General Question

kevbo's avatar

Do you live by absolute or relative morals and truths?

Asked by kevbo (25634points) September 12th, 2007

empahsis_Note: this isn’t an attempt to gang up on or bash hossman or anyone else. I’m genuinely interested in facilitating a discussion of this topic. Also, my apologies if this topic has been covered. It didn’t turn up in my search. Thanks._emphasis

I think the argument posed by hossman and what would be my response deserves a separate question, and I’m interested in hearing what others think.

primary question
Do you believe lying is wrong in all circumstances? Or is lying okay in certain situations. Or is it not okay, but you do it anyway, because, in context, you need to or you want to. Do you believe that the development and preservation of your character should be the utmost consideration, when faced with the choice of lying or telling the truth, or do you hold yourself to a different standard?

my response
I am not an absolutist, and if I were, I would still be a practicing Catholic. (Ironically, my reason for leaving is that I believe Catholicism is an all or nothing proposition and I was no longer willing to accept the all- something of an absolutist position.) I don’t claim to be 100% satisfied with my character as hossman defines it, but I also know through experience, that the high road doesn’t always work for me, and that it’s not a standard I’m willing to adhere to at the expense of other considerations. At the risk of implicating myself in this argument, I will say that I wouldn’t lie under oath, but I will lie if I believe lying preserves my sense of expediency, fairness, or privacy.

Some questions to consider
If you live in a country that is being ethnically cleansed and you are in the faction that is being cleansed, is it okay to lie about your identity to avoid being executed?

If you live in a situation where the institutions that govern or influence your life are corrupt, biased, or otherwise an undue burden, is it okay to lie to avoid these injustices (assuming you are not going to pull a Ghandi anytime soon)?

Are you a practicing Catholic? If so and you choose not follow all Catholic doctrine, how do you rationalize this position?

In your mind, is lying to individuals different from lying to corporations?

Do you believe that morals and ethics are self evident truths or to some degree more localized manifestations of cultures and societies?

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62 Answers

glial's avatar

Well there are about 30 question in there, lol, so I will try to pick out a couple.

I don’t believe that anyone can live there life without lieing. Your not going to tell you boss that his wife is ugly or hot or fat or whatever. Your not going to tell your friends, family, etc. what the gift you bought them for their birthday, Christmas, etc. is, even if they guess it.

Those examples are harmless, for the most part, though.

Sometimes, we don’t want to really hear the truth, we want to hear what makes us feel better or to justify an action.

hossman's avatar

I suppose since my comment started this thread I should respond. I’m not sure “absolutism” is the right term for my position, but I would accept the legal concept (which is frequently misused) of “natural law,” that some things are always wrong, regardless of circumstances.

I am not asserting any moral high ground here, as I freely admit I am as prone to committing wrong (I propose we not use the term “sin” as that would introduce religious elements not necessary here) as the next person. But I do believe that lying is always, always wrong. That does NOT mean that under circumstances I would not find it reasonable or necessary for a person to choose to commit that wrong, but you still have to accept whatever the consequences of that wrong, and you should not try to pass it off as not being a wrong.

I do believe “white lies” such as lying if your boss asks if his wife is fat, or if your wife asks if those pants make her derriere look fat, are wrong. I do not find it reasonable or necessary to tell a lie in those circumstances. What I do recommend, and can find Biblical justification for, is the telling of an alternative truth.

In 1 Samuel 16, we are told God told Samuel to go anoint David as the successor king to Saul. Samuel tells God if he does that, Saul will kill Samuel. God tells Samuel to take a sacrifice along so he can say he is making the trip to make the sacrifice, and thus not have to say he is going to anoint David. Here, in response to a situation where the truth could result in death, the Bible suggests telling, not a lie, but an alternative truth.

Islam, Judaism, Druze and Sabianism have the concept of “taqiyya,” which authorizes lying upon compulsion of death.

If, as a hypothetical example, an armed criminal broke into my house, subdued me, and then asked me if my children were home, I would not have a problem with lying. I believe the lying would still be wrong, and I would be responsible for the consequences of that wrong, but I would find it reasonable and necessary to accept that under those circumstances.

I believe killing another human being is always wrong. Under some circumstances, while not pretending it is right, I do believe it may be reasonable and necessary. As an example, if that same armed criminal was threatening my life or that of any innocent person, I do not have a problem with killing the criminal to prevent another wrong. It is still wrong, but reasonable and necessary.

Do not confuse the legal concept of “justification” for the concept of “right.” If your wrong was justified, it means you will not have to suffer consequences for the wrong, it does not mean the wrong was right.

Lying to gain a business advantage, or to entice someone to do business with you when you know if you told the truth they would not do business with you at all or not on the terms you prefer, is always wrong. You deprive the other party of the ability to act with a full understanding. Even if the other party is a big evil corporation.

To answer another question above, I am not a Catholic. If you have a difference with the practices of any group to which you associate yourself, I believe you have an obligation to act honestly and refrain from the prohibited conduct while you work peacefully to persuade the group of your position. If you are not able to do so, I believe the honorable option is to either choose to forego that conduct while you associate yourself with that group, find another group, or start your own. I disapprove of continuing to represent yourself as part of that group while you act contrary to the group’s practice, even if you believe the group is wrong, even if the group is wrong. That is hypocrisy.

I think we blur the moral issues when we use terms like “OK to lie.” It should not be thought to be OK or right to, as in the example, prevent ethnic cleansing by lying, but it should be acknowledged as justified. Otherwise, you dilute the concepts of “right” and “wrong.” When it comes to something this important, I believe it is crucial to use precise words so meaning is conveyed clearly, otherwise we descend down the slippery slope to moral relativism where we define “right” and “wrong” by the intention of the actor, or the desirability of the results, or the convenience of the act.

