Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Morality of lying

Interesting to see this discussed. I think you know already what my position is: God cannot lie, therefore followers of Christ cannot permit themselves to lie--lying, even in a good cause, is ultimately a dead end and should be swiftly repented of if you find you have engaged in it.
Here's an excerpt to give the flavor of the discussion. Emphasis added for a definition that I like.
Even apart from the invocation of religious authority, it seems to me that Tollefsen (with whom I am co-author of Embryo: A Defense of Human Life) is correct that lying is intrinsically wrong.  So the only way I can think of to defend Live Action's tactics is to argue that the utterances and actions of those who represented themselves as sex traffickers and prostitutes were not lies.  My sense is that Rick is inclined to defend Live Action's tactics in precisely this way.  I don't think it can possibly work when it comes to the utterances of the Live Action team.  They stated things they knew to be false precisely with a view to persuading the Planned Parenthood workers that they were true.  That's just what a lie is.  And their utterances were not made in a context of social conventions that could render a statement one knows to be false something other than a lie:  such as when someone invites a friend out for a "quiet meal" on his birthday, only to deliver him to a big surprise party in his honor.  Could Live Action have pulled off the sting without making false utterances?
I think the answer to that is probably yes.  And that takes us to the next question.  What about deceptions that do not involve false utterances?  Some are plainly wrong.  Others, however, seem pretty clearly not to be.  Tollefsen points out that Aquinas, while condemning lying even in justified wars, held that military feints are not necessarily lies and can be morally permissible. Getting to just what it is that distinguishes the two is, I predict, where this debate is heading---and that, I believe, is just where it should head.
Be pretty if you are,
Be witty if you can,
But be cheerful if it kills you.

If you're so evil, eat this kitten!

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