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Source: (consider it) Thread: Jesus and Virtue Ethics
Stoic29
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I've been reading Stoic texts recently (hence my forum name) and I was thinking about how Jesus lived His life. There is a famous ethical question that asks what would one do if, during the Nazi reign, a Nazi came to your door and asked if there were any Jews hiding in your house (which there were). The ethical answer, as agreed by most, would be to answer no: one should tell a lie in this case.

However, what if Jesus answered the door? If He said no, then it would be an objective lie, which is not His nature. If He said yes, would that really be the most ethical thing to do? And there is no third option where He turns the Nazis into bunnies [Smile]

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Öd’ und leer das Meer

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mr cheesy
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Seems to me that this is easily solved by answering the question the Nazi is really asking.

He says "are you hiding Jews" meaning "are you hiding Jews that I can take away, humiliate and murder."

You say "no" meaning "no I am not hiding Jews that I am going to let you take away humiliate and murder."

In reality if the only thing standing between the Jew and the Nazi is one question then you have a serious problem and are probably not going to be able to protect them.

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arse

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Crœsos
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And there's the fairly obvious problem that for Jesus the honest answer is "Yes, I am a Jew". (Which also leaves aside the problem of communication, since Jesus didn't speak German and your average stormtrooper probably didn't speak Aramaic or Hebrew.)

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Humani nil a me alienum puto

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Martin60
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What a brilliant way of handling truth mr cheesy.

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Love wins

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Seems to me that this is easily solved by answering the question the Nazi is really asking.

He says "are you hiding Jews" meaning "are you hiding Jews that I can take away, humiliate and murder."

You say "no" meaning "no I am not hiding Jews that I am going to let you take away humiliate and murder."

This is one of the premises (culturally switched around for correct historical references) behind the play Equivocation.

For those who are interested a quick primer on virtue ethics (and deonteology) can be found here (culturally switched around for renaissance Italian political references).

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Humani nil a me alienum puto

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
What a brilliant way of handling truth mr cheesy.

Sorry if it sounded a bit pat, I also don't think some people are to be trusted with the truth if we know they will misuse it.

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arse

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Stetson
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Seems to me that this is easily solved by answering the question the Nazi is really asking.

He says "are you hiding Jews" meaning "are you hiding Jews that I can take away, humiliate and murder."

You say "no" meaning "no I am not hiding Jews that I am going to let you take away humiliate and murder."

In reality if the only thing standing between the Jew and the Nazi is one question then you have a serious problem and are probably not going to be able to protect them.

I think this is more or less what my Thomistic Ethics professor was getting at when he quoted some philosopher(can't recall whom) as defining a lie as "withholding the truth from someone who deserves the truth". In your example, of course, the Nazi does not deserve the truth, as exemplified by the extended version of his question.

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I have the power...Lucifer is lord!

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Seems to me that this is easily solved by answering the question the Nazi is really asking.

He says "are you hiding Jews" meaning "are you hiding Jews that I can take away, humiliate and murder."

You say "no" meaning "no I am not hiding Jews that I am going to let you take away humiliate and murder."

Except that this doesn't work as a general approach to truth-telling.

If my son asks if there are any biscuits in the house, he is really asking (in the same way as the Nazi is really asking), "Are there any biscuits for me to eat?".

Or if my wife asks me if I'm having an affair, she might really be asking "Are you going to give me an excuse to divorce you, you cheating bastard?".

In either case, if the answer to the literal question asked is "yes", but I answered "no" to the 'real' one, I'd quite obviously be lying within the normal meaning of that term. I would be attempting to use words to misrepresent reality and induce a false belief in the mind of the person to whom I was speaking.

The difference between those examples, and the Nazi one, is not the technique of equivocation, which is exactly the same in all three cases, but that lying to the Nazi is plainly justified, and lying to the son or wife not so much. Therefore I think Jesus would have lied to the Nazi, and that lying in such circumstances would not have been a sin.