There is no difference in lying to a corporation. The owners of a corporation are people, the shareholders. The people you don’t like, that you find evil, are not usually the shareholders, which are largely the retirement plans of ordinary people, but rather the executives and directors. None of whom suffer any significant loss by your lying to them, they’ll just go work somewhere else when the shareholders lose their investment because the corporation folds.

I do believe “right” and “wrong,” except to clinically ill people like sociopaths, are self-evident truths. That is why so many people go to such great lengths to try to redefine “wrong” as “right,” because their consciences at some level know they are wrong. I believe this is true across all cultures and societies, but that each culture and society chooses to what degree to hold themselves responsible for each “right” and “wrong.” As an example, I have found certain cultures have a greater acceptance than others of lying in business transactions. I do not believe these cultures believe this is “right,” but I do believe the culture has chosen to permit this “wrong” to escape consequences.

kevbo's avatar

@hossman, thanks for your comments and clarification.

Using hossman’s terminology, by “okay” I mean “justified.”

gailcalled's avatar

Read LYING: MORAL CHOICE IN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE LIFE, by Sissela Bok, a heavyweight w. good bloodlines. Her father, Gunnar Myrdal won the Nobel Econ. prize in 1974;her mom, Alva Myrdal the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982. Sissela is a philosopher and ethicist who teaches and lectures at Harvard. Her husband is Derek Bok, former prexy of Harvard. She addresses Kevbo’s question in more than several paragraphs…Lying

gailcalled's avatar

Also check out Plato’s *Apology” in which he discusses/ reports on Socrates’ philosophical and ongoing search for Truth – interrupted by his untimely libation.

sferik's avatar

Once you’re done with Plato, I’d recommend reading Kant‘s Critique of Practical Reason. Spoiler alert: He concludes that it’s always wrong to tell a lie.

Even in a situation where telling a lie would save a friend’s life, it doesn’t magically become right to tell a lie. It’s still wrong. You are faced with choosing the lesser of two evils (i.e. the evil of telling a lie or the evil of being responsible for your friend’s death).

Hawaiiguy's avatar

First, I would totally lie to spare peoples feelings if it would hurt them unnecessarily. Otherwise I think I’d just be a high moral
d@#k. Secondly, I couldn’t stand to be around someone who absolutly couldn’t lie, lying falls under common decency you know when its okay and you know when its not. But it is a certainty that lying is acceptable.

hossman's avatar

Hawaiiguy, wouldn’t you prefer to find a way to avoid the question completely, rather than lie? I find it disturbing someone would label lying as decency. How can anyone trust you? What value is your opinion of whether my pants make my butt look fat if I know you are probably lying?

maggiesmom1's avatar

I’ll tell you, as Hossman’s wife, I’m glad he holds the opinion he does about lying being wrong. I know that whatever I ask him, I can totally trust his answer. If he finds a way around it (as he will if I ask him a question that he cannot honestly answer without hurting me), I’ll know the truth & know that I placed him between a rock & a hard place in asking it to begin with.
I’d far rather have someone who always tells me the truth IN LOVE (not just a hurtful truth to hurt me) than someone tell me a lie to spare my feelings. If I look like crap in that – tell me. Because you know that everyone who sees me will be thinking I look like crap.

hossman's avatar

If I have been able to be a lawyer since 1995 without knowingly lying (not the same as asserting my client’s version of facts which I later discover were not true), then certainly we can avoid those little white lies. I have in fact both fired clients and had clients fire me when they discovered I will not lie for them. As one client put it “how do I have the #$^ luck to find the only honest lawyer in the world.” Actually, out of the thousands of lawyers I’ve dealt with, I’ve only had 3 lie to me.

Hawaiiguy's avatar

sorry hossman, if you live in an absolute world I can’t explain it to you. But I will tell you my friends and family think I’m one of the coolest guys on the planet, they know I would be there anytime anyplace. My world is at peace lying and all:)

Hawaiiguy's avatar

as for working around a lie, you look great in those jeans etc. Thats not lying thats being a good friend/spouse. If its an issue with anyone about there character, IMHO you really need to take a chill pill. Putting a smile on a big bottomed girl is totally worth the sacrificial lie:)

joli's avatar

It’s all about personal ethics. I don’t believe anyone can speak for another person’s truth, or lies. Debate all day long and what you’ll come to in the end is your base, what you believe in, how you’ve been raised and your experience in life. It’s fantastic when someone shines a light on an issue where you’ve been mistaken, thus you can grow and change everyday to become a better person in tune with your world. I was taught never to lie and it literally makes me feel tense and anxious just at the thought of trying to pull one over on someone. Lying seems easier in some situations but it seems to me it usually bites you back in the end result, one way or another. I don’t lie in order to feel good about myself, which leads me to stronger relationships with others.

kevbo's avatar

After reading and mulling over this question and my own life experiences, I have to say that I prefer to be on the receiving end of a lie than an alternate truth. The latter, I find more annoying than anything else, and for me it dimishes the credibility of the person purporting the alternate truth. Binarily speaking, I’d rather have a 1 or 0 response turn out to be a lie than have to endure a .5 or a 1(a).

hossman's avatar

Hawaiiguy, what on earth would lying have to do with being cool? OK, so you think people think you’re cool. Maybe they’re telling you a little white lie to make you feel better. The base problem with lying is if anyone thinks lying is acceptable, how can you rely on them? And if someone is lying to just make another feel better, then that person’s self-image is based on lies. I would think, hawaiiguy, you could understand that if someone knows that hawaiiguy has no problem with lying to make people feel better, and hossman will not lie to make them feel better, then a compliment must have more value and credibility coming from me.

