In traditional education, lying is universally abhorred. Children are taught that one should tell the truth under any circumstances. Such paradigm is usually reinforced with morality tales of liars who suffer terrible punishments. However, when children grow up and become adolescents, they realize that some details do not match in the story they've been told.
The extreme emotionality of teenagers is linked to their moral awakening. At thirteen, they complain that people don't follow the principles they preach. At fourteen, they point out inconsistencies between ideals and facts. At fifteen, they long to see alignment between purpose and means, but where should they find it?
In this context of straight virtues and twisted reality, becoming an adult frequently leads to disillusionment, cynicism, or sectarian self-delusion. As a result, truth is reduced to the realm of talk, actions become unpredictable, and promises unreliable. What an ethical mess, what an intellectual nightmare.
The moral confusion of our age is the natural consequence of contradictory premises in our thinking. You cannot expect people to tell the truth while you overwhelm them with equivocations and misrepresentations. There is no excuse for eluding the issue. There is no answer to this dilemma except for that provided by logic and evidence:
- The ethical requirement to tell the truth under any circumstances does not hold water and there is no evidence that it has ever worked. Such requirement lacks solid grounds, since it fails to acknowledge the difference between good and evil.
- When dealing directly with nature, it is in our own interest to remain faithful to acquired data and confirmed observations. Machines and chemical processes operate according to the laws of identity and causality. In those cases, if you lie, you will simply get different results or none at all.
- When dealing with other men, truth is morally due to those who are themselves authentic and reliable. The proportion of genuine and benevolent individuals in your life might include, depending on the context, a few or most people. Indisputably, you should be loyal and faithful to those who are honest.
No morality should demand individuals to tell the truth to those who are trying to do them harm. Equally, no ethical system should require people to disclose private details to random strangers. Contradictory ideals lead to random reactions. The key to emotional stability is ethical consistency.
We have seen too often what prejudice has to offer. We have experienced too frequently how chaos arises from contradictions and waste from inconsistencies. Let us place our principles under reason and our actions under logic, for no other approach can ever meet the demands of reality.
[Image by andreadg under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]