Chapter

Honesty as a Virtue

Thomas L. Carson

in Lying and Deception

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199577415
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722813 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199577415.003.0015
Honesty as a Virtue

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Honesty is generally regarded as a cardinal virtue. In order to assess this conventional wisdom the chapter examines the arguments of several dissenters who reject it. Some argue that as lying and deception are frequently justified in certain spheres of life/activity, honesty is not a virtue (in those spheres). We need to distinguish between what, for lack of better terms, this chapter calls “honesty in a negative sense” (having a strong principled disinclination to tell lies or deceive others) and “honesty in a positive sense,” which (in addition to involving being disinclined to tell lies or deceive others) involves being candid, open, and willing to reveal information. The chapter argues that honesty in the negative sense (or something that closely resembles it) is a cardinal virtue in ordinary circumstances, but often honesty in the positive sense is not a virtue. The chapter also identifies spheres of activity in which candor and openness are virtues.

Keywords: honesty; two senses of honesty; candor openness; non‐deception; honesty as a virtue; honesty and privacy; honesty and conflict

Chapter.  4784 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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