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the "trust" destroyed by lying is expectation of *loyalty*. see The World's posts on that subject...

(alternatively, if the lying was immoral, it can also just be the person noticing you're acting badly, as with anything else immoral you might do)

thus "don't lie, it destroys trust" is lame

Elliot Temple on July 28, 2004

Messages (13)

[copied from my comments]

It has nothing to do with the expectation of loyalty. It has to do with people treating other people respectfully. Like they are indeed, other humans. Loyalty with regards to politics and those expectations is quite different than loyalty with regards to close intimate human relationships.

Camille at 7:02 PM on July 28, 2004 | #1053 | reply | quote

Why is telling the truth more respectful? Doesn't it depend *entirely* on whether it's right or wrong to lie in that situation? And thus the offense of lying comes only from acting immorally, and only when it actually is immoral.

Lying itself is not inherently bad in any way. It's often a good idea. In intimate relationships, it's less often a good idea than in general, but still sometimes.

Elliot at 7:40 PM on July 28, 2004 | #1054 | reply | quote

I agree with Camille in the sense that lying can destroy close relationships, or prevent relationships from getting better, but I agree with Elliot that translating that into a blanket statement about lying, as Camille did on her blog, is a big mistake.

I agree with Elliot in the sense that sometimes dishonesty is very important to protect the individual from either purposeful or inadvertant harm or important for other moral reasons. *It does not have to negatively impact the relationship.* Dishonesty will not harm the relationship if the parties understand and respect the "no go" areas in which dishonesty is desired and good, and if honesty is faithfully maintained in areas important to the growth of knowledge in the relationship.

Not understanding the *subject dependent* nature of this issue is fatal toward understanding it IMO. A blanket prohibition on dishonesty actually is harmful toward the growth of knowledge because without a clear differentiation between those areas where dishonesty is good and where it is bad, they will bleed into each other, people will for example feel bad about their good dishonesty and then not realize how much worse their bad dishonesty is, leading them to be more likely to do it. There are many other examples of this bleeding problem, both ways.

Stephen at 8:22 PM on July 28, 2004 | #1055 | reply | quote


is this what you're saying-- Since lying is about loyalty, "don't lie, it destroys trust" can amount to saying "pretend you're loyal even though you aren't (keep up the pretense)"? The point being that it's better to ACTUALLY be loyal (in which case you wouldn't want to lie)? If so - i see a point there.

Blixa at 8:45 AM on July 29, 2004 | #1056 | reply | quote


I was suggesting that most people look at honesty in terms of loyalty, and demand loyalty from a romantic interest. This causes them to demand honesty from a romantic interest. They call it trust to make it sound nice.

I hold loyalty immoral, so I don't think it makes sense to revise it to allow for various things it ought to. I think it wouldn't be very far down that road before it had enough exceptions to be near meaningless.

Anyway, how do I decide to lie or not if the guy on the street asks for the time? Well, I have zero reasons to lie, and a rather good one not to: he wanted to know the actual time. On the other hand, if I round the time I won't feel bad, nor should I.

What about the guy on the street who wants money? Then I do lie, because I don't want to be harassed. I'm not gonna say "Yes, I have $60 on me, and a bunch of change too, but you can't have it, because you suck." In this case I have a very good reason to lie.

So my wife asks when I'll be home from work. Most days I have no reason to lie, and don't. Would I ever lie about that? Sure. There are three possible reasons: 1) a flaw in me. maybe if i was gonna take dance lessons and found that horribly embarrassing. (saw a movie w/ that plot. *shrug*. he was japanese) or 2) flaw in wife. for example if she was totally irrational about strip clubs, i wouldn't tell her I was going to one. 3) friend wanted me too. we're going to a strip club and he's afraid of his wife finding out, so we tell as few people as possible. he doesn't know my wife well enough to be sure she has no relevant flaws.

You'll notice my way of analysing doesn't assume lying is bad or wrong, but also it's usually the case there is no decent reason to lie, and a decent one not to.

PS i'm aware telling the bum i have no money implicitly concedes his moral case that I ought to give him some if I had it. i don't care if i mislead bums though. i owe him nothing.

Elliot at 9:37 AM on July 29, 2004 | #1057 | reply | quote

hm ok well that's really, Not what I thought you were saying. I see I joined mid-conversation so I'm sort of at a disadvantage as to why loyalty is "immoral" etc. Don't have huge problems w/what you're saying but don't really understand what you're saying either *shrug* ;-)

p.s. I lie to bums if need be as well (they say "whatever you can spare without hurtin' yourself", I usually just say "sorry".. although I'm not, not in any meaningful sense :-). But it ain't because "loyalty is immoral", it's because i have no reason to be "loyal" to bums in the first place; the most reasonable inference to be drawn from the situation (them being bums) is that any money I give them will not be spent wisely or help them in any meaningful way.