And since you have now publicly acknowledged you are comfortable with lying, I can no longer find any of your posts here credible. I could never do business with you, and I could never trust you to have a relationship with anyone I cared for, because if you will lie for a small, unimportant social situation, you will lie about the important stuff. Like where you were last night. Please don’t try to make me believe if you would lie about how someone looks in pants you would tell them the truth about something like fooling around (an example, not saying you are). Once you’ve established yourself as a liar, then for their own protection, everyone should assume you are lying. How could we believe you if you assured us you were telling us the truth? Because you tell us THIS TIME it’s the truth? Which could be a lie?

(@ kevbo: I’m not sure I’m clear what you’re saying. Let’s say you asked me if your new Dockers make your butt look fat. Let’s say they do. Would you rather have me lie and say they don’t, or would you rather have me say your shirt is a great color and matches your eyes? (ignoring this is relatively creepy for two guys to say to each other without a significant relationship))

I suppose if you want me to accept it’s OK for you to routinely lie, I’m OK with that, but you must disclose it before hand so I can take it into account when I assess your credibility and rely on you. Perhaps you should be required to shake my hand at first meeting and say “I’m Bob, and I’m a liar.” or maybe a forehead tattoo.

And let’s take this a step farther. Where do you draw the line? If it’s OK for you to say, “no honey, you look great in that muu muu,” then is it OK for you to say “Of course I have never, ever looked at another woman?” If we are going to accept relativist morality, then why should anyone complain if they think the President is lying? Maybe he’s just doing it so he doesn’t hurt your feelings, or because it’s best for you.

Hawaiiguy, I don’t live in an absolute world. Please, I’m a lawyer. People were lying to me every day. Please don’t think there’s anything you couldn’t explain to me about lying. I’ve also seen the consequence of relativist morals in people’s lives. Why would there be a distinction between lying to corporations and lying to people? Why would there be a distinction between lying everyday and lying under oath.

My wife’s grandfather died a few weeks ago, and the common thing everyone said at his funeral was “You could do business with Art on his handshake. You didn’t need a contract. If he told you something, you could take it to the bank. He never lied.” How about you? At your funeral, do you want them to say “Hawaiiguy was really cool, I could always rely on him to lie to me to make me feel better?”

hossman's avatar

Further, hawaiiguy, you would never make it as a lawyer. Once you got the reputation as a liar, none of your colleagues would ever trust your word again. I know there are thousands of my colleagues that if I tell them something is so (as opposed to my client’s representation to me) they can take it to the bank.

hossman's avatar

At least among the lawyers I work with. I suppose they could be different elsewhere.

hossman's avatar

I must also say it is the many liars out there that help keep lawyers in business. If everyone was honest with each other, we wouldn’t have overflowing courts.

GothGirl1313's avatar

This is a great question.
I use to think that giving alternate truth answers were okay as long as you accepted the consequences. However, my view has changed in the last year. I say the complete truth and accept what comes my way, positive or negative. I know a certain individual when in a uncomfortable situation would either give a vague answer or simply say ‘I don’t want to talk about this subject’ to avoid lying- is this acceptable? Not to me.
If you ask the question, you must prepare for the truth, no matter how much it hurts your feelings. Or don’t ask, life involves hurt feelings. So if you ask someone ‘is my butt big?’ be prepared for ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Going back to the scenario of would you lie about your identity to avoid execution, one must live with that guilt, however they may work to eliminate whatever group is ordering the cleansing. So maybe due to a lie, it bought time so you could save other lives. Is that wrong?
I’m not saying I’m perfect. In the past I’ve lied but never, ever regarding serious issues.

Hawaiiguy's avatar

im talking about lying about a wife with a fat a@& to make her feel better. You can still lie and have the utmost integrity, just not a holier than thou integrity, I guess. I studied pre law and was very good at school, I decided to do video editing instead, attorneys work to much and I guarntee every attorney has at some point fibbed billable hours. My integrity is judged by the people that know me, having 60+ employees and who knows how many friend, they all know without question I would be there for them and I have all there trust. I don’t however have one friend who wouldn’t tell his wife she had a big a&@ for the sake of holding himself to an absurd moral code to the infinite degree, what the h@ll is the reason for being mean when you can make someone feel sexy and alive with passion!

Hawaiiguy's avatar

lastly if you think telling someone they look hot when they don’t and equate that with not being able to trust that person about anything, then I have to say and I don’t want you to be offeended but I know you will be, your an idiot. And I have totally respected most of your posts and will continue to do so, just not on this particular one.

kevbo's avatar

@hossman, If someone were to give me what is essentially a non answer to my question, I would regard them as a smarmy blankety blank who is wasting my time and whom I know for sure I cannot rely upon to give me a straight answer (and who thinks they are so deft and I so dumb that they can distract me from my concern with a little puppet show). I would put answers given by Presidents and Vice Presidents in this category.

