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Post 20

Friday, July 21, 2006 - 12:27pmSanction this postReply
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Peter:

Maybe you can briefly outline some of the points that you found particularly important?

Bob

(Edited by Mr Bob Mac on 7/21, 12:27pm)




Post 21

Friday, July 21, 2006 - 12:34pmSanction this postReply
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Bob Mac wrote:

To me, Rand's connection of honesty to one's self interest is far too weak, and I just do not buy this connection. I do not have a quote handy but IIRC, she defended honesty mainly on the basis that dishonesty was inherently damaging to oneself. Well, sometimes it is and sometimes it's not. It is too often not for her argument to hold up. Her argurment never touched solid ground on this one.


Bob I don't agree with your assessment at all. Dishonesty is not the best policy. I think this abstraction is concretized enough in reality to show this true. Have you heard of "prisoner's dilemma" and are you aware of game theory? When two people cooperate, which requires honesty, both benefit.

Otherwise I would ask you concretize this statement: "...dishonesty was inherently damaging to oneself. Well, sometimes it is and sometimes it's not. It is too often not..."

How did you come to the conclusion dishonesty too often is not damaging to one self?



Post 22

Friday, July 21, 2006 - 12:46pmSanction this postReply
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John,

First of all, I did not say, nor do I believe at all that dishonesty is the best policy - no way.  I am contending that there are too many situations where dishonesty is in one's interest, however small the actual portion this represents.

"How did you come to the conclusion dishonesty too often is not damaging to one self?'

Next time your SO asks "Do these jeans make me look fat?", tell the truth then report back.  But seriously...

Another example is the number of "white" lies people tell is so enormous that it is not logical to conclude that this is damaging.  The more logical explanation is that these lies are basicaly necessary in many social situations - they are social "lubricant".  That's just the tip of the iceberg though, there's many more situations I could think of - and that's the problem.

Bob 





Post 23

Friday, July 21, 2006 - 12:53pmSanction this postReply
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I haven't read the article since shortly after it came out.  The best brief account of Smith's argument is Rand's, here and there in Galt's radio speech (not much of an answer, but all I can think of at the moment).  They both point out that dishonesty is an attempt to get around immutable facts.  Our need to live in the real world, with those facts, takes in a larger part of our life than the short-term gains of being dishonest and thus a priority over those gains, so this is always a net loser.  One difference in Smith's version is that she takes up objections in detail.

I haven't read her Viable Values (does he ever read anything?), but the reviews said she did a good job of this there, too.

Peter




Post 24

Friday, July 21, 2006 - 4:31pmSanction this postReply
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I'm enjoying where this conversation has gone, but currently I have nothing more constructive to contribute.  I did appreciate your post Stephen, I thought you were just looking for a fight, so I'm glad you didn't take my sarcasm seriously.  I have some further ideas and questions, but I'll save it for another thread.



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Post 25

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - 9:01pmSanction this postReply
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Next time your SO asks "Do these jeans make me look fat?", tell the truth then report back. But seriously...
If it's your significant other, and she asks you for your honest opinion, then I think you owe her the truth. If the jeans make her look fat, say so! If you lie to her, she's going to come away with a mistaken impression of what you really think, which is especially bad, if you are romantically involved with her or even just a close personal friend. If she can't trust you, her SO, to be honest with her about something that trivial, then what can she expect from you when it comes to something much more serious? If you asked her, how does this suit look on me?, would you want her to lie to you "as a social lubricant"? I don't think so!
Another example is the number of "white" lies people tell is so enormous that it is not logical to conclude that this is damaging.
Why not? The amount of infidelity in the world is enormous too, but that doesn't mean that it's not damaging.
The more logical explanation is that these lies are basically necessary in many social situations - they are social "lubricant".
There are ways to communicate a negative truth without being brutally frank. You don't have to lie. Of course, if someone has no right to the truth and the only way to avoid conveying the information by implication is to lie, then you have a right to lie in order protect your confidentiality. For example, suppose you worked for the FBI, and someone were to ask you if you did, you may not want to say, "That's none of your business," because it could arouse unwarranted suspicions, so you'd be perfectly justified in lying in that case. This would not constitute a breach of honesty, because the person has no right to the information. The same with lying to protect yourself from physical harm.
That's just the tip of the iceberg though, there's many more situations I could think of - and that's the problem.
Well, let's hear them. Maybe they fall under the category of confidentiality or self-defense. Peikoff says that if a secretary lies to a caller that her boss is not in when he's right there in the office but does not want to talk to the caller, it's not really a breach of honesty, because it is understood that the caller cannot expect a frank response in that situation. I'm not sure I agree. Why couldn't the secretary simply say that her boss is not taking calls at the moment or is not currently available?

- Bill
(Edited by William Dwyer
on 7/26, 8:36am)




Post 26

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - 9:17pmSanction this postReply
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Extremely good points, Bill.

Ed



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Post 27

Thursday, July 27, 2006 - 1:47pmSanction this postReply
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Bill Wrote:

The amount of infidelity in the world is enormous too, but that doesn't mean that it's not damaging.
Well, I don't think it makes any sense to compare small, relatively meaningless lies to a huge one like this.

