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  1. #1
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    Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    I was raised in a Catholic family and went to Catholic schools and was taught by nuns that lying was a sin. To me and my fellow Catholic kids lying was the most serious sin we could imagine. We were taught that we had to “examine our conscience” before confession and to tell the priest of our sins in the confessional.

    How does a kid tell the difference between a “white lie” and a “sin lie” or any of the other forms of “lies” that we saw adults indulge in? Surly Mom and Dad did not lie! It was all a great puzzlement!

    The nuns taught us all about moral concepts; of course, they did not use such big words. I have later learned that the nuns taught us in accordance with a classical, also called objectivist, theory of categorical structure.

    “According to the classical or objectivist theory of categorical structure, there must be a set of necessary and sufficient conditions the possession of which alone makes a speech act a lie…As a Moral Law theorist and an absolutist, Alan Donagan defines the essential features of a lie as “any free linguistic utterance expressing something contrary to the speaker’s mind”.”

    Linda Coleman and Paul Kay have discovered facts that indicate that “the category of lie exhibits prototype effects; that is, there are certain central instances of speech acts that speakers easily and noncontroversial recognize as lies.”

    What are these prototype effects that Coleman and Kay speak of?

    Lie is a concept that displays a core structure surrounded by a “fuzzy” penumbra (fringe) of less clear-cut cases about which the speaker may be justifiably unsure as to their moral objectionability: such a penumbra might contain such things as mistakes, jokes, exaggerations, white lies, social lies, and over simplifications.

    Coleman and Kay found that these core cases that everyone could easily agree upon as being lies, i.e. those prototypical cases of clear-cut lies, fulfilled all three of the following conditions: 1) the speaker is confident that the statement is erroneous, 2) the speaker is intent upon deceiving the listener, and 3) the statement is in fact erroneous.

    The less prototypical instances of lying fulfilled one or two conditions but not all three. Furthermore, tests were run and it was discovered that subjects typically rated the conditions in order of “importance”: 1) being most important and 3) being the least important. Subjects seemed to agree on the relative weights given to the individual elements.

    We see here that lie does not follow the classical objectivist strict categorization. A fixed set of essential conditions do not exist and there is considerable internal structure to the concept that are of a great deal of importance in determining whether a statement qualifies as a lie or not.

    Quotes from Moral Imagination by Mark Johnson

  2. #2
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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    NO no no no
    I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck. ~Emma Goldman

  3. #3
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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    Quote Originally Posted by peregrine View Post
    NO no no no
    HEE HEE HEE!....LIAR!:

  4. #4
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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    Of course, you have the classic situation: if you're living in Germany during the 1930s, and you're hiding jews in your basement, and the Gestapo come around and ask you if you are hiding jews, do you tell them the truth?

    It seems this would involve a situation in which your conscience is in conflict with the prevailing authority system, and will most certainly cause your own death if you are caught.

    You could tell the truth and preserve your own existence, but you would cause the death of innocent people.

    From an authority perspective, it was legally concluded a few centuries ago that a person could not accuse himself. That is, if he is the one being accused, he cannot be forced into a situation in which his own safety/security is threatened, because the tendency will be to lie in order to save himself.

    During the Spanish Inquisitions, Pope Innocent III sought to overcome this tendency to lie by placing the accused under an oath to God. If he lied, he might escape in this life, but he was doomed to burn in hell later. If he told the truth, after swearing to tell the truth, his interrogator could ask a question designed to force him into an impossible conflict, so that he was "damned if he did, and damned if he didn't".

    The result of the oath is that it incriminated him no matter what he said. Under oath, to escape death, the accused might be willing to accuse someone else. It worked to control the populace quite well, using their conscience against them.

    OTOH, does your conscience tell you right from wrong? Is there some formula that exists in your brain by which you can know without doubt you are doing the right thing?

    Suppose you live in an ancient authority system that believes it is necessary for you to sacrifice yourself to the crocodile god. If you didn't, you might die, your wife might die, canceling any future children, or your crops would fail, etc.

    Would your conscience bother you if you sacrificed your firstborn, or if you didn't?

    Erich Fromm proposed that conscience is the internalization of external social conditions.

    To the extent you are controlled by these conditions, you are not free, but bound to react "appropriately" to those conditions. You are free to the extent that you can select from alternatives that might not include the strict dictates of social policy.