@et al- When it comes to lying, I think there are some who lie compulsively and most who generally do not believe in lying and do not want to lie, but feel they must occasionally (and apparently a select few who are as straight as ol’ GW ;-). When I enter into and develop a relationship with someone, part of that process for me is learning about the boundaries of their truth telling, when you can and cannot rely upon them to act honestly. If I discover a lie in that process, it doesn’t (to me) automatically discredit everything else they’ve said. To me, it doesn’t mean that they are going to lie about big stuff because they are lying about small stuff. Instead it tells me they have a boundary, where they either feel uncomfortable or unwilling to tell me the truth for whatever reason they deem necessary. I still trust, though, that unless they lie compulsively, they do not want to lie, and that with time, perhaps that person will get to a point where they feel they don’t need to. In the meantime, I get to enjoy observing and understanding this “person’s” (i.e. not this “liar’s”) limitations.

Tattooing “person” on the foreheads of us all would be a little redundant, I think, but it might inspire some compassion.

@hossman again, I don’t think it’s a fair move for to throw out the relativist label if you’re not going to accept your position as absolutist (I’m fine with your distinction, by the way). I don’t know the name for it, but my position (and, I’m guessing, that of others in this discussion) isn’t relativist in the sense that, for example, the Nazi’s were either right or justified in their pursuit of racial supremacy because they thought they were. So whatever natural law-like position is on that side of the continuum is the position I am coming from. Maybe we should call it realist or humanist. Also, I think it was admirable what was said of your uncle. Truly, I do. Color me ignorant, but I don’t think we don’t live in that kind of world anymore. If you could, I’m sure you would do business on a handshake (and be regarded in that light), but I’m guessing that opportunity doesn’t exist vis a vis the ubiquity of contracts, waivers, etc. I can’t do business with AT&T, Apple, my bank, my insurance companies, my you name it with a handshake (actually my tenants and I have a handshake agreement at the moment), but predominately I don’t have that opportunity in dealing with the majority of people or voice automated dialing systems who work for the evil corporations that I do business with and to which one might feel justified purporting a lie.

Hawaiiguy's avatar

hoss, that wasn’t nice of me to say and I apologize. I should have said you need a vacation:) I’m an idiot for being that personal when I don’t even know you.

kevbo's avatar

@hawaiiguy, you are an idiot.

kevbo's avatar

I mean you need a vacation.

kevbo's avatar

Wait don’t you live in Hawaii and surf all the time?

kevbo's avatar

okay you’re an idiot.

Ha ha! ;-p

Hawaiiguy's avatar

I deserve that, sorry to the board, I just didn’t like my whole integrity being attacked because I tell someone they look hot.

Hawaiiguy's avatar

@hoss, did you really tell me that because I tell a girl she doesnt look fat when she does, that you think I am totally untrustworthy? Just looking for clarification

hossman's avatar

Is anybody else getting duplicate posts here? Everything since Gothgirl’s post is duplicated twice for me. Back to the thread.

Gothgirl: I have no problem with your position. If somebody asks you a question and the truth will hurt their feelings, then I believe the responsibility for their hurt feelings lies on them. After all, what could they complain about, that you answered their question honestly? That said, it is our burden to answer the question as courteously as possible. What I mean by alternate truth is to find something complimentary you can honestly say, hoping they will either move on, or get the hint. If they return to the question, then I answer it honestly.

Kevbo: If you asked me if your butt looked fat and I avoided the question, being visibly uncomfortable, and you then thought I was a “smarmy blankety-blank” rather than reading between the lines and getting the answer to your question, I would hope you would have the maturity to either ask the question again, in which case I would give you an honest answer, or perceive I just gave you the answer without speaking. Either way, why would you find me “smarmy” when you are the one who created the situation? If you are going to react like that to someone you ask a question, even if you don’t like the answer (hmmm, where have I heard THIS before) then you shouldn’t be asking questions. As for my being an absolutist, I think I’m close, but Gothgirl is more of a pure absolutist. Although my position is a bit different than hers, anybody who’s into Nigella Lawson is OK with me, and I find her absolutism preferable to your position, which I would probably term relativist, and Hawaiiguy, who evidently doesn’t have a problem with just unashamedly making it up as he goes along, which I would call just plain lying.

Hawaiiguy: I never fudged billing once in over a decade. If anything, I rounded down too far. I have known some attorneys whose billing is a marvel of padding, but that is in the minority in my experience (I don’t usually see opposing counsel’s billing unless their client is trying to get mine to pay it). I am leaving the practice of law owed probably over a half million dollars in unpaid billing. That’s OK, I wasn’t in law for the money. Most of the divorce attorneys I know are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars they will never collect.

The problem I have with your response is not that you have lied, hey, we are all imperfect. The problem I have is that you see no wrong in it, that you would lie merely to avoid a mildly uncomfortable social situation. If you see no wrong in that, how could I possibly trust you on the big questions? Just because you say so, when you have already identified yourself as a liar? I can never trust you, you must always be verified, and why would I go through that extra work when I could just spend time with someone I can trust? One of the things I enjoyed as an attorney was working with so many people (with a few exceptions, of course) that I could trust to not take unfair advantage or lie. One of the problems with liars is they have established they cannot be trusted. If I know you lie, why should I believe you won’t cheat? Why should I believe you won’t steal? Why should I believe anything about you? I will simply place my trust elsewhere.

I’ve got no problem with you trying to make someone feel good about themselves, but find a truth to tell. If you don’t like her derriere, don’t say you do, find something you can honestly compliment. I was in a play called “Talley’s Folley” which is 97 minutes long, done in one scene with no breaks. It is basically a love story with only two characters. The actress I was cast with was an extremely unpleasant person who went out of her way to make everyone miserable. By opening night, everyone from me
to the director to the stage crew were ready to kill her. There was nothing I could find to love about her, until I realized about 3 weeks into rehearsals that I could love her eyes. If I could just look at her eyes and avoid looking at the rest of the unpleasant person, I could be in love with her for the 97 minutes. Who knows, maybe she had to do the same with me. But it was an alternate truth, and not a lie.

