Lying is probably one of the most common wrong deeds that we do as humans. Some have said that lying is an unavoidable part of human nature and that sometimes there is good reason for it, but I do not believe that it is a necessary thing to do, and it can cause massive amounts of damage to both the liar, the person being lied to, and society in general.
Lying is a form of deception and manipulation. It is feeding another person false information to mislead them and selfishly benefit themselves or a situation. There are lies that are believed to be told without malicious intention, these are called white lies. These are believed to be told with good intentions, intended to benefit the person being lied to by making them feel good or to prevent their feelings from being hurt, but how do you really define what is a lie and what is a white lie? And surely if the person being white lied to finds out that it’s a lie, they will probably end up feeling hurt anyway. I still believe lies are lies, whether it is a white lie or not, and lying is wrong and damaging. Being lied to damages us because it makes us feel devalued as a person as if we are not seen as equal or respected in the same way as others, and then makes us doubt our own abilities to assess the truth and make the right decisions. We then become untrusting, and in some cases, people who have been lied to may seek revenge, even though two wrongs do not make a right. Liars are manipulating the people who are people lied to and are treating them as a means to achieve their own self-purpose (a means to an end), and not thinking about their fellow humans. Some say that lying is bad because speech and language are essential to us as a human society, with this use of speech, we have an obligation to use it truthfully and by lying, we are breaking an unwritten contract within society.
However you lie to a person, it is very likely that the truth will come out, which is where the saying ‘what is done in the dark will always come to light’ comes from, and when this happens, you are diminishing the trust that people have for you, and also the trust of other humans. The lie makes it difficult for the person who is being lied to, to make a free, informed decision about the subject being lied about, and if that’s the case, surely it just confuses the situation even further as they are basing their decisions on false information. This is where I believe lies start to grow, as the liar has to keep patching over questions the person being lied to might have from feeling confused about the false information and the liar has to have a good memory to remember their web of lies otherwise they will be caught out faster. Lies can grow so easily, which makes the liar gradually more and more corrupt. Lying can then become a habit, as the liar does it so regularly that they find it so easy to do and they become comfortable with it. If everyone lied to everyone all the time, and lying became more generally accepted, the general level of truth would fall, social cohesion would be weakened and no one would trust anyone or anything and you would live only with the information and knowledge that you have personally found out as fact.
As mentioned in our textbook, it is very well known that people do lie, and many examples of politicians lying to the public are given. There are many examples given regarding politicians lying about their infidelity, which would suggest the politician is lying to protect his own image which in my opinion is disgusting. If the action is something you have to lie about, don’t do it. How can a person be a consequentialist and be thinking about the effects when it comes to lying, but not at the point that they are cheating on their wife? It is very hypocritical and extremely selfish. Within our textbook, Mill discusses how ‘men often, from infirmity of character, make their election for the nearer good (a short term selfish action), though they know it to be less valuable, and this no less when the choice is between two bodily pleasures than when it is between bodily and mental. They pursue sensual indulgence to the injury of health, though perfectly aware that health is the greater good.’ This perfectly explains why these politicians make these immoral decisions which they already know are immoral, and this is why they then lie about their selfish actions afterward out of fear of judgment.
Another example of politicians lying is during times of war or disagreement with other countries. When two countries are against each other, it seems the obligation, to tell the truth, is reduced in order to deliberately deceive or mislead the other country in the wrong direction. I believe this take on lying is consequentialist as the politicians believe the other countries do not deserve the truth if they intend to do us harm. They may believe that telling a lie may prevent harm to many.
Ethical philosophers such as John Stuart Mill who supports the view of consequentialism, utilitarianism, and being teleological would assess lying by taking into consideration the consequences that would be caused by the lie. This could mean that telling the lie could be the wrong thing to do due to all of the damaging effects previously mentioned that it could have on a person or society, but it could also support the theory that if the lie produces a better result then not telling it, that is could be the right thing to do. Even though this seems to consider common sense, I do not believe that it does as it is not practical or even always possible to pre-assess in advance the negative or positive consequences of a lie, future consequences are hard to predict. Another factor that I feel makes this theory impractical is that measuring good and bad is not easy, and if you’re a person who lies, I do not think you’re the best person to measure this anyway. In order to be anywhere near morally correct enough to try to measure the good and bad of the consequences of a lie, you would be required to value everyone involved equally and not value your own wishes more than anyone else’s, but again, I think if you’re telling a lie, you are putting your own wishes above another person’s and not seeing them as an equal.
Rule Utilitarianism would suggest that lying is wrong because it is harmful to people and society. Act Utilitarianism suggests that you should consider every lie separately and that there may be some cases where it is okay to lie. I do not think that it is right that you could say on one hand lying is wrong, but then also in the same breath suggest that lying can be right in some occasions, it needs to be one or the other, and I personally believe that lying is wrong and harmful as a whole.
I think that when it comes to lying, I sway more towards a deontological way of thinking. Deontologists base their decisions and morals on general universal laws of what is right and wrong, rather than on the consequences of the action. Philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that lying is always wrong. This is based on the principle that we should all treat each other as an end in itself, and never as a means. When you lie to a person you are not respecting them, you are just using them as a means to get what you want. A famous quote from Kant is ‘I ought to never act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law’. This basically means act in a way that you would expect others to act, or ‘act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person, or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end itself. The textbook discusses that if there is to be a supreme practical principle that applies to all humans, a categorical imperative, it must be such that from the idea of something which is necessarily an end for everyone because it is an end in itself it forms an objective principle of the will and consequently can serve as a practical law. The grounds for this principle are that ‘rational nature exists as an end in itself.
I believe that the best ethical solution to lying is more deontological. Lying is one of those things that is a known unwritten rule that is wrong, as well balanced humans, we understand that lying has many negative outcomes and consequences and it is very rare that a situation would come up that lying would be the right thing to do. Some would say that creating a law or unbreakable rule that lying is wrong would not work, even if there were a list of exceptions, I do not believe that this would be something all humans would follow.
As a basic moral, lying is bad and wrong. Some would say that good people don’t lie, and that good behavior displays the virtues found in good people. A good way of helping our conscience when lying is involved is to ask how we would feel if we were on the receiving end of the lie. I live a life where I do not do actions that I would have to lie about, as that usually means they would be actions that may not be morally correct.