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deceit


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The intentional attempt to mislead people. It gives rise to questions of definition (separating it from such neighbours as exaggeration, irony, parody) and to questions of justification. Many moral traditions separate the deliberate lie from the equally deliberate failure to tell the whole truth, it being thought that the former, an act, is worse, other things being equal, than the latter (see acts/omissions doctrine). However, since each may involve the same end and the same strategy of manipulation of other people's opinion and action, the difference is difficult to defend in all cases. The absolutist position on lying is defended by Kant: it is an unconditional duty to tell the truth, come what may. Constant urged against him that we only have a duty to tell the truth to those who have a right to the truth. He and others urge that while in a perfect world there would be no lying, deceit may be justified when one is faced with the evil or the incompetent, or the need for self-defence in the face of injustice, or the need to promote sufficiently important goods. The difficulty is to defend a departure from the absolutist position that does not justify lying for the sake of mere expediency.

Subjects: Philosophy — Zoology and Animal Sciences.


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