Yes, Hawaiiguy. That is what I said. It is not really that you have or would tell a white lie, but rather that you apparently cannot see the wrong in it. I cannot trust you. After all, you have not only told me you are a liar, but that you are an unashamed liar. Thus, if I did trust you, and you turned out to be lying or cheating AGAIN, then who would be the idiot? Hossman, not Hawaiiguy. And I’d much rather have you think I’m an idiot than actually be one. After all, if you’re a liar, why would I be concerned with your opinion of me? You could be lying.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Hawaiiguy's avatar

@hossman, if making a girl happy makes me untrustworthy on everything so be it. I would like to see your next performance, I’m guessing you’ll maybe be walking on water?:)

hossman's avatar

Nope. I by no means am that pure. Just because I make it my goal to never lie does not mean I am always successful at it. What makes you untrustworthy is you can’t find a way to make a girl happy without bs. And that isn’t just untrustworthy, it’s sad. I don’t mean that in a “you pathetic loser” sense, but rather that it literally makes me unhappy you can’t find a different way to live your life. It wouldn’t be that hard to try. And I think you might be kidding yourself that the ladies don’t know you’re full of bs. I’ve generally found them to be a bit more perceptive about that kind of stuff than us guys.

I’ve never been cast as Jesus, but I’ve been Judas 3 times, Pontius Pilate once, and Caiphas the High Priest once. I prefer villains.

gailcalled's avatar

Aside: I don’t know any woman who doesn’t recognize how she looks in whatever she is trying on. We all know exactly what we think of our bodies, where we deviate from whatever norm is in fashion, and I would never ask the “Do I look fat” question, ever, since I already know the answer. It is really not a good example of the subtle exploration of What is truth.

Hawaiiguy's avatar

i have realized this about you tonight, you are way to judgemental and totally assuming about me. Ill be the bigger man and not retort. But my girlfriend is gorgeous, smart, and sexy as hell and i treat her with nothing but love and respect as with all my frinds and family.

joli's avatar

You people are so off the subject and at each other’s throats it’s ridiculous, and not all that entertaining. I don’t appreciate the use of women’s bodies, cheating on a spouse, and/or sexual innuendoes as examples of whatever subject you’re discussing. This is showing a lack of respect for the women Flutherers’. Clean up your speech, dudes, and live in 2007 respectfully. If you need to create an all man’s site to edge out on, please do so elsewhere.

Sorry but Hossman is correct. Lying is lying is lying is lying. If I catch you in a lie, I’ll double and triple check you until the end of time. End of trust, no matter how small.

I actually like hearing the truth, even if it hurts, that’s probably why I asked if I have egg on my face. Like Gailcalled said, most folks know the truth anyway. Don’t pretend you can’t see that huge pimple on my nose, it hurts like hell and I deserve some sympathy!

Diplomacy. The first rule of becoming a lawyer. Tell your truth with dignity and respect toward the opposing parties, especially when you disagree. Let’s not say things we wouldn’t say in person as we hide behind our computers.

kevbo's avatar

Last post on this one for me, but I’ll continue reading.

Smarmy is what I see when I envision that kind of scenario based on my library of experiences. Obviously if someone was uncomfortable, I’d recognize that as well, although I wouldn’t find repeat performances endearing. I hope I’ve been clear along the way that I’m not calling anyone smarmy in the course of this discussion, just describing what my reaction would be.

Regarding idiocy and residents of Hawaii, that was meant as comic relief.

Ladies, thanks for putting a check on the meatheadedness. Forgive us our hardwiring.

Agree with joli’s comment a while back, regarding coming back to your base. I’d say the value in this discussion is that I now am better able to articulate that base as well as other points of view.

I learned a good bit from this lil thread, not the least of which is the concept of taqiyya, which I will forever confuse with tequila and taquitos.

hossman's avatar

Yup. I just got done teaching a class on taqiyya, and I can’t help pronouncing it “tequila.” That term is usually replaced by the English term “dissimulation,” which is pretty much a polite euphemism for “lying.” I’m relieved to see joli confirm that a history of lying eliminates the possibility of trust. I’m starting to wonder if maybe there is a gender difference here, and women have a lower tolerance for dishonesty than men. Maybe they’re tired of us lying to them? In all fairness, joli, kevbo and I also used the example of our own derierres, and I can’t think of a better example of the harmful effect of lying than cheating on a spouse. It certainly wasn’t an accusation, but rather a useful extreme example.

gailcalled: Unfortunately, I do find a need to occasionally ask this sort of question. So, evidently, does my wife. Sometimes I am the least credible person to determine if something makes me look fatter. We always tell each other the truth. Sometimes, I wear the garment anyway. Hey, I’m fat, it’s not like there is some pair of pants that will magically turn me into Iggy Pop. It’s especially difficult since I’m now at the size that I can’t effectively turn my head far enough to see my own butt.

Diplomacy is not the first rule of being a lawyer. As a lawyer, I believe honesty is the first rule of being a lawyer. I’m not sure if the diplomacy comment was aimed at me, but I have said nothing anywhere on fluther I would not say in person, but I’m a pretty blunt person. I’ve made such comments about lying in an open courtroom. I just have no tolerance for it, and don’t see any reason why there should be any tolerance for it.

