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| | |-+  Is it moral/appropriate to tell a lie to save a person's life?
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Author Topic: Is it moral/appropriate to tell a lie to save a person's life?  (Read 3247 times)
Bacon King
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« on: October 07, 2008, 12:11:08 pm »
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What do you think?
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« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2008, 12:20:15 pm »
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Who told you it was immoral? Tell me their whereabouts so that I may track them down and kill them. We'll see what they have to say then.
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Keystone Phil
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« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2008, 12:54:35 pm »
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Lying isn't "moral" but it is certainly justified/appropriate in this (and many other) circumstance.
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« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2008, 02:24:44 pm »
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I think if it saves the live of another it is your moral obligation to lie.
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IDS Judicial Overlord John Dibble
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« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2008, 03:11:16 pm »
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Lying to save an innocent person's life has been found moral by most reasonable people throughout history. Take for instance those who hid the Jewish in their homes from the Nazis - it's not like they would say "Why yes, I am hiding some Jews behind that bookcase, would you care to arrest them?" when asked about it, and most would consider them paragons of virtue for taking such a risk.

Though, to play devil's advocate, I doubt the Nazi's would think it was very moral. Wink
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Keystone Phil
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« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2008, 03:52:00 pm »
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Lying to save an innocent person's life has been found moral by most reasonable people throughout history. Take for instance those who hid the Jewish in their homes from the Nazis - it's not like they would say "Why yes, I am hiding some Jews behind that bookcase, would you care to arrest them?" when asked about it, and most would consider them paragons of virtue for taking such a risk.

Yes, that's the example we all use but I don't think that makes lying moral. In that case, it's amoral but certainly the appropriate thing to do.
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« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2008, 05:56:45 pm »
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It kind of reminds me of Jesus healing the man with the shriveled hand (Mark chapter 3).

Quote from: Mark 3:1 - 6
Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone."

Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

Sometimes we can get so focused on the legalism and the law, that we forget that God's primary interest is people.

Matthew chapter 12 details this event also:

Quote from: Matthew 12:1 - 14
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath."

He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"

He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

Your question kind of reminds me of the question they were asking (although they weren't asking it to prompt discussion or debate, they were asking it to condemn Jesus). "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"... "Is it lawful to tell a lie to save a person's life?"

God looks at our hearts and our motivation. If the reason we're lying is to deceive for selfish gain, then there is nothing moral about that but God expects us to do what is right - to save life when possible.

Actually, the more interesting question from my perspective is more in the practical application of this - if God is more interested in saving life, under what circumstances would it therefore be ethical/moral to lie? I'm not attempting to turn this into a debate about the death penalty or abortion, but for example, if someone were a witness in a trial for a capital crime, should they lie to save the life of the accused? Should someone strongly pro-life lie about abortion to save the life of the unborn? I don't want to hijack the debate here and turn this into a debate about either of those issues, so if you want to mention either of those circumstances, don't attack the premise of the life argument, merely whether or not someone who believes life begins at conception would be obligated to lie - not whether their views on the commencement of life are valid. Personally, I don't think that in either set of circumstances, someone would be justified to lie.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2008, 06:13:36 pm by Smid »Logged
IDS Judicial Overlord John Dibble
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« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2008, 06:10:52 pm »
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Lying to save an innocent person's life has been found moral by most reasonable people throughout history. Take for instance those who hid the Jewish in their homes from the Nazis - it's not like they would say "Why yes, I am hiding some Jews behind that bookcase, would you care to arrest them?" when asked about it, and most would consider them paragons of virtue for taking such a risk.

Yes, that's the example we all use but I don't think that makes lying moral. In that case, it's amoral but certainly the appropriate thing to do.

Nobody ever asked if lying is moral, the question was whether lying to save someone was moral. Deceit is just one of the various tools we have available to us. You are correct in asserting that the tool itself has no moral value. It's how it is used that matters. The action of lying in order to save an innocent is viewed as a "moral action" because it has an intended "moral result".
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« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2008, 08:30:45 pm »
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Lying to save an innocent person's life has been found moral by most reasonable people throughout history. Take for instance those who hid the Jewish in their homes from the Nazis - it's not like they would say "Why yes, I am hiding some Jews behind that bookcase, would you care to arrest them?" when asked about it, and most would consider them paragons of virtue for taking such a risk.

Yes, that's the example we all use but I don't think that makes lying moral. In that case, it's amoral but certainly the appropriate thing to do.

Nobody ever asked if lying is moral, the question was whether lying to save someone was moral. Deceit is just one of the various tools we have available to us. You are correct in asserting that the tool itself has no moral value. It's how it is used that matters. The action of lying in order to save an innocent is viewed as a "moral action" because it has an intended "moral result".