(What do people think of this episode, incidentally? Equivocation, or a big fat fib?)

[ 03. February 2017, 19:50: Message edited by: Eliab ]

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"Perhaps there is poetic beauty in the abstract ideas of justice or fairness, but I doubt if many lawyers are moved by it"

Richard Dawkins

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lilBuddha
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ETA: reply to Stetson
Rubbish. A lie is a deliberate misrepresentation. Full stop.
The problem is the bullshit one-liner from the Ten Commandments.
Is lying wrong? Depends on the motive and the result.
2ndETA to reply to Eliab: spot on.

[ 03. February 2017, 19:51: Message edited by: lilBuddha ]

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
The problem is the bullshit one-liner from the Ten Commandments.

Deonteology!

quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
Is lying wrong? Depends on the motive . . .

Virtue ethics!

quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
. . . and the result.

Consequentialism!

Congratulations lilBuddha! You've managed to work all three ethical systems into a single, brief post! Bingo!

Your fabulous prize is a year's supply of exclamation points! Enjoy!!! [Big Grin]

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Humani nil a me alienum puto

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lilBuddha
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Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I Shall!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
Is lying wrong? Depends on the motive . . .

Virtue ethics!
Saying that the rightness and wrongness of an action depends on the motive is neither unique to nor the whole of virtue ethics.

The summary description of virtue ethics would be that an action is right if it is an action someone would take who possessed the relevant moral virtue. Moral virtue is not merely a matter of motive but also of understanding and attention. But I think a deontologist and a virtue theorist would agree that someone who refuses a bribe does the right thing even if their motive is fear of blackmail or a grudge against the briber, and that both would agree that the person doesn't get moral credit for doing so.

I suppose the difference between the two would be that the deontologist would say that one should never take a bribe, while the virtue ethicist would have to say the slightly weaker statement that they cannot imagine a situation in which it would be right to take a bribe.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
ETA: reply to Stetson
Rubbish. A lie is a deliberate misrepresentation. Full stop.

Well I don't think that's a good enough definition. There is a literal truth, there is a figurative truth, there is a pragmatic truth, there is a prophetic truth. Superimposed on all of that is a whole other level of perception.

It is a scientific truth that we are all a bunch of atoms. It is an literal truth that we all die. But what good are those truths when sitting with an elderly relative soon to die who is suffering from Altzimers and asks if you are her brother who died 50 years ago coming to take her to the circus?

More important than truth is love. A man who loves his mother who rarely remembers him is no liar.

[ 03. February 2017, 21:03: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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arse

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
What a brilliant way of handling truth mr cheesy.

Sorry if it sounded a bit pat, I also don't think some people are to be trusted with the truth if we know they will misuse it.
Oi! I meant it.

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Love wins

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
ETA: reply to Stetson
Rubbish. A lie is a deliberate misrepresentation. Full stop.

Well I don't think that's a good enough definition. There is a literal truth, there is a figurative truth, there is a pragmatic truth, there is a prophetic truth. Superimposed on all of that is a whole other level of perception.

It is a scientific truth that we are all a bunch of atoms. It is an literal truth that we all die. But what good are those truths when sitting with an elderly relative soon to die who is suffering from Altzimers and asks if you are her brother who died 50 years ago coming to take her to the circus?

More important than truth is love. A man who loves his mother who rarely remembers him is no liar.

Yes, he is. The problem here is that for you, and most people, a lie has a moral weight.
I am saying that it does not in and of itself.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Gwalchmai
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Jesus would almost certainly respond with a question to the Nazi.
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TurquoiseTastic

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I rather liked James Mawdsley's thinking on this issue in "The Heart Must Break". He said that neither response to the question was good - both are playing the oppressor's game.

"It would be a more Christian response to punch the Nazi in the face," he opines.

But, he goes on, "even this does not seem quite right". His ideal is (was?) non-violent resistance a la MLK or Gandhi IIRC.