Hawaiiguy: So somehow being “cool” and having an attractive girlfriend is somehow a justification for lying? I can’t even conceive the sort of mind that draws such a link. Again, it makes me sad. I don’t see how love and respect includes lying. Love inherently requires trust, which is dependent upon honesty. If you respect someone, you would tell them the truth. Someone who not only lies to you but also sees no wrong in it, is deserving of neither love nor respect. I’m really not trying to attack you, but encourage you to amend your ethics. If you continue to not see a wrong in lying, then you are hypocritical if you do not concede the rest of us should treat you like a liar.

joli's avatar

Bravo to both of you! I just made that up; the first rule of becoming a lawyer. I knew Hossman would correct me. I like discussions to be somewhat civil so we don’t get sidetracked in name-calling and insults. My last call here is that lying confuses people because they can usually sense the truth behind the lie. Yet, women often accept lies from men because they want the relationship to be something other than what it is. That in itself makes the relationship a farce on all sides. If you support a lie, you are a party to it.

hossman's avatar

Joli, could you explain that to me? Why on earth do so many women put up with so much bs from men? I’ve never understood why so many otherwise intelligent women do this.

GothGirl1313's avatar

Hossman, I know you asked Joli, but I want to take a stab at this question for it’s been on my mind for a few weeks. Why do women put up with bs from men? Lack of self-esteem, fear of being alone perpetuated by society and the media, ‘the older you get the pickings become slimmer so grab what you can ladies!’. Also, perhaps due to the rosy glasses of ‘love’ we forgive insensitive comments and actions. We ‘pick and choose our battles’, yet we don’t select the battle for it’s easier to roll our eyes and not argue. Lately, I’ve observed quite a few of my friends who are couples and for some, relationships come with a hefty price.

hossman's avatar

OK, gothgirl, but logically it seems to me to be completely backward. At the risk of being sexist, it appears to me if they wished, women could rule the world, because if they wished, they could control the sex available to heterosexual men. As in Lysistrata, if women simply banded together and cut off the supply, it probably wouldn’t be too long before men would fall into line. Telling those white lies could cease to be successful. I do agree with hawaiiguy that there is always a women somewhere who will fall for the worst line of bs, but they have always seemed to me to be women who could find a far better partner if they just looked a little harder. At the risk of being offensive, sometimes I wonder why women aren’t all pursuing same-gender relationships, it seems they would probably have to put up with less crap.

So why don’t you ladies get together and kick the bad boys to the curb?

Hawaiiguy's avatar

hoss quit putting words in my mouth please, I at no time said that I use pick up lines or bs people! I treat people with the utmost respect. The only thing I said I would do is tell someone they looked good when they don’t. For the record I have dated 3 women in my life (dating being for more than 2 months) those 3 women are/were respectful, intelligent, secure and none of them would put up with me if I lacked integrity, lied, etc. One was an attorney, 2nd was chiropracter, and my current love is a sushi chef, veterinary student and model. We, in our to infrequent spare time teach a local group of troubled teens about the restaurant business and how to roll sushi. I asked Cassie (my current girlfriend) if it was better to lie and make someone feel sexy or tell them they look fat. She understood my reason and she trusts me no question. When I asked why, she told me that she based it on my relationship with her, the people that are in our lives and my unselfishness with my time and ability to listen, be objective and compromise. Not that any of this is something I want to share with the world, but when my integrity is attacked without you knowing anything about me I must defend myself especially when the white lie is meant to make someone feel good. If it was plaid pants and a polka dot sweater with poodles embroidered that would be a whole different story.

joli's avatar

Women are taught to compromise from an early age. We’re taught to be loving and giving. The trouble is knowing when to draw the line. For some of us, learning who we really are and where our boundries are set takes a life-time of learning through our relationships. I wouldn’t accept today what I might have overlooked at twenty.

Dating many people is the key, but that requires a lot of energy and smarts. Bottom line we’re growing and learning with our newfound freedoms, but as women get more selective and picky, and ask for what they want, men seem to feel left behind and taken advantage of, and lash out at our sexuality in response.

I don’t feel people will change unless they want to, so I will bow out of a relationship before I’ll bust my ass working on it with the wrong person. It takes a good solid year, or two, to discover a person’s ethical base. You need to see them in many situations. If you’re putting up with a lot of crap you’re shortchanging yourself.

hossman's avatar

Curious, hawaiiguy. You say if you “tell someone they looked good when they don’t” that isn’t bs? Isn’t that the very essence of bs? I’m not putting any words in your mouth that you aren’t putting there along with your foot. And I fail to see how any relationship you may have had with anyone changes that. Perhaps, as joli puts it, it is a result of someone’s compromise. Oh, I see, it’s bad if it’s plaid pants and a polka dot sweater, but OK if it’s excess weight? Somehow the fashion challenged are less deserving of your bs than the weight challenged? You get less believable with each post. I find it hard how I could even believe you’ve had these relationships, or that you live in Hawaii (although I’ll concede you are either a guy or a pretty good actress), or any other statement you make, when your moral standard devolves around your own arbitrary standards of when a lie is “good” or “bad.” Your belief in the appropriateness of self-defining right and wrong with no disclosed standard other than your own concealed agenda is why you cannot be trusted. That is the essence of a lack of integrity. I see no need to attack you, your own statements reveal your lack of integrity. Merely quoting you back at you seems to be sufficient. But go ahead and respond, I’ve got my hipwaders out now, and you can just keep shoveling the bs deeper. You are the precise person who should have a tattoo or scarlet letter to warn everyone else of the bs to come.

joli's avatar

Well, there you have it, an absolute versus a relative! I would rather be told I look ridiculous and/or fat rather than lied to. I wouldn’t mind if you sugar-coated the truth. I asked my friend once if he liked a certain picture of myself and jokingly said, “Does this pose make me look fat?” To my surprize he said, “Yes.” Then he added, “Perhaps it’s the angle of the camera.” I was a little miffed because I was joking about the fat part, but indeed, I did look curvier than usual in that photo and I knew it when I asked him.

