Friday, August 30, 2019

Is it ethical to mask your true emotions in order to get along with others? Essay

Honesty is the best policy. Or is it not? As children, we were taught that honesty is telling the truth straightforward. We were told that it is being sincere, genuine, trustworthy, loyal, and fair. We were taught to tell the truth at all times, despite consequences. Our parents taught us to do our own homework, keep a friend’s secret, return stuff we found, and keep our promises. But as we grew older, the line between the truth and falsehood started to blur. We began to tell and accept half-truths. We began to resort to telling white lies to get out of potentially disastrous situations. We are confronted everyday by basic issues of honesty. If a man is forbidden by his wife to smoke, should he confess that he took a few sticks from his buddy’s pack when they were at the bar earlier that night? Is it really imperative that he do so when he only smoked two, maybe three, cigarettes? Does he have to be completely honest with his wife or can he get away with something that insignificant? If you are anti-Bush and attending a formal dinner where every single person at your table is pro-Bush, should you be completely honest and let everyone know your sentiment, at the risk of alienating yourself? Or should you save your Bush-bashing for another time and another place? Should you just go along with the conversation and act indifferent towards the topic? As Saki (1929) said, â€Å"A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation†. But is this ethical? Or must honesty always reign supreme? Some people, institutions, and dogmas bolster the virtue of being completely, straightforwardly honest. But is it not also true that sometimes people who are brutally honest find more satisfaction from being brutal than from being honest? The philosopher Immanuel Kant claimed that the telling of a truth is the â€Å"perfect duty†. He said that it cannot be superseded by other values – not even the concern for the life of a friend or the loyalty to someone we love. He insisted that the act of lying is always incorrect morally. However, many scholars have found Kant’s philosophy to be too extreme and self-serving. In the book â€Å"On Moral Grounds†, moral philosophers Daniel Maguire and A. Nicholas Fargnoli (1991) state, â€Å"Very simply, Kant would not be the man you would want to stand between you and someone intent on murdering you – at least if Kant knew where you were. † Furthermore, Maguire and Fargnoli (1991) refer to Kant’s stand on lying to explore the restrictions of universal moral principles. They write, â€Å"Universalization is an unrealistic and inaccurate abstraction that passes over the fact that there are exceptions to valid moral principles. † Also, â€Å"To protect other values, like the life of an intended victim or a legitimate secret, exceptions to truth-telling must be made. † In her book â€Å"Lying†, philosopher Sissela Bok (1978) says, â€Å"The failure to look at an entire practice rather than at their own isolated case often blinds liars to cumulative harm and expanding deceptive activities. Those who begin with white lies can come to resort to more frequent and more serious ones†¦ The aggregate harm from a large number of marginally harmful instances may, therefore, be highly undesirable in the end – for liars, those deceived, and honesty and trust more generally. † For the author, there is danger in all acts of lying because there is a possibility that the telling of even the smallest of lies may affect common discourse. She emphasizes that lies have a tendency to â€Å"spread†. Lies, even the most seemingly insignificant ones, can grow and affect other aspects of our lives. Nowadays, most people are utilitarians when it comes to the topic of honesty. White lies are okay because they probably don’t hurt anyone; but we avoid outright lies that have the possibility of offending or harming others. However, the utilitarian attitude to truthfulness has to have its limitations. As author Austin O’Malley said, â€Å"Those who think it is permissible to tell white lies soon grow color-blind†. Telling a white lie -like reassuring a sick person that he looks much better when, in fact, he doesn’t- is alright; but if it becomes a habit, there could be dire consequences. A person may lose credibility and respect from his partner, family or friends. Masking one’s true emotions to keep the peace in a certain situation or in order to get along with others can be ethical, but there are limits to how far you can go with faking how you really feel. There is a very fine line between truth and fiction, between lies and white lies. Even the Bible makes this distinction. The commandment does not say, â€Å"Thou shalt not lie†; instead, it says, â€Å"Thou shalt not bear false witness. † This means that lies that do not cause harm –for example, telling the hostess that a meal she made is really good when it was, in fact, absolutely horrible- is acceptable. In this instance, the lie is told to make the person feel better about herself and to show appreciation for her efforts. Here, the lie was actually made in attempt to do something good. However, a lie that could have grave consequences –such as when a person who has caused damages to his neighbor’s property does not admit that he did so to avoid having to pay for the cost of repairs- is a sin. To mask one’s true feelings in order to get along with others is fine as long as a person keeps to the boundaries and the motivation behind the lie or the masking of the truth is valid. Another consideration would be the frequency with which the person disguises his true opinions or feelings. If done too often, the person could risk losing his sense of self and authenticity. In â€Å"The Critic as Artist†, Oscar Wilde (1905) says that â€Å"a little bit of sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal†. For people in relationships, he may have a point. Honesty may not be the best policy when we are hiding aspects of ourselves from the other person, when we do not want to be revealed, to be known completely. Honesty may not be the best policy when we do not want to get into trouble or when we are avoiding conflict. Honesty may not be the best policy when we are trying to spare the other’s feelings, when we do not want the other to feel hurt or disappointed. In a relationship, people may tell lies because they believe that it is the kind thing to do. Robert Brault once said that, â€Å"Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for am I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true. † Noble lies, which are intended for another’s benefit, are usually made under these kinds of circumstances. But while the motivation behind this type of lie may seem valid, there are still those who believe that the concept is flawed. Critics of utilitarianism say that â€Å"people often poorly estimate the consequences of their actions or specifically undervalue or ignore the harmful consequences to society (e. g. , mistrust) that their lies cause† (Mazur, 1993). Also, the concept of lying for the sake of a â€Å"greater good† may cause a further blurring of the line between moral justifications supporting the greater good and empty excuses.

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