The State of Perpetual Veracity
Is it morally wrong to disregard veracity in the interest of someone’s well-being or happiness? Is it appropriate to enact benevolent lies to prevent avoidable pain? The clear answer to these questions is no. Immanuel Kant suggests that truthfulness is a perfect duty, or a duty that we must always abide by no matter what the circumstances. Lying is morally wrong in all situations regardless of benevolent intentions, however, there are circumstances in which a person may lie without his integrity being questioned, a situation that will be addressed further below. The unavoidable truth, however, is that an uncorrupted and moral person should always practice veracity. It coincides with our innate desire for the virtue of truthfulness in our own lives, and dishonesty violates a person’s respect and his intrinsic right to autonomy. The first and most important reason for always being truthful is expounded on by Charles Fried in his essay The Evil of Lying. He states, “The lie is an injury because it produces an effect (or seeks to) which a person as a moral agent should not wish to have produced in him.”1 Fried suggests that there must be a correlation between rights and duties similar to the biblical Golden Rule, “So whatever you wish that others do to you, do to them also.”2 This suggests a virtue ethics approach to veracity: always tell the truth because you would not want to be lied to, and because it is morally upright to do so. A person is arguably unable to lie to himself partly because he cannot agree to intentionally harm himself. Knowing this it follows that lying to someone other than one’s self is wrong. Because the liar desires the right to not be lied to, even lied to by himself, he cannot ignore his corresponding duty to be truthful to others. In addition, truth cannot be owned by a person, therefore taking it for himself and away from another is an act of theft. Theft is inarguably immoral, so it follows...
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