But that's not really important to my main point.  I was just objecting to the "honesty always" idea.  You, in fact, illustrated my point very well with your example of when it makes sense to not tell the truth.

if someone has no right to the truth
I agree with this one.  But...

This would not constitute a breach of honesty, because the person has no right to the information.
No no no, you can't willy-nilly redefine what honesty is to suit your purpose.  It is simply acceptable to lie in this case or it is not.  The definition of honesty and truth remains constant. 


The Peikoff remark is remarkably stupid.

it's not really a breach of honesty, because it is understood that the caller cannot expect a frank response in that situation.
Really dumb statement.  I'm not implying you agree because you made it clear you weren't sure.  I'm sure.  I'm sure it's pure nonsense.

Well, let's hear them. Maybe they fall under the category of confidentiality or self-defense.
I don't think we need more examples, you did a fine job yourself illustrating my point, but it's irrelevant which "category" they fall under - that's beside the point.  The only point is that it makes sense to lie sometimes and you agreed and gave examples.

Bob




Post 28

Thursday, July 27, 2006 - 4:15pmSanction this postReply
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if someone has no right to the truth
I agree with this one.  But...


This would not constitute a breach of honesty, because the person has no right to the information.
No no no, you can't willy-nilly redefine what honesty is to suit your purpose.  It is simply acceptable to lie in this case or it is not.  The definition of honesty and truth remains constant. 


Context, context, context - and it seems this is being avoided here at all cost......




Post 29

Thursday, July 27, 2006 - 4:26pmSanction this postReply
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Bob Mac wrote,
Another example is the number of "white" lies people tell is so enormous that it is not logical to conclude that this is damaging.
I replied, "Why not? The amount of infidelity in the world is enormous too, but that doesn't mean that it's not damaging." Bob replied,
Well, I don't think it makes any sense to compare small, relatively meaningless lies to a huge one like this.
I agree; I was simply challenging the validity of your argument. You argued that it isn't logical to conclude that white lies are damaging, because the number is so enormous, implying that the enormity of an action's frequency is proof that isn't damaging. The point of my rejoinder was that if that were true, then infidelity wouldn't be damaging, because it happens so frequently. In other words, I was arguing that your conclusion is a non-sequitur. In fact, I think that white lies can be damaging, insofar as they undermine trust where it can legitimately be expected. If you can't trust your SO to give you her honest opinion about relatively trivial matters, then how can you trust her to do so on more important issues?

I wrote that lying to people who have no right to the information in order to protect its confidentiality "would not constitute a breach of honesty, because the person has no right to the information." Bob replied,
No no no, you can't willy-nilly redefine what honesty is to suit your purpose. It is simply acceptable to lie in this case or it is not. The definition of honesty and truth remains constant.
I can see that I should have been clearer. I was referring to the breach of an appropriate principle of honesty -- to a breach of honesty where honesty can legitimately be expected.

I mentioned Peikoff's position that lying to a caller about your boss's unwillingness to talk to him is not really a breach of honesty, because it is understood that the caller cannot expect a frank response. Bob called Peikoff's view "remarkably stupid," a "really dumb statement" and "pure nonsense." Again, it is important to understand that what Peikoff is referring to is an appropriate principle of honesty -- a breach of honesty where honesty can legitimately be expected. Given that understanding, I certainly wouldn't characterize his position the way you have, even though I'm still not sure it's correct. What I'm unsure about is not that it condones a lie -- of course, it does -- but that it is consistent with an appropriate principle of honesty. An appropriate principle of honesty does not say that you should never lie -- that you should never be dishonest under any circumstances; it says that you should never lie to someone who deserves to be told the truth. I'm not sure that the caller doesn't deserve to be told the truth in this case. Do you think that he does, Bob, or do you agree with Peikoff that he does not?

I think you may have been laboring under the misconception that when Rand advocates "honesty" as a moral principle, she is saying that one should never tell a lie under any circumstances. This is absolutely not her position. Why then does she call her principle "honesty," you ask? Well, what else is she going to call it? There's no other term that's appropriate. I don't think very many people who believe in being "honest" would say that one should NEVER tell a lie, not even to save one's child from being murdered. What people typically mean by the virtue of honesty is honesty under the appropriate circumstances. To be sure, these need to be spelled out, but that doesn't mean that "the virtue of honesty" cannot be used to refer to such a principle, appropriately qualified.

- Bill




Post 30

Friday, July 28, 2006 - 5:11amSanction this postReply
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Robert wrote:

 Context, context, context - and it seems this is being avoided here at all cost......

What?! This makes no sense at all. Did you even read the posts?  Bill and I basically agree that there are situations where a breach of honesty can reasonably be expected.

What I objected to was avoiding calling it a breach of honesty, because that has very large implications.

"This would not constitute a breach of honesty,"
 
This is a problem, which Bill later clarified/modified, and is not avoiding your precious "context" at all. 

Bob




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