Permissibility on Lying

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The works of Shelly Kagan and Charles Fried will be studied in determining the wrongness of lying. The definition of lying will first be presented followed by the arguments as to why lying is perceived as wrong. It will then be argued that lying is not necessary wrong. Lying involves asserting a claim that one knows as false to the other with the intention to mislead the listener. There is generally a widely accepted constraint against lying. Constraint against lying should not be mistaken with a requirement to tell the truth since no such requirement exists. One has a negative duty against telling a lie whereas there is no positive duty requiring one to tell the truth. The morality of lying is not be derived by the consequences of the lies. Imagine a scenario where I am asked a certain question and I answer that question to the best of my knowledge. I genuinely wanted to provide a right answer to the question, however the answer that I thought was true is actually false. From a consequentialist’s view, the results from the above scenario and lying are the same and therefore will hold same moral weight. However, even though the end consequence may be the same in that the listener is misled in both cases, it is hard to see that a case where one genuinely attempts to help a listener with a mistaken information and a case that one purposely tries to misled the listener with a knowingly false information should be subjected to identical moral guilt. If it is not the end consequence that determines the permissibility of lying, then it follows that what differentiates lying from other instances of misleading the listener is the intention behind the act. As such, the constraint against lying is due to its intention to mislead the othe... ... middle of paper ... for general trust among men exists. In modern day society, in most situations, it is easier to witness deceit and lying of one another than witnessing truth and it certainly is not the case that one can claim any entitlements to any truths. For example, censored media only giving you limited knowledge, car salesman lying about the true price of the car, etc. In such cases, I may desire to receive truthful information but in cases where truths aren’t granted, I cannot hold that I was done wrong because I am entitled to the truths. It would certainly be ideal if such institutions existed, however, it is simply no longer reasonable to expect such institutions and it’s more unreasonable to set such a hard constraint against lying based on such unrealizable ideals. Reference: Shelly Kagan, Normative Ethics, 106-16 Charles Fried, Right and Wrong, “On Lying”
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