I respected him for telling his truth, allowing me to have a debate over my value of his opinon, or go out and eat a pizza for dinner that night, or change the angle of the camera. If you tell the truth you allow that person to concede to the fact that other people have opinions not always to your liking.

joli's avatar

Now isn’t that more interesting than if he’d said, “No”, and while I still looked fat, I then had to accept the fact that his word was useless and I might as well not bother asking his opinion? The opposite happened. I realized I’d better take him seriously and not ask stupid questions if I didn’t want to hear the truth!

hossman's avatar

Hawaiiguy, since you sent it to me marked private, I won’t share with everyone here the diatribe of personal insults you sent me as a comment, only to say that you have confirmed my low opinion of you, and really, are you so dim to think if I was insulted by being called “fat” I would have volunteered that fact here so often? I guess when you said above that you “treat people with the utmost respect” that was one of those little “white lies,” wasn’t it? Evidently lying is not your only problem. You claim I “attack your integrity” without knowing anything about you? I don’t need to attack your integrity, you have revealed your lack thereof by your own comments. I don’t need to know anything more than your own words, which I must assume are not a lie since they don’t portray you in a positive manner. Since you have said you are a liar, you have said you don’t believe lying is wrong, you have said you believe telling lies is a superior approach under some circumstances than telling the truth, then I really don’t see why you would have a problem with my calling you a liar. It is consistent with your own view of yourself. I really don’t care if you shovel bs, so long as everyone is aware ahead of time, for their own protection, so they may respond appropriately. It’s bad enough you evidently don’t have a problem with giving others a mouthful of bs, what I really have a problem with is your effort to claim it’s chocolate. I have said nothing about you not derived from your own comments.

And thanks for the invite to Tulsa, if that is indeed where you live. I’m not sure if that was an invitation to violence, but I’d certainly love to see the person that matches the words. That’s no lie.

hossman's avatar

And I am glad joli has confirmed my suspicion, that women (or at least joli, and every woman I know with a shred of self-respect) prefer a hard truth to an easy lie. I certainly admit the truth is frequently harder than telling a lie. That’s what requires integrity and character. A lie is frequently the coward’s way out. It would certainly be easier to always tell my wife that everything looks great on her, but then she wouldn’t trust my opinion the next time she asked.

hossman's avatar

Now that I reread your comment to me, hawaiiguy, I must make this portion of it public so others here know the complete lack of integrity of hawaiiguy, just what kind of a child you are. You want to insult me, call me fat, suggest I stop by your place of employment so your employees can throw me out (lots of courage there, brave guy, I notice you didn’t suggest YOU might try that), hey, I’m a big guy, and can hack it.

But when you say to me, quote: “Have fun with your ugly fat wife and that is the sincere TRUTH”, then you have gone too far. Shame, shame, shame, what a cowardly little pantywaist you must be, to call my wife fat. My wife is a beautiful woman, the light of my life, and since you think so little of me, evidently a saint to endure me. Just as your alleged girlfriend must be if she puts up with the child we see here. Would you like it if I made comments about the “relationships” you have alleged here? I won’t, I have integrity.

But I make you a promise, hawaiiguy, and I do not lie, if I ever am in Tulsa, and the information you gave me about your place of business is correct, you will apologize personally to my wife either immediately, or later when you regain your faculties. Because she deserves better than that. You are no longer just sad, but pathetic. Hey, my four year old has Down Syndrome, why don’t you impress us all and make a few comments about that. Shame, shame, shame, you sad little boy. Allow me to throw in a “liar, liar, pants on fire” as long as we’re being the children joli was afraid we would be. I hope you let your “girlfiend” read ALL of the posts here, and the comment you sent me, so she has full disclosure of what you are.

I probably will avoid showing my wife your comment, unless she comes across this post here, as I guarantee YOU, hawaiiguy, you would much rather call me fat to my face, than her. She would teach you a lesson, no questions, and there are plenty of people here who know her that can assure you of that. Come to think of it, a few of the people here who know her probably just made a decision about you as well. Shall I share your location information (if true) with them? A few are a lot closer to Tulsa than I.

hossman's avatar

I suggest you post an apology to my wife here ASAP. Me, I’m not really bothered by you. But my wife deserves better.

hossman's avatar

My heartfelt and sincere apologies to the rest of you for your having to read this crap.

hossman's avatar

Or hawaiiguy, if you’re telling me the truth about the “businesses you own,” perhaps I should send future communications directly to your Registered Agent, Thomas J. Steele of 6303 N. Portland Ave., Suite 300, Oklahoma City, OK 73112? Shall I continue?

Hawaiiguy's avatar

My apologies to mrs hossman and the board

hossman's avatar

Thank you, hawaiiguy, as mrs hossman posted to this thread previously and may see your comment above, I appreciate you making your private apology to her through a private commen to me, public here in this thread. And I hope our private comments back and forth have cleared the air between us. So everyone else can breathe easier without us stinking up the place anymore. No apology to me is necessary, as I was only offended by your involvement of her.

Krnt2007's avatar

Can I encourage everyone here
to potentially learn from the input to my question :

“What’s the objective 1) meaning &/or 2) value of human life, if any?”


