In everyday life, people often face moral dilemmas. The choices they make may directly influence their relationships with family, friends, colleagues, or may just play a key role in their everyday matters. Lying is one of the phenomena that people encounter every day; they may lie to others or be lied to. In fact, lying is a moral dilemma that people face most often. Children may lie to parents in order to avoid punishment, friends, and colleagues may lie in order to seem polite, and partners may lie to each other in order to save their relationships. Nevertheless, it may seem obvious that lying creates an illusion in which people are living, which further creates a society without genuine feelings. Lying generates numerous opinions, and there are people who favor and who oppose it. For this essay, two people were interviewed and asked to give their opinions on lying, and whether it can be justifiable. This essay will analyze the opinions provided during the interviews and will define ethical theories that the interviewees used to justify their answers.
The first person interviewed was John, who is a friend of mine. In his opinion, lying cannot be viewed as an entirely wrongful act, since, in some cases, there are good reasons to tell lies. First, lying can help prevent some negative outcomes. When mentioning this, John provided an example, saying that a child may lie in order to avoid punishment or a person may lie to save a friendship. He considers lying in such situations as a permissible act. Nevertheless, he does not propose that lying should be excessive in everyday lives. He believes that it should depend on the situation and its seriousness. Second, John mentioned that lying is justified when a person does not want to reveal any confidential information about work, family, etc. He provided an example of a person, who is forced to reveal some personal information about family members. If this person is strongly convinced that lying is immoral, then in such a way, he/she will put his/her family at risk. On the other hand, lying can save lives and ensure the safety of the close ones.
John claims that the reasons for lying may apply to everyone as long as they lead to a positive outcome. On the contrary, when lying leads to negative consequences and can cause harm, it is considered a wrongful act. People may find themselves in different situations in life, so whenever lying is the only thing that can help solve a situation, it can be used by anyone.
When asking John a question whether acts of lying are inherently immoral, he continued his former thought of how lying can bring benefits. In his viewpoint, things or phenomena, which are inherently immoral, cannot provide positive outcomes. As long as telling lies brings advantages or saves situations, it cannot be considered immoral. Nevertheless, he does not deny incidents when lying is used on purpose to cause harm. In this case, he considers lying as well as a person who tells it immoral.
In John’s opinion, lying is pervasive in our society, because it makes people’s lives easier. By telling lies, people often create the illusion of how they want to see things or the way they want to change them. Lying starts from early childhood when children deceive their parents in order not to take responsibility for their actions. Lying continues at school when pupils cheat in order to get better grades. Later on, it happens at work, when co-workers tell each other lies in order to seem nice and polite. In addition to that, lying always happens in families in order to hide some secrets, which may harm the relationships or just in order to protect the dearest ones from pain and stress. Generally, John considers lying as a phenomenon that cannot be eradicated from people’s lives, and the main reason for this is that at a particular point it makes lives easier.
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Having analyzed John’s replies, it is evident that his opinions adhere to the ethical theory of utilitarianism. According to the principles of utilitarianism, moral values are determined by personal benefit and satisfaction. In other words, the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by the positive outcomes and pleasure in bring in the end to everyone involved. According to utilitarianism, if lying causes happiness, then it is right, and if it causes misery, then it is wrong. Thus, by claiming that lying should depend on the possible outcomes of the situation, John represents the utilitarian point of view. Despite the fact that the utilitarian approach aims to find a compromise to all sides of the issue, it has some fallacies. The major disadvantage of this ethical theory is that the perception of right and wrong is deeply individualistic and subjective. While lying may bring benefits to person A, who lies, it may cause harm to person B, who is deceived. Thus, a person A will only consider his/her personal benefits and outcomes of the situation and will think that lying is good, because it is justified in his/her case, but not in the case of the person B. Generally, I think that John’s arguments are rather convincing, since he provides specific examples of how a person should act in particular situations.
The second interviewee is another friend of mine, Rebecca. Surprisingly, she provided completely opposing opinions to John. According to Rebecca’s viewpoint, lying cannot be morally justifiable and there are no good reasons as to why a person may start deceiving others. In her opinion, lying is a moral issue and even if telling lies provides so-called good or beneficial outcomes, it is wrong in its nature. To Rebecca’s view, lying makes people live in their own make-believe worlds, but eventually, people come to face reality and only then, they admit all the negative consequences of lying.
Rebecca claims that lying is an inherently immoral thing because a person should live a virtuous life. Moreover, lying is considered to be a wrongful act. She considers honesty to be one of the highest virtues, and lying, to her mind, is completely opposite to it. In Rebecca’s opinion, lying can never save relationships; it may only postpone the process of their ruining. In her opinion, people eventually get to know the truth and negative consequences are inevitable.
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Rebecca thinks that the main reason why telling lies is so pervasive in our society is because people are afraid of taking responsibility for their actions and it is often easier for them to find some excuses or lie. In her opinion, people should learn how to solve their problems and difficulties without resorting to lies.
Undoubtedly, Rebecca’s point of view corresponds to virtue ethics, according to which, the right thing is what a virtuous person is inclined to do. In this case, morally right or wrong action is defined by the virtues a person possesses. Virtue ethics proclaims that the morality of an action is tightly connected with a person’s character and his/her moral virtues. Therefore, if a person were honest, he/she would not lie. If one tells lies, then he/she cannot be considered a virtuous person and his/her acts cannot be morally justified. Actually, Rebecca was too categorical in supporting her point of view. Moreover, there may be such situations, when it will be moral and justified not to tell the complete truth. For example, it will be morally justifiable not to tell a pregnant woman before labor that her relative has undergone some problems or got into an accident since such news might put at risk not only her life but also the life of the baby. Thus, it can be inferred that Rebecca’s arguments have some fallacies. Moreover, this theory cannot be applied to all situations, since virtues differ from one culture to another, and different people have different concepts of virtues.
In conclusion, it is obvious that lying remains a highly debated issue in modern society, and there are as many opinions as there are people. It is actually hard to take a stand in the argument whether lying is moral or not since everything in life is relative and only particular situations can determine the rightfulness or wrongfulness of an action. In this essay, the results of two interviews were presented and the answers were analyzed by applying ethical theories to them, namely the theory of utilitarianism and virtue ethics. The interviewees expressed contrasting opinions on the issue of lying – one interviewee justified it and the other strongly condemned lying and any of its manifestations. The opinions of each person had both strengths and weaknesses and it is evident that such controversial moral dilemmas should be carefully analyzed when taking into account the situation and people involved in it.