Daily Prompt: Truth or Dare

Is it possible to be too honest, or is honesty always the best policy?

Now, this is pretty much an exercise in ethical philosophy. You may think it is a simple one. I have mentioned this dilemma in my introductory post to my post series on Practical Ethics, which I will definitely continue once I get my head wrapped around it some more, which I don’t know exactly why I haven’t pursued this endeavor with the zeal I put into it at the beginning. No, actually, I have a pretty good idea why: I love meat, I love many of the luxuries our western civilization lets me enjoy, mostly culinary, but in the light of practical ethics, they just can’t be justified, and I want to be, as a person, as ethical as possible. Even if I can’t be Mr. Super Ethical tomorrow, I should at least work on progressing there, but often, I feel like I am treading water. I digress.

Now, there is a fairly simple answer, nay, a trivial answer to the question posed by the prompt: if a proposition contains a word that implies the absence of an alternative, it will not hold up to scrutiny. So, in critical ethical analysis, sometimes a lie has a preferable outcome over the truth. This is, however, not a free pass for lying. Critical ethical analysis applies to cases that don’t happen in our everyday life. Unless you live in Nazi Germany, and the Gestapo are asking whether there are Jews hiding in the attic. O.k., it was Nazi-occupied Netherlands. Same difference. So, unless you are granting asylum to political, religious, or other refugees, so long as they are not criminals, unless these criminals are expecting disproportionate penalties (I digress. Where was I? Oh yes…), lying is most unlikely ethically justifiable. In ethically justifiable, I am of course referring to preferential utilitarianism. Yes, there are more ethical systems than utilitarianism, and preferential utilitarianism is also rather special, so you can probably find an ethical code where lying is more often a justifiable solution over telling the truth, like rational politics or warfare. But I, personally, would stick with preferential utilitarianism.


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