Blixa at 3:35 PM on July 29, 2004 | #1058 | reply | quote

maybe I should re-read my own post, I had thought I said there are times when lying is a good idea (??) - so it's not a blanket statement that lying is always bad.

In close personal relationships, even if it's something a person might not want to hear, it seems best to tell the truth and solve real problems from there.. instead when there are lies, it would seem that one might be trying to solve a problem for one area and based on information they have/had they can't properly solve the problem because of the lie (not true information)...

Anyway, Elliot you gave me more to think about. So thank you.

Camille at 4:14 PM on July 29, 2004 | #1059 | reply | quote


The World wrote some posts about loyalty, I'm sure you can find them. The point is, for example, the US would not side with England if the US thought England was wrong -- therefore the US is not loyal to England. That sort of loyalty would be immoral.

Elliot at 4:18 PM on July 29, 2004 | #1060 | reply | quote

ok i'll look for the World posts

How about "provisional" loyalty i.e. fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. A presumption of trust until otherwise indicated - then distrust. If no reason arises to "distrust" (i.e. England doesn't act badly) then "trust" can remain and this can build over time to something resembling "loyalty".

I'd say this is what most people have in mind when they use the word "loyalty" in the first place, in most contexts.

Romantic relationships are no exception. X lying (about something serious, ok) "destroys trust" which means it de-justifies the provisional loyalty which Y had granted to X, makes Y think that maybe in the future a whole new attitude will be required, this all causes pain, etc. What's wrong.

I agree with all your exceptions but lying could still be considered generally wrong on the basis that if you tend to lie you reduce the # of people willing to grant you "provisional loyalty", which is bad for you (and potentially for them). Lying is also wrong because not-lying (at least not without good reason) is generally a good habit to form for the reason of the preceding sentence.

So let's just say, "don't lie, it makes you less trust-worthy" (i.e. try to be more trustworthy - try not to lie), and in particular "in a relationship don't lie because you make the person feel bad for granting you provisional loyalty, they might decide to revoke it, this causes pain and could destroy the relationship".

Unless of course it's something ok to lie about but as others have pointed out this boundary will be implicit in the terms of the relationship.

I have not seen the film Shall We Dance (I take it that's what you were referring to) so I don't know the situation there.

Blixa at 4:52 PM on July 29, 2004 | #1061 | reply | quote

ok read World posts on "loyalty". Seems to me they were talking about relations between nation-states. & seems to me that's a different thing than personal/romantic relationships. *shrug*

Blixa at 6:19 PM on July 29, 2004 | #1062 | reply | quote


You said that lying was okay for spies and then made the following blanket statement about lying in close relationships:

"And yet, I can’t help but think overall lying is still really wrong. But let me explain it a bit more. Lying in personal, intimate relationships does something very damaging. It eats away all trust and creates gapping holes between people. Even the tiny little white lies, that will inevitably be found out, tear apart intimacy. They destroy."

More such statements followed.

As I tried to explain in my comment, there is a good type of lying in close relationships. It's the kind that doesn't have any of the negative effects you refer to and has many positive effects like protecting someone's growth of knowledge and privacy.

Too many people consider all lying in close relationships wrong and then try to prevent each other and themselves from doing it just because it's "lying."

Stephen at 7:18 PM on July 29, 2004 | #1063 | reply | quote


Could you maybe give me an example so that I could think about this differently? Thanks.

Camille at 4:18 PM on July 30, 2004 | #1064 | reply | quote

DD's definition of lying

On 12 Jun 2000, DD wrote to TCS List, under the subject "Re: What is a lie? (Santa, God, etc.)":

> [someone] wrote on 12/6/00 5:45 pm:

>> I have read many times that TCS parents do NOT lie to their children. At times I am not sure what this means.

> To lie is to convey to another person a statement that one believes to be false, with the intention to deceive.

DD's definition excludes:

- lying to oneself

- false statements conveyed to others which one believes as a result of lies one told oneself in the past

ET's essay on lying says:

> A *lie* is a *communication* (or a *belief*, for lying to yourself) which you *should* know is *false*.

ET's definition includes the two cases listed above that DD's definition excludes.

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