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Martin60
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Look, mr cheesy's response is the best a Christian can attain to. But Jesus? He'd have played the Nazi inside out. Confronted him with His claim for a start. The Nazis were soaked in Christian culture. I'd love to see this fleshed out in a Peter Rollins style short story. The Nazi would realise who Jesus was, claimed to be and that would be a frighteningly credible claim, not the claim of a madman. Jesus would have confronted the man to paralysis, to defeat by his own Nazi philosophy in the face of a Jew.

As for the rest of us, just 'lie'.

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Love wins

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sharkshooter

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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
...He'd have played the Nazi inside out. ...

As He did the Pharisees, etc. of His time.

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Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. [Psalm 19:14]

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Lamb Chopped
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I recall reading about someone who answered the question, "Of course we're hiding Jews! We've got half a dozen upstairs right now." got a dirty look from the Nazi for sarcasm and then he tromped off.

Of course it was Gospel truth.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
Yes, he is. The problem here is that for you, and most people, a lie has a moral weight.
I am saying that it does not in and of itself.

No he isn't and no I don't. I'm saying the difference between truth and lie is a more complex moral category than simple precision and/or accuracy.

This man is not setting out to deceive his mother, there is nothing but love (mixed with weariness) in his response. That is a completely different moral category to someone who is prepared to lie and cheat and do whatever Machiavellian scheme he can dream up to get his own way.

I respect that you have a different opinion but I don't accept that I have a quite unquote "problem" with believing that lies are a moral issue.

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arse

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hatless

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Since today is his birthday, I'd like to remember Bonhoeffer's statement that a truth told by a wicked man is worse than a lie told by a good man.

He might have had in mind that though Goebbels' Nazi propaganda was largely built out of alt facts, occasionally it would suit his purposes to report something accurate. He should be given no credit for that. He is using the truth to further his evil ends. Similarly, an anti-Nazi pastor being interrogated is not to be blamed for telling lies; his morality or lack of it is about his total impact as a person, not particular sentences he speaks.

It's a form of virtue ethics. Someone on board has used a Bonhoeffer signature quote that if you board the wrong train it's no use running up the corridor in the other direction, which I think is similar. You take sides, and your small decisions thereafter count very little. Never mind what you say to the SS at your door, did you offer the use of your loft to a persecuted family?

Much discussion about morality degrades into the scrutiny of clever little test cases ripped from context. It is an essentially conservative tactic that attempts to conceal the political dimension of morality and turn it instead into a sort of private multiple choice quiz: A soldier is raping your sister, and his pistol falls from its holster and lands at your feet - do you 1. Point this out to him ..

Bonhoeffer provocatively describes Jesus approach to the Law as cavalier. He heals the woman bent double on the Sabbath. She has waited 18 years, she could easily wait until sunset, but, no, Jesus joyfully, recklessly responds at once. And I think that should blow away our picky concern with right and wrong actions, and remind us that evil is not a great and powerful enemy, but a sad deficiency, no match for goodness.

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My crazy theology in novel form

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:

The problem is the bullshit one-liner from the Ten Commandments.

The 'bullshit one-liner' in the Ten Commandments is 'thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour' in both Exodus and Deuteronomy.

You could easily say 'There are no Jews here' without violating it.

I am not sure that there is any absolute commandment to tell the truth at all times anywhere in the Bible.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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mr cheesy
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There is a great Bonhoeffer story about being with a friend in a cafe when it was announced that France had surrendered. This is what his friend recalled:

quote:
The people around the tables could hardly contain themselves; they jumped up, and some even climbed on the chairs. With outstretched arms, they sang “Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles” and the Horse Wessel song. We stood up, too Bonhoeffer raised his arm in the regulation Hitler salute, while I stood there dazed. “Raise your arm! Are you crazy?” he whispered to me, and later: “We shall have to run risks for very different things now, but not for that salute!”


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arse

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
I am not sure that there is any absolute commandment to tell the truth at all times anywhere in the Bible.

