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Can Telling Lies Ever Be Justified?

  • Date Submitted: 08/13/2010 03:56 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 55.4 
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Can telling lies ever be justified? |
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The old admonition to children, 'speak the truth and shame the devil', runs contrary to what is called the schoolboy's eleventh commandment; 'tell a lie, and stick to it'. The one adage advocates honesty at whatever personal cost. When charged with some illicit tree-felling, the young George Washington is said to have said 'I cannot tell a lie'. Those who advocate moral rectitude always argue that honesty is the best policy. Those who do not say 'get away with wrong-doing if you can'. Thus, as a child you avoid punishment. As an adult, you hope to avoid the consequences of your actions. The one is the result of a strong sense of morality. The other stems from self-interest and indifference to the fate of other people. Silence itself may amount to a lie, particularly when it is meant to shift blame from oneself. Cicero said it is the nature of a scoundrel to deceive by lying , and it may well be argued that truth is an integral factor in the health of society. Justice itself depends on witnesses pledging themselves to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth . The law has severe penalties for those who perjure themselves after taking this oath.So logically there should be no circumstances in which lying can ever be justified. Yet, we can all think of occasions when to tell the truth would be a very mixed blessing.This applies especially to those who have access to secrets of national importance, particularly in wartime, or when there is danger of war. In these circumstances another moral issue is raised, and that is where personal loyalty lies. Most would say to one's own country. For others, a strong political belief, based on conviction, is more cogent. So, during the 'Cold War' between NATO and the Communist bloc, people on both sides were prepared to betray their country's secrets. This was generally out of conviction rather than for money, though the spy was usually rewarded in some way, sometimes...

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