    Self preservation dictates the necessity of free choice to preserve the self, which means, from a legal standard, that no man can accuse himself. This was actually an ancient law derived from the jewish Talmud that did not permit the acused, even by his own confession, to condemn himself. There had to be two witnesses, and their testimony had to be completely verified, or the accused was free. Then the witnesses had to be the ones to begin the execution.

    This is actually the meaning of our "due process' clause in the US Constitution, but judges tend to favor law over conscience.

  5. #5
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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    The purpose of this OP was to compare the nature of categorization in traditional objectivist thinking and the thinking that is recognized by new cognitive science theories.

    Traditional objectivist, one might call it positivist, thinking considers that the world is made up of things that fit neatly and completely within containers and that these categories express that which is necessary and sufficient for any object that fits into that category.

    SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) has developed revolutionary new theories about the functioning of the mind. SGCS informs us that in many cases categories do not fit neatly into containers. Lying is one such category fits sloppily within containers. There exists fuzzy overlap and difficult things that must be considered.

    All this is to say that if SGCS is correct then we are all very far off base when we think of categories as always fitting neatly within containers.

    One has to read the OP and think about it a bit in order to get the idea. The idea is very important.

  6. #6
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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    Applying any thought to truth will always show that thought, in its mechanical, rational, finite nature, will always fall short of truth in any complete form.

    As Godel's theorem shows, in any consistent axiomatic formulation of number theory, there exists undecideable propositions.

    Alan Turing, Gregory Chaitin, and others, have demonstrated that there are an infinity of undecideable propositions within a consistent axiomatic system of sufficient complexity, such as Rusell and Whitehead's "Principia Mathematica".

    Truth, wrote Dogulas Hofstadter, transcends theoremhood.

    We might also says that truth cannot be contained in one package. It is likely that no one lies in an "absolute" sense. If truth transcends theoremhood, then there would be no way of listing all truths, and if there were, we would still find falsehoods discovered alongside the truths.

    That which tends to perpetuate life seems to be the basic test of valuable truth, and no power has a claim over that process, unless an individual acts to abridge the same self preservation of another.

  7. #7
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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    Quote Originally Posted by phlipper View Post
    HEE HEE HEE!....LIAR!:
    How would you know???????????LOL
    I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck. ~Emma Goldman

  8. #8
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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    so we come down to defining what conscience is!?and that only a conscience that can actually know right from wrong can solve the delimna of your example of lying not fitting neatly in the box!?while the constructed conscience based on known abilities and law cannot!?it is forced into rational thinking!?
    and would the true conscience person automatically be willing to sacrifice themselves in the given situation of the hiding jews!?making them the truly convincing liar!?is this where the idea of faith comes in!?sticking to the feelings of right and wrong!?faith being the personally identified commitment to the death of a feeling that is providing the basis of personal worth!?how many people live in that state of mind constantly!?: :freak3: : : heeh!!....just askn...

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/empathy/
    Last edited by lexx; 03-07-2009 at 08:26 PM.
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  9. #9
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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    The purpose of this OP was to compare the nature of categorization in traditional objectivist thinking and the thinking that is recognized by new cognitive science theories.

    Traditional objectivist, one might call it positivist, thinking considers that the world is made up of things that fit neatly and completely within containers and that these categories express that which is necessary and sufficient for any object that fits into that category.

    SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) has developed revolutionary new theories about the functioning of the mind. SGCS informs us that in many cases categories do not fit neatly into containers. Lying is one such category fits sloppily within containers. There exists fuzzy overlap and difficult things that must be considered.

    All this is to say that if SGCS is correct then we are all very far off base when we think of categories as always fitting neatly within containers.

    One has to read the OP and think about it a bit in order to get the idea. The idea is very important.
    so the whole point of this post was to get the idea across that things dont fit neatly in boxes!?:freak3: :smurf: :spidey: : heeh!!.....just askn...
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  10. #10
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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    While most lying would be considered 'protected speech', would not common decency and artistic license dictate one not yell "Theater!!" in a crowded fire?

  11. #11
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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    The title of this thread is, quote, "Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?", but judging from the body of your post, the question seems to be merely rhetorical, since you proceed to answer your own question with philosophical views of what constitutes a lie, albeit with other people's ideas on the subject, and conclude with what qualifies as a lie without addressing the actual questions in the title.

    However, I will give my own personal views on the 3 Points in the thread title, regardless of the genius Philosophers who may prefer see it their way.