Some relevant stories (with the caveat that I'm not entirely sure the Deuteronomic History should be read as an assemblage of moral exempla):
quote:
1 Samuel 19:11-17
Saul sent messengers to David’s house to keep watch over him, planning to kill him in the morning. David’s wife Michal told him, ‘If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.’ 12So Michal let David down through the window; he fled away and escaped. 13Michal took an idol and laid it on the bed; she put a net of goats’ hair on its head, and covered it with the clothes. 14When Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, ‘He is sick.’ 15Then Saul sent the messengers to see David for themselves. He said, ‘Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.’ 16When the messengers came in, the idol was in the bed, with the covering of goats’ hair on its head. 17Saul said to Michal, ‘Why have you deceived me like this, and let my enemy go, so that he has escaped?’ Michal answered Saul, ‘He said to me, “Let me go; why should I kill you?”

And later:
quote:
1 Samuel 20:1-7
David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came before Jonathan and said, ‘What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin against your father that he is trying to take my life?’ 2He said to him, ‘Perish the thought! You shall not die. My father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me; and why should my father hide this from me? Never!’ 3But David also swore, ‘Your father knows well that you like me; and he thinks, “Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.” But truly, as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, there is but a step between me and death.’ 4Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Whatever you say, I will do for you.’ 5David said to Jonathan, ‘Tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at the meal; but let me go, so that I may hide in the field until the third evening. 6If your father misses me at all, then say, “David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city; for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.” 7If he says, “Good!” it will be well with your servant; but if he is angry, then know that evil has been determined by him.



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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
I recall reading about someone who answered the question, "Of course we're hiding Jews! We've got half a dozen upstairs right now." got a dirty look from the Nazi for sarcasm and then he tromped off.

Of course it was Gospel truth.

If someone used exactly the same technique of sarcastic confession to conceal some fraud or infidelity, though, you would see it as a nothing less than a blatant deception, even if it avoids being a lie in the strict sense. You won't think that the ingenuity involved made the speaker any more moral than one who told a frank untruth. It does not work as a general rule that a person who tries to deceive by using a literal truth to suggest falsehood is therefore being honest.

And the same goes for mr cheesy's view that some spoken falsehoods don't count as "lies" if they are motivated by love. It doesn't work as a general rule to determine what is a lie and what isn't. I can, for example, be genuinely motivated by a loving desire not to cause pain if I deny some past adultery - indeed that is a very common motivation. But I think that the universal judgment would be that a person who misrepresents the truth in that way is still lying.

It's better to say that, in exceptional circumstances, sometimes it's right to lie, rather than try to argue that there's a category of deliberately untrue and deceptive statements that aren't lies because we approve of them.

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"Perhaps there is poetic beauty in the abstract ideas of justice or fairness, but I doubt if many lawyers are moved by it"

Richard Dawkins

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:

And the same goes for mr cheesy's view that some spoken falsehoods don't count as "lies" if they are motivated by love. It doesn't work as a general rule to determine what is a lie and what isn't. I can, for example, be genuinely motivated by a loving desire not to cause pain if I deny some past adultery - indeed that is a very common motivation. But I think that the universal judgment would be that a person who misrepresents the truth in that way is still lying.

I don't think that this is the same thing at all. But OK, I agree and never said that mine was a general rule.

quote:
It's better to say that, in exceptional circumstances, sometimes it's right to lie, rather than try to argue that there's a category of deliberately untrue and deceptive statements that aren't lies because we approve of them.
OK, that's fine. I say that not telling the Nazi that there is someone you are protecting is not a lie and is not an untruth and is not any kind of moral issue. You say it is a justified lie which is not a moral issue.

I think we're just arguing the same thing having arrived at it from different directions.

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arse

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mr cheesy
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Also I was thinking about that gospel story where Jesus answers about "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's".

If I recall correctly, the question asked was about paying tax.

Would you say that Christ was deliberately lying here? He didn't answer the question directly - he answered a question with a proverb.