The question centers around whether or not the act of lying becomes moral because of this situation. I don't believe the act of lying is ever "moral." I believe it is most certainly appropriate/justified.
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« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2008, 09:01:33 pm »
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     Assuming that the society that said person is a member of considers lying to save a person's life moral, yes.
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IDS Judicial Overlord John Dibble
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« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2008, 06:19:02 am »
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Lying to save an innocent person's life has been found moral by most reasonable people throughout history. Take for instance those who hid the Jewish in their homes from the Nazis - it's not like they would say "Why yes, I am hiding some Jews behind that bookcase, would you care to arrest them?" when asked about it, and most would consider them paragons of virtue for taking such a risk.

Yes, that's the example we all use but I don't think that makes lying moral. In that case, it's amoral but certainly the appropriate thing to do.

Nobody ever asked if lying is moral, the question was whether lying to save someone was moral. Deceit is just one of the various tools we have available to us. You are correct in asserting that the tool itself has no moral value. It's how it is used that matters. The action of lying in order to save an innocent is viewed as a "moral action" because it has an intended "moral result".

The question centers around whether or not the act of lying becomes moral because of this situation. I don't believe the act of lying is ever "moral." I believe it is most certainly appropriate/justified.

Then I ask you how can any action be considered moral? Is there any single action that can only be used for moral intentions?
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Keystone Phil
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« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2008, 01:20:26 pm »
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Lying to save an innocent person's life has been found moral by most reasonable people throughout history. Take for instance those who hid the Jewish in their homes from the Nazis - it's not like they would say "Why yes, I am hiding some Jews behind that bookcase, would you care to arrest them?" when asked about it, and most would consider them paragons of virtue for taking such a risk.

Yes, that's the example we all use but I don't think that makes lying moral. In that case, it's amoral but certainly the appropriate thing to do.

Nobody ever asked if lying is moral, the question was whether lying to save someone was moral. Deceit is just one of the various tools we have available to us. You are correct in asserting that the tool itself has no moral value. It's how it is used that matters. The action of lying in order to save an innocent is viewed as a "moral action" because it has an intended "moral result".

The question centers around whether or not the act of lying becomes moral because of this situation. I don't believe the act of lying is ever "moral." I believe it is most certainly appropriate/justified.

Then I ask you how can any action be considered moral? Is there any single action that can only be used for moral intentions?

I'm simply saying that just because something can be used for the greater good doesn't make that act good.
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« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2008, 01:32:45 pm »
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I'm simply saying that just because something can be used for the greater good doesn't make that act good.

Well, when you speak of something being done for the "greater good" you can generally assume that there's some negatives in there. That makes the action somewhere in the grey area. In that sense I agree with you.

On the other hand with a simple lie to save someone's life, I would think that most imagine a scenario where nobody is harmed by the lie, in which case there's no grey to think about.
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« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2008, 01:39:36 pm »
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On the other hand with a simple lie to save someone's life, I would think that most imagine a scenario where nobody is harmed by the lie, in which case there's no grey to think about.

But this is where our moral viewpoints collide - You think that as long as no one is "harmed" by something then it is fine. Then we argue over what it means to be "harmed." Not worth our time to get into all of that.  Wink
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« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2008, 09:54:15 pm »
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My old Ethics teacher would have said no but of course any normal would do this, if they cared about the person at all anyway.
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« Reply #15 on: October 09, 2008, 10:44:54 pm »
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My old Ethics teacher would have said no but of course any normal would do this, if they cared about the person at all anyway.

Saying that lying isn't moral doesn't mean doing this is immoral. Doing this would absolutely be the right thing to do but that doesn't make it "moral."
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« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2008, 01:38:22 am »
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My old Ethics teacher would have said no but of course any normal would do this, if they cared about the person at all anyway.

Saying that lying isn't moral doesn't mean doing this is immoral. Doing this would absolutely be the right thing to do but that doesn't make it "moral."

Depends on how you define "morality".
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« Reply #17 on: October 19, 2008, 05:25:05 pm »

Kant would say no.

I lean towards yes though. I never really thought the Kantian scenario with the axe murderer made much sense.
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« Reply #18 on: October 19, 2008, 07:55:37 pm »
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Yes.  Life trumps all other commandments.
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« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2008, 02:21:44 pm »
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Kant would say no.

I lean towards yes though. I never really thought the Kantian scenario with the axe murderer made much sense.

Aye, that was actually the inspiration for this thread.
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« Reply #20 on: October 20, 2008, 07:15:05 pm »
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Of course.
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« Reply #21 on: October 20, 2008, 09:25:03 pm »
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Wasn't Kant's scenario that the person you'd be lying for might have decided to change hiding spaces, and that, by lying, you'd lead the murderer right to him?  (It's been two years since I was forced to slog through Kant, and I didn't pay much attention when I did)
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« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2008, 01:26:36 pm »
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Broadly yes. Would depend on exact circumstances though. As all of these "moral dilemmas" do.
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I may conceivably reconsider.

Knowing me it's more likely than not.
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