    Is it a Sin? Since I don't believe in any god, or any concept that embraces such a notion, or any of the unprovable theories (this would include all of them) of the existence of a god, I have to dispense with the concept of Sin as merely a human creation to scare the masses into compliance. (That's why they call it the Fear of god). As a Catholic, the nuns and priests must have done a right old number on your head as a kid. Personally, I feel it borders on Child Abuse, but that's for another thread, no doubt.

    Is it Illegal? Under oath in a court of law, strictly speaking, it would be an illegal act, considered perjury.

    Is it Immoral (Unethical)? That would depend very much on the circumstances. If the lie is for selfish purposes, for example, to purely benefit the liar (i.e. to get away with robbery or murder or such), then it is probably immoral/unethical. If the lie is uttered on moral or ethical grounds (usually referred to as a white lie, etc.) for the unselfish benefit of oneself or someone else, then I do not believe that lie is Immoral or Unethical. Obviously, this particular point is vastly debatable, but that's my short version.

    It does not matter whether the lie is black, white, bare-faced or indifferent - it's whether the intent is to deliberately tell a lie.

    If, as an adult, you honestly don't know the difference between the truth and a lie, you really shouldn't be allowed to wander the streets without a handler.
    Last edited by Old Man River; 03-25-2009 at 01:09 AM.
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  12. #12
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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    The controversy about the category of "lie" is the subject of the post.

    The standard Western traditional view is that a categorization consists of the essential, i.e. necessary and sufficient, conditions for a thing to belong to a category. SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) informs us through a new paradigm that there is much more about categorization than our tradition as prepared us to comprehend; therein lay the rub.

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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    The controversy about the category of "lie" is the subject of the post.

    The standard Western traditional view is that a categorization consists of the essential, i.e. necessary and sufficient, conditions for a thing to belong to a category. SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science) informs us through a new paradigm that there is much more about categorization than our tradition as prepared us to comprehend; therein lay the rub.
    if we just consider the idea of what a lie means to the average person it must always seem to refer to a sense of inequality? whether the sense of inequality is an agreed to 'standardized' sense is where hair pulling starts? :freak3:
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  14. #14
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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Old Man River View Post

    If, as an adult, you honestly don't know the difference between the truth and a lie, you really shouldn't be allowed to wander the streets without a handler.
    astounding but true? is that why the streets are empty of pedestrians? millions of miles of unused/BARELY used sidewalks! an interesting topic,all by itself! :freak3:
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  15. #15
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    Re: Is Lying Immoral (Sinful, Illegal)?

    Quote Originally Posted by lexx View Post
    astounding but true? is that why the streets are empty of pedestrians? millions of miles of unused/BARELY used sidewalks! an interesting topic,all by itself! :freak3:


    I graduated from Oklahoma State University in January of 1959 with a BSEE (Bachelor of Science in Electronic Engineering) and went immediately to work for Hughes Aircraft Corporation in Southern California. In college I took an elective course in Symbolic Logic, this seminal decision was to determine the course of my engineering career and eventually my whole world view because symbolic logic is the heart of computer design.


    In 1960 I attended my first computer conference in San Francisco wherein the great excitement was focused upon the idea of AI (Artificial Intelligence). That is to say, the excitement revolved around the idea that humans could design and build computers that might adequately emulate human intelligence.


    Western society has long been under the assumption that human reason is disembodied and abstract. That is to say, that reasoning is distinct from perception and the body; furthermore reasoning is free from all the mechanisms of imagination, and is considered by many philosophers, psychologists, and others that reasoning fits the model of formal deductive logic:

    “Reason is the mechanical manipulation of abstract symbols which are meaningless in themselves, but can be given meaning by virtue of their capacity to refer to things either in the actual world or in possible states of the world.”


    Because the digital computer works through the process of symbol manipulation it can easily be understood as a partial model of reality. Many have taken to the understanding that the computer is essentially a symbol manipulation machine just like the brain. ‘Mind as computer’ is a commonly accepted metaphor by science as well as the culture in general.


    Our common world view, i.e. our classical view of categories, is that things are categorized on the basis of what they have in common. Dogs and trees belong in their particular category because of essential characteristics of dogginess or treeness that we can through conscious observation determine.


    Such a classical view is not entirely wrong; however, it plays only a small part in our comprehension of our world. “In recent years it has become clear that categorization is far more complex than that. A new theory of categorization, called prototype theory has emerged. It shows that human categorization is based on principles that extend far beyond those envisioned in the classical theory.”


    Quotes from Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind by George Lakoff
    Last edited by coberst; 04-08-2009 at 03:29 AM.

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