I think the gospels even say it was a trap to see if he would either offend the religious or declare himself a zealot.

I say not a lie - he saw through the ruse and refused to co-operate. He answered the question behind the question that they were asking and turned it around into a condemnation of their own thoughts.

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arse

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:

The problem is the bullshit one-liner from the Ten Commandments.

The 'bullshit one-liner' in the Ten Commandments is 'thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour' in both Exodus and Deuteronomy.

OK, I've generally seen that in the tl;dr version of "though shalt not lie". Checking Wikipedia, the context seems to mostly about not doing harm, and I'm cool with that.
The part I still think is rubbish is the super-injunction against doing so whilst swearing to God.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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mousethief

Ship's Thieving Rodent
# 953

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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
It's better to say that, in exceptional circumstances, sometimes it's right to lie, rather than try to argue that there's a category of deliberately untrue and deceptive statements that aren't lies because we approve of them.

You tell the lie and go to confession and say, "I told a lie" and put it out of your mind.

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“Religion doesn't fuck up people, people fuck up religion.”—lilBuddha

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Dafyd
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# 5549

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quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
I think this is more or less what my Thomistic Ethics professor was getting at when he quoted some philosopher(can't recall whom) as defining a lie as "withholding the truth from someone who deserves the truth".

An essay by Alasdair MacIntyre cites Benjamin Constant as someone who held such a position.

MacIntyre distinguishes between two reasons for thinking lying wrong which have been advanced is the history of ethics.
One is to that lies destroy trust, and the other is that lies are untrue. The first tradition says that lies are wrong because human society and human cooperation depend upon trust and lies destroy that trust. The second tradition says that lies are wrong because they offend against the rule of reason that one should mean what one says or the Kantian argument that liars depend upon a maxim of truth-telling in order to be believed.(*)

The two traditions coincide at the most rigourous end, but diverge when they're a little less rigourous. The first tradition doesn't distinguish between lies and other forms of deception, since both involve breaches of trust: both may be justified if they conflict with a more important moral commitment. The second tradition does distinguish between lying (which is usually absolutely forbidden) and saying what is true but misleading (which may be justified).

MacIntyre incidentally thinks we can learn from both traditions, though he comes down more on the side of the first.

(*) Compare two reasons for the wrongness of breaking promises: one says that society depends upon people keeping promises and therefore breaking promises damages society; the other that it is an essential part of the concept of making promises that it is wrong to break them.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Enoch
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# 14322

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I am sure some shipmates will tell me I don't understand ethics, but:-

1. First, there's a difference between the duty to tell the truth when one is acting off one's own bat, one's own initiative, in furtherance of one's own goals, where it's difficult if not impossible to conceive of an exception, and where the obligation to answer is being imposed by someone else. In that situation, the status and circumstances of the person imposing the question has a bearing.

2. We're talking of bearing false witness. So bringing a case founded on a lie is particularly heinous.

3. Legitimacy is not binary. It is cumulative. It also depends on the person relying on it as well as the victim. Even a usurper has some legitimacy in keeping the peace in accordance with natural law, e.g. preventing murder, theft etc, but not in breaking natural law.

4. I realise some people don't approve of natural law but that's largely because they object to the way it's sometimes pleaded in arguments about dead horses. But IMHO, even though imprecise, it's a vital and necessary idea. Things that are wrong under natural law are different from things that are only illegal because somebody backed by force has the power to make them so.

5. Legitimate or not, no authority has legitimacy when it's rounding Jews or anyone else up to exterminate them.

5. Besides, what about Shiphrah and Puah at Exodus 1:15-21 . Because they feared God, he gave them families of their own.

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Brexit wrexit - Sir Graham Watson

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Ricardus
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# 8757

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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
The part I still think is rubbish is the super-injunction against doing so whilst swearing to God.