When you dig into it, this question is connected in important ways
to any discussion of objective vs. subjective morality, as in this thread.
To sum up, if there are NO objective values,
then there are no objective moral values.
If there are no objective moral values,
then no person, thought / word / action or object
can be said to have any more moral ‘worth’ or validity than any other,
and it would seem there is in reality no objective right and wrong.
I still urge people to live in accordance
with just law and generally agreed morality, as I seek to do
(even at the very least for the selfish consideration of YOUR own wellbeing –
practically, regardless of any abstract reality,
any society with an effective justice system
seeks to punish wrongdoing –
and the judge will have little ear for your philosophical vagaries.
Even outside societies with effective justice systems,
“he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword”
and there can be terrible reactions and vengeance
to perceived harm dealt to others,
again without considerations for chit-chat on niceties,
as witnessed in many areas of Iraq at present.)

I hope this adds something truthful and positive
to both your discussion and my own.
I for one would appreciate some progress, at least,
on these important yet uncertain areas!

hossman's avatar

Hmm. . . so tempting to respond, but I will stand pat on my post in the thread to which krnt links, that all of this philosophy would best be discarded for that of a sea otter.

helena's avatar


My adorable friend Andre from Brazil would say: “does it hurt or harm someone? Does it hurt you? Then it’s fine to do”.

Perhaps this is not exactly a relative moral criterion but an ethic one. I would say the ethic is more personal; the moral sounds too censoring and blaming to me – a doctrine imposed from the outside world whereas the ethic is something I’m free to shape by my own making use of the values I truly believe- a broad list. Relative. So many things to be taken into account when living and dealing with others.

This does not mean I’m not eventually caught by impulses of anger or so, the well-known Kleinian bivalency (I’m not her best fan, but now it seemed convenient to me, because, you see? I’m relatively moral…). I do have those, won’t lie. But again, the ethics deals with the behavior not the psychology, which is subject to some other of our virtual “round-table”.

Anyway, I’m careful not to allow the moral beliefs of the society or religion or even fashion to shape my behavior. I have to say, I do have my own values, they are “absolutely relative : ) ” and they work just for me. And I’m stubborn. Ow, and I lie too…my white recreational lies…

Relative moral/ Personal ethics!

All this unnecessary for those whose actions are essentially motivated by love.

Kevbo, thanks for making us think about all this. Helena.

nerfmissile's avatar

The absolute versus relative ethics problem has a simple solution. Throughout history there are too many examples of thesis -> antithesis -> synthesis to count, where synthesis results in a solution to prior mysteries. Our culture has managed to advance technologically very quickly, but our ethics are still ~100 BCE, and we’re still mystified by simple puzzles.

The solution to the riddle of absolute versus relative ethics is simply this: we live in a scalar Universe. The Medieval concept of good and evil is fiction devised for the sake of empowering a few literate indulgence-payers (Medieval CEOs, basically) over the illiterate, guilty masses (today it’s illiterate and disenfranchised/too poor to buy votes). Good and evil, in real, physical, universal terms, are thermodynamic arguments. Good is that which contributes to systematic order in perpetuity and the perpetuity of the system, this Universe, as a whole. Evil is that which introduces entropy to the root scale… that scale being the universal shell. The pollution and strangulation of the ocean by commonly and wantonly produced plastic, for example, represents in conventional terms the fuzzy ethical dilemma posed by the Orient Express approach to planetary murder. If everyone is doing it, who can be held accountable? Step up a scale—let’s go with, say, orbit—and it becomes obvious. All of us, via our little daily choices.

It probably won’t hit Harvard for decades, but at the moment our ethical considerations are limited by our scalar obsession with individual rights and nationalism. In an era when we decide that “making it” is being better looking, more shrewd or having more stuff than our neighbors (brilliant!), we’re just beginning to struggle with the idea of being global citizens. What, then, when we figure out that we’re — gasp! — interstellar citizens? Intergalactic citizens? Universal citizens? Pan-universal citizens?

Eventually, our ethical considerations will lose their low-scale, low-resolution confusion. We need merely ask whether what we are doing is right for the Universe, the fabric by which each of us is constructed, and all of us are connected, to the nth sub-atomic particle. At the moment, our inability to imagine (thanks to corporate culture and McThinking, it’s far more important to buy than to think) has probably made us a civilization that ranks somewhere between planetary-scale virus and tasty cattle, in universal terms. We’ll need to outgrow our ridiculous egos, cultivate some imagination that hasn’t been prescribed by a CEO or a doctor and get over our shameful tribal squabbles before our interstellar partners start looking to us for our inspiring cultural artifacts instead of a convenient but ugly place to poach resources and body parts.

Sorceren's avatar

@nerfmissilethere you are! What a perfect series of paragraphs! Gassho. Chapeau.

Re the Q: Most of the 10 Commandments boil down to one: Thou shalt not steal. Lying, as I explain to my grandkids, is stealing the truth.

You and only you can know in each instance whether the truth stolen is an important one or a trivial one, and whether the entity whose rightful property it is stands to lose more property with this theft.

Jiminez's avatar

It’s hard to categorize what I follow as one or the other. I realize that may not make sense to some people.

NewZen's avatar

The latter, I think. Nothing is absolute, except Vodka.

crazyivan's avatar

I’m reminded of the enigmatic statement by Yoda in the last Star Wars movie:

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

Of course, the statment is an absolute in and of itself, so I’m not sure if Yoda was hinting that he was a Sith… (I’m such a f*cking geek)

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