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To Lie, Or Not To Lie January 30, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Mindfulness.

Amy (Soul Dipper) sent me a link to a philosophy quiz which allows players to match their moral compass against a few of the great philosophers ~ Kant, Bentham, and Aristotle.

It’s called . . . To Lie, Or Not To Lie

After each of 4 scenarios, players compare their moral philosophy against that of Kant, Aristotle, and Bentham.

My results?

Kant and I matched 4 out of 4 answers.
Aristotle and I matched 2 out of 4 answers.

Bentham and I?  Let’s just say we don’t see eye to eye on issues of honesty and integrity.

So, how’d you do?

Once you’re finished taking the quiz, share your results below and on Zen & The Art of Tightrope Walking (where Amy discovered the quiz).

No rules.  Just write!

Related posts:  You Can’t Handle The Truth * Ignorance, Apathy, and Dishonesty * To Thine Own Self Be True * Kindly Be Honest * Are You OK Right Now?  * Bending the Rules . . . And the Truth * Toughen Up!


1. Chad - January 30, 2011

Kant 1
Aristotle 1
Bentham 2

nrhatch - January 30, 2011

Thanks, Chad.

Did you enjoy the quiz? I did ~ reminded me of being in one of my Ethics classes in college or law school.

Chad - January 30, 2011

I liked the quiz. I was very interested in ethical schools of thought once, but today I believe in finding the best solution in real time, so to speak, rather than relying on abstract concepts. Put another way, any single coherent ethical philosophy may be inadequate to real life as a varied experience, and flexibility in ethics may be a virtue sometimes.

nrhatch - January 30, 2011

Well put.

Situational ethics, rather than hard and fast rules.

2. Paula Tohline Calhoun - January 30, 2011

I was with Kant all the way down the line. . .Bentham’s philosophy drives me around the bend. The idea that “the ends justify the means” has never flown with me, and I just “hate” his “wishy-washy” answers! Which when I think about it is rather finny, because I am someone who has always believed that God created the color gray!

At the same time, however, I do believe there are absolutes in the world, but probably not as many as some would think, which is where the gray comes in. The main point made by Kant (and me) in most of these examples is that the absolute truth can and should be told, but there is no reason to make the truth objectionable or hurtful. The sweater incident is a case in point. As far as Spartacus is concerned, though, I am with Kant, but we differ slightly on why. The slave did not lie. It was not a lie, not only because they felt that solidarity, but because each one so completely identified with Spartacus that they WERE Spartacus. Even knowing the outcome, they knew that they could not lie in this circumstance, and the immediate ends, though horrible and tragic, nevertheless effected positive change in the world – eventually.

Great and once again a thought-provoking post! I’m appropriating that quiz for a couple of personal e-mails. . .Thank you!

nrhatch - January 30, 2011

Glad you enjoyed.

Aristotle and Kant agreed about Spartacus with Aristotle (I think) saying that the slaves did not lie at all because, when they claimed to be Spartacus, they did not intend the Romans to believe their false statements.

3. Viv - January 30, 2011

There was also a longer experiment in justice that I didn’t post as it takes a good half an hour of watching a film and answering questions.
Glad you all found it interesting.

nrhatch - January 30, 2011

Thanks for pointing us to this thought-provoking quiz, Viv!

4. Amy @ Soul Dipper - January 30, 2011

Kant – 3, Aristotle – 2 and I’m going to find something good about that danged sweater if it kills me!

I thought this would be up your alley, Nancy!

nrhatch - January 30, 2011

Loved it. Except for the sweater. 🙂

Amy @ Soul Dipper - January 30, 2011

I need to add that I felt more in tune with Aristotle’s philosophies when I heard them. Made me wonder about my scoring.

nrhatch - January 30, 2011

As I see it, the benefit of philosophy is not to think like other philosophers . . . it’s to more fully understand why WE think (and act) as WE do.

My reasons for the score I selected in each example were not identical to Kant or Aristotle. We reached the same result . . . but not for the same reason.

5. Carol Ann Hoel - January 30, 2011

I didn’t continue the test after I hearing this: Was the lie justified or unforgivable? No lie is really justified, and no lie is unforgivable. I think sometimes people prevaricate, assent or dissent when they shouldn’t, etc., in an effort not to hurt someone else. I’ve done it myself and asked forgiveness immediately, not feeling justified, but still unwilling to hurt someone. We bear the blame sometimes to spare another shame. Should we? I don’t know. I follow my heart.

nrhatch - January 30, 2011

That’s interesting, Carol Ann. That line jumped out at me too, but the quiz didn’t ask us to give an “A” (justified) or “B” (unforgiveable) answer.

Instead, we rated each lie on a 10 point scale. Then our answers were compared to the general populace as a whole, and we could click on the 3 philosophers to see their answers.

Carol Ann Hoel - January 30, 2011

Hm. I was curious. Maybe I’ll go back there. 🙂

nrhatch - January 30, 2011

Let me know what you think if you give it a shot. I found it quite fun.

Carol Ann Hoel - January 30, 2011

I was closest to Kant. I really didn’t know what to say with Spartacus. I felt that the lie was noble, but it didn’t achieve anything good; therefore, I doubted that it was the right decision; yet, I might have joined in if I had been there. Maybe they were all better off to die rather than to be slaves. The right thing to do is not always obvious. Sometimes our hearts lead us to deviate from the rule of law. I think I’ve heard something about discerning between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Blessings to you, Nancy…

nrhatch - January 30, 2011

If we define a lie as “an untrue statement with intent to deceive,” we can argue that the slaves didn’t lie at all.

They didn’t expect to deceive the Romans . . . they just wanted to prevent Spartacus from identifying himself. 🙂

Sounds like several of us view the world the same as Kant, at least with respect to honesty.

Paula Tohline Calhoun - January 30, 2011