If you're referring to lying on oath, I don't think that is entirely Biblical either. The Bible is quite clear that oathbreaking is bad, and I suppose lying on oath is a subset of oathbreaking, but I don't think it's one that's specifically discussed*.

AIUI, the point of an oath is that in a fragmented and unstable society, the local lord can cause chaos by breaking his word without any real adverse consequences to himself, but at the same time, any kind of collaboration becomes impossible if no-one can trust the other party to keep their word. Hence, maximising the social opprobrium that comes from breaking your word - hence the near-magical status of oaths.

In the Medieval period at least there were still caveats - e.g. an oath under duress didn't count. (So little French schoolchildren are taught that Harold Godwinson pledged to support William of Normandy take the throne of England, whereas little English schoolchildren are taught that the oath was given under duress when he was William's prisoner.) And likewise, though the story of Jephthah has minimal moral commentary in the book of Judges, Medieval commentators seem to have thought that Jephthah sinned both in swearing the oath and in keeping it - IOW, if you swore to do something immoral you were morally obliged to break your oath. So, in terms of the OP, even if you swore an oath to the Nazis to tell them the truth, you would not necessarily be obliged to keep it, either because the Nazis were exercising force majeure or because the Nazis were evil.


* There is Jesus' line about 'Let your Yes be Yes' - to my mind the most natural reading is that we shouldn't swear oaths at all, but that seems to be a reading shared by very few Christians.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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Martin60
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# 368

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How about living a quiet life, avoiding suicidal confrontation with the state for yourself and those you love, the powers that be, SCIS, whoever, fitting in with the trappings of the beast, offering a pinch of incense at the market gate, having a henna tattoo to get to work? Is that living a lie?

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Love wins

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Ethne Alba
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# 5804

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[tangent alert: for the record, i rather like this type of answer. One that doesn't necessarily use all the right words but absolutely Does paint a vital picture....end of tangent] [Biased]

[ 05. February 2017, 12:04: Message edited by: Ethne Alba ]

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Enoch
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# 14322

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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
... And likewise, though the story of Jephthah has minimal moral commentary in the book of Judges, Medieval commentators seem to have thought that Jephthah sinned both in swearing the oath and in keeping it - IOW, if you swore to do something immoral you were morally obliged to break your oath. So, in terms of the OP, even if you swore an oath to the Nazis to tell them the truth, you would not necessarily be obliged to keep it, either because the Nazis were exercising force majeure or because the Nazis were evil.

That's really interesting. Do you happen to know which commentators?
quote:
* There is Jesus' line about 'Let your Yes be Yes' - to my mind the most natural reading is that we shouldn't swear oaths at all, but that seems to be a reading shared by very few Christians.
Quakers and Moravians take that line. It was enshrined in the Quakers and Moravians Act 1838, but I think goes back further. It has always struck me as both difficult to argue that they are wrong, and rather ridiculous that we expect people to swear oaths with their hands on a book that tells them not to.

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Brexit wrexit - Sir Graham Watson

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mousethief

Ship's Thieving Rodent
# 953

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How far back does swearing on a bible go? Was it an attempt to avoid letting Catholics "equivocate" so as to avoid the Scylla and Charybdis of perjuring themselves versus giving to the king the allegiance due to the Pope? (or the third rock, death)

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“Religion doesn't fuck up people, people fuck up religion.”—lilBuddha

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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
# 15560

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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
I am sure some shipmates will tell me I don't understand ethics, but:-

1. First, there's a difference between the duty to tell the truth when one is acting off one's own bat, one's own initiative, in furtherance of one's own goals, where it's difficult if not impossible to conceive of an exception, and where the obligation to answer is being imposed by someone else. In that situation, the status and circumstances of the person imposing the question has a bearing.

2. We're talking of bearing false witness. So bringing a case founded on a lie is particularly heinous.

3. Legitimacy is not binary. It is cumulative. It also depends on the person relying on it as well as the victim. Even a usurper has some legitimacy in keeping the peace in accordance with natural law, e.g. preventing murder, theft etc, but not in breaking natural law.

