Southern Africa Travel - Sissela Bok Lying Essay
If you use different software or need something slower, look for alternatives on the WebMedia page.) (Posted 4/24/06) "Whenever it is right to resist an assault by force, it must then be allowable to do so by guile." So says Sissela Bok in Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life, and most ethicists would likely agree.
Lying, by Sissela Bok - Commentary Magazine
Here is the case that Sissela Bok makes for the Principle of Veracity – a principle asserting a very strong moral presumption against lying. What, she asks you, would it be like to live in a world in which truth-telling was not the common practice? In such a world, you could never trust anything you were told or anything you read. You would have to find out everything for yourself, first-hand. You would have to invest enormous amounts of your time to find out the simplest matters. In fact, you probably couldn’t even find out the simplest matters: in a world without trust, you could never acquire the education you need to find out anything for yourself, since such an education depends upon your taking the word of what you read in your lesson books. A moment’s reflection of this sort, says Bok, makes it crystal clear that you benefit enormously by living in a world in which a great deal of trust exists – a world in which the practice of truth-telling is widespread. All the important things you want to do in life are made possible by pervasive trust.
Now, what gets you from the fact that a system of truth-telling benefits you personally to the further fact of subscribing to a moral principle against lying? The answer: a simple egalitarianism. You can’t see any reason why you are special, why you are different from all the rest of mankind. Yet you have to view yourself as different if you think a different rule applies to you than applies to everybody else. In wanting there to be a system of truth-telling and in wanting also to lie whenever it benefits you, you want to make an exception for yourself. However, if you are unwilling to make an exception of yourself, unwilling to believe you are more special than everybody else, then Sissela Bok supplies you all the argument you need to see why you should adhere to the Principle of Veracity: telling the truth is just your doing your part to uphold the practice you benefit from.