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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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  • Dec 3 2012: First of all, you encouraged me to ponder this question, so I appreciate this chance.
    I have believed that the truth is always the best, because of the outcome of affecting experience during childhood.
    With weird reason, of course I do not remember it right now, I lied to my mom but was sharply scolded when the truth got out. What's even worse, it was not just the problem between me and my mom but also exerting a strong influence on somebody who is related to this happening. I caused trouble with no definite idea, but it was serious to somebody.
    I have marked her for life as a result. I still feel too guilty about hurting her to say what happened. However, it might give good results in that I decided I would lie on no condition.
    Of course, my case isn't definitely fit to your question, but I truly want you to be honest:)
    Even though telling a lie may have a positive outcome, it often brings about more havoc and risks than we tell the truth.

    Sometimes TRUe information cause troubles, but I believe the saying "Honesty is the best policy."
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      Dec 4 2012: Thank you for sharing your story.

      Do not misread me : I am convinced that honesty is an important value, and as you say, that it is the best policy on a daily basis. But there are some cases when doubt is legitimate. I found out that the question was already analyzed ages ago, but that the answer is not absolute : ie, there are some (extreme) cases where lying is legitimate. Your message is a good reminder that such situation is very rare and should be handle on a case to case basis.

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