov 14 2012: Nice analysis Jean-Charles!

      Try this one:
      This definition falls outside utilitarian or deontological approaches. I could call it "observable physics".

      There is a tension between primary and secondary perception.
      The tension has to do with timeframes and space-frames.

      Primary perception has to do with very short timeframes - and space frames - defined by the field of senses.
      There are 2 sets of physical senses in most animals - external and internal. The external senses are our traditional 5-senses, the internal senses are not well named, but they monitor the internal milieu. The internal milieu must remain within a narrow range or we die - things like heartrate, blood pressure, body temperature etc. We generally call these "feelings". And they are generally defined by comfort/discomfort: if the internal senses detect the body to be approaching the death-boundary, we are uncomfortable, if they detect convergence to the optimum, we are comfortable.
      On top of these sense systems are the perception systems that "make sense" of the sensual data - perception is the process of grouping sense data into "information". Information is a reduction of data into terms defined by comfort or potential comfort. Thus, information is totally concerned with action potentials that affect comfort/discomfort.
      In the primary field of perception, there is no issue - the timeframes are set by the rate of actions in the body and in the local environment (defined by what the external senses can detect). So they are very short and what is done is done - there is no component of "judgement" or "morality" - one either lives or dies, is injured or not - there is no degree of latitude for any notion of "acceptance" - for instance, if your arm gets ripped off by a tiger, it's not something that you can deny - you have little recourse to saying "I believe my arm is still there" because every time you go to use the ripped-off arm .. presto - it is observed to not be there.
      (continued)
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      Nov 14 2012: The primary field of perception can extend a little outside the range of senses.
      For instance, the trajectory of a rabbit can be anticipated by the fox - the fox does not strike at where the rabbit is - it strikes along the advance trajectory (or would miss every time). The fox can do this because he has observed the trajectory of rabbits, and other things, and has developed a causal map that extends into a future that does not exist. Such causal maps contain error that is reduced with repeated trial-and-error - reduced but never totally eliminated. Causal maps are statistical expansion on the field of senses - they contain error, but are statistically more right than wrong - they are "good enough" to be considered functional.
      Then we get to the secondary field of perception.
      This works the same way as the primary field, except that it is concerned with language and long-term timeframes.
      Language is the vector by which an animal gains access to another animal's field of perception. Language does this by code/decode of information (not data), from the sender's primary/secondary field to the receiver's secondary field. It is essentially a perception of behaviour in others - and has its own set of causal maps. These causal maps can also contain extrinsic mappings (vocabulary/symbology) that sharpen the signal onto the focus of context - defined by potential comfort/discomfort.
      The big problem with extrinsic mappings(symbols) is that they are non-causal associations - they have no causal reality and are therefore an artifact of error. In other words - this word: cup : If I try to pour water into this word, it will just wreck my computer monitor - and i will not be able to drink from this word. It is an artifact of error.
      In a sense, all symbols are lies - or you could say that they are error with a margin of accuracy - they are the inversion of perception. Error in error is truth.
      Next we look at topology in causal maps.
      (continued)
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      Nov 14 2012: I havwe shown that the secondary field of perception has a mandatory margin of error in which to enlarge the field of error-of-error.
      Thus - to tell the truth, one has to tell a lie about a lie.
      The alternative is to say " I don't know" - which is the only truth that resides outside of lies in the communication component of secondary field of perception.
      Topology:
      Topology, in this framework, is the statistical projection of the least path of resistance of behaviours as defined by the secondary maps of causality. In other words - we make forecasts about ourselves and others.
      The longer the time-span or physical range of the forcast, the more statistical erro it contains. Such causal maps behave the same as in primary perception - they update to better accuracy with trial-and-error. This trial and error process adjusts the path of least resistance (topology) in the causal map. However, the longer the precast timespan, the longer it takes to gain observation - and the slower process of noise-reduction. It can be argued that these maps will rarely achieve reliable functionality in a human lifetime.
      However, we have the benefit of written history to assist error reduction.
      In this definition, all history is incomplete causal mapping - without refining it through trial and error, written history has enough margin of error to be classified as lies.
      Next is the local minimum.
      A local minimum os a topological artifact wherby error reduction is abandoned - leaving any intrinsic error unmodified. For example - historical "facts", scientific "princioples", laws, customs religions - these are all lies.
      Furthermore, The practice of "ethics" commands that "reputation" is preserved above all things. Reputation is artificially biased for the maintenance of the advantage of teh subject and parasitic sychophants who share the advantage of the subject. All stories about heroes and villains are lies.
      (continued)
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      Nov 14 2012: Conclusion:

      Whenever I see or hear the language of advantage - i know it is proceeding from a skilled liar.
      These words:
      "God","law", "Morals", "ethics", "honour", "good", "evil", "love", "hate", "race", ""king", "president" "priest" "criminal", "Terrorist" and many more of their ilk
      These words all operate in the margin of error of secondary perception. When they are uttered without very rigid definition that can be personally observed within the field of ones own senses - without this qualification they fall into a classification that I label "dangerous bullshit". These words are expressed for the intent of personal advantage and identify a psychologically damaged person. It is best you limit your contact with such people.

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