TED Conversations

Seigi Karasaki

Organizer @ TEDxTodai, TEDxTodai


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Do people deserve to know the truth, even if it isn't in their best interest?

Is truth always the best choice of action? In "On the Decay of the Art of Lying," Mark Twain argues:

"Lying is universal--we all do it; we all must do it. Therefore, the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie for others' advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling. Then shall we be rid of the rank and pestilent truth that is rotting the land; then shall we be great and good and beautiful, and worthy dwellers in a world where even benign Nature habitually lies, except when she promises execrable weather. "

What are your thoughts?


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  • Mar 16 2013: Yes, people deserve the truth, including yourself.

    Intentionally speaking false statements, over-stated or under-stated facts, or manipulative partial truths changes your words from helping people with information to tools of manipulation.

    There is enough of a problem with mis-truths being spread out of ignorance without intelligent people choosing to spread them. Education has as its goal the eradication of ignorance. There is no good balance on the spreading of mistruths except personal honor, integrity, and respect for the audience and yourself.

    In truth is a simple beauty that deserves to be shared. Anything else slows the progress of humanity.
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      Mar 16 2013: I agree with you, especially on an individual level.

      What I'm trying to figure out is if any exceptions to this rule exist, or if it can truly be considered universally applicable.
      • Mar 16 2013: One exception might be fiction writing. Another might be some of the things parents do help children have a nice childhood. However, I can not think of any instances on an adult level where it is in the listening party's interest to hear non-factual information. However, there are many instances when silence might be the best word choice.

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