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  • Your plan to set up your friend Carey with your acquaintance Emerson is finally coming together.

  • Both individuals have heard all about each other and they're eager to meet for dinner.

  • You've just made them a reservation for Friday night, and you're about to text Carey the details when an unsettling thought crosses your mind.

  • Carey is always late.

  • And not just by 5 minutes; we're talking 20 or even 30 minutes late.

  • Carey seems to view punctuality as an oppressive relic of an earlier era.

  • But what if you told them dinner was at 6 instead of 6:30?

  • That way, they would almost certainly arrive on time.

  • You really want this relationship to work, so... should you lie?

  • Take a moment to think; what you would do?

  • Maybe you should lie.

  • You think this new relationship could be great for Carey, and you don't want them to ruin it before it's even begun.

  • Sure, Emerson may eventually learn about their chronic lateness.

  • But if Carey shows up on time just this once, the relationship will at least have a chance to take root.

  • Your lie would pave the way for a potentially happy relationship.

  • And if taking an action will create a better outcome for everyone involved, that's normally a pretty good reason to take it.

  • But isn't it morally wrong to lie?

  • The absolutist position on lying, associated with German philosopher Immanuel Kant, holds that lying is always immoral, regardless of the circumstances.

  • In other words, there's a moral rule which forbids lying, and that rule is absolute.

  • You might think, though, that this stance overstates the moral importance of lying.

  • Suppose a murderer were hunting Carey down.

  • If the killer asked you about Carey's whereabouts, it seems odd to say that you must tell the truth at the cost of your friend's life.

  • From this perspective, absolutism seems too rigid.

  • By contrast, utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill would say lying is wrong only when it leads to less happiness overall.

  • Now, to be fair, most lies do seem likely to create unhappiness.

  • Someone who accepts a lie believes something which is false, and trying to conduct your life on the basis of false information doesn't usually go well.

  • However, in some circumstances, perhaps including your situation, lying might produce more happiness overall.

  • In those cases, utilitarians say it's not morally wrong to lie.

  • In fact, it might even be your moral duty to do so.

  • But if absolutism seems too extreme, you might feel this stance is too lax.

  • In other words, perhaps the utilitarian position understates the moral significance of lying.

  • Most people generally feel some regret about lying, even when they believe it's the right thing to do.

  • This suggests there's something inherently objectionable about lying, even when it leads to more happiness.

  • In this case, lying to Carey would be an instance of paternalism.

  • Paternalism is interfering with another person's choices for that person's benefit.

  • This might be fine if that person is a literal child.

  • But it seems disrespectful to treat a peer paternalistically.

  • Lying to Carey would mean taking away their opportunity to handle the situation as they see fit based on their own beliefs and values.

  • Trying to protect Carey from what you consider to be a bad choice would show a lack of respect for their autonomy.

  • By extension, it might also be disrespectful towards Emerson, since you would be deliberately trying to give him a false impression of Carey's punctuality.

  • So, how do you weigh potential happiness against guaranteed disrespect?

  • Followers of Kant would say treating others with respect is the heart of moral conduct, while followers of Mill would say nothing is more important than happiness.

  • But other philosophers believe that such conflicts can only be resolved on a case-by-case basis, depending on various details and on the individuals involved.

  • So, what will you do in Carey's case?

  • Keep testing your decision-making skills with another classic ethical dilemma.

  • Two ships have sent out distress calls, and you only have enough time to save one.

  • Which ship do you save?

  • Make your choice with this video.

Your plan to set up your friend Carey with your acquaintance Emerson is finally coming together.

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B1 US TED-Ed carey lying moral happiness emerson

Ethical dilemma: Would you lie? - Sarah Stroud

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    たらこ posted on 2022/06/25
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