4. I realise some people don't approve of natural law but that's largely because they object to the way it's sometimes pleaded in arguments about dead horses. But IMHO, even though imprecise, it's a vital and necessary idea. Things that are wrong under natural law are different from things that are only illegal because somebody backed by force has the power to make them so.

5. Legitimate or not, no authority has legitimacy when it's rounding Jews or anyone else up to exterminate them.

5. Besides, what about Shiphrah and Puah at Exodus 1:15-21 . Because they feared God, he gave them families of their own.

Not pretending to understand all of what you've posted, but I agree that we are not obligated to give true answers or answers at all in some circumstances. (yes, courts can compel answers under threats to the person both about truth and the obligation to speak)

I'm thinking of the question to a young person "was it you", in the situation of "whose tits are in the instagram photo that's making the rounds". The young person would be well to lie directly that it was not, because even an attempt to not answer the question directly would be interpreted as a yes. And then the inevitable cyber and RL bullying begins and pretty soon there are stitches on wrists and sedating medications.

Some questions would appear to be illegitimate and some askers have no rights to any sort of answer.

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Erroneous Monk
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# 10858

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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:


I can, for example, be genuinely motivated by a loving desire not to cause pain if I deny some past adultery - indeed that is a very common motivation. But I think that the universal judgment would be that a person who misrepresents the truth in that way is still lying.

It's better to say that, in exceptional circumstances, sometimes it's right to lie, rather than try to argue that there's a category of deliberately untrue and deceptive statements that aren't lies because we approve of them.

To this, what Mousethief said.

But also, the adulterer/ss who lies about infidelity because they have a firm purpose of amendment and a sincere intention of reconciling with their spouse is reducing the harm done by their sin. In the same way, it is not "more sinful" to wear a condom if committing adultery, than to have unprotected sex.

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And I shot a man in Tesco, just to watch him die.

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Martin60
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# 368

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If you never do unprotected sex, then having a condom in your wallet facilitates adultery. Not telling your partner that you're a lying treacherous cheat to protect them from that fact is no protection at all. Apart from of yourself and your self deception.

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Love wins

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Ricardus
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# 8757

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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
That's really interesting. Do you happen to know which commentators?

Having poked about, it is a little less monolithic than I implied, but here is St Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae, quoting St Jerome:
quote:
Certain things are good, whatever be their result; such are acts of virtue, and these can be, absolutely speaking, the matter of a vow: some are evil, whatever their result may be; as those things which are sins in themselves, and these can nowise be the matter of a vow: while some, considered in themselves, are good, and as such may be the matter of a vow, yet they may have an evil result, in which case the vow must not be kept. It was thus with the vow of Jephte, who as related in Judges 11:30-31, "made a vow to the Lord, saying: If Thou wilt deliver the children of Ammon into my hands, whosoever shall first come forth out of the doors of my house, and shall meet me when I return in peace . . . the same will I offer a holocaust to the Lord." For this could have an evil result if, as indeed happened, he were to be met by some animal which it would be unlawful to sacrifice, such as an ass or a human being. Hence Jerome says [Implicitly 1 Contra Jovin.: Comment. in Micheam vi, viii: Comment. in Jerem. vii. The quotation is from Peter Comestor, Hist. Scholast.]: "In vowing he was foolish, through lack of discretion, and in keeping his vow he was wicked."
St Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy:
quote:
It is also sometimes contrary to duty to keep a promise, or fulfil an oath. As was the case with Herod, who swore that whatever was asked he would give to the daughter of Herodias, and so allowed the death of John, that he might not break his word.
I believe Martin Luther used this sort of argument to dispense himself of his monastic vows.

Shakespeare in Henry VI Part 3 has Clarence say "Perhaps thou wilt object my holy oath./ To keep that oath were more impiety/ Than Jephtha when he sacrificed his daughter", so it was presumably seen as self-evidently wrong in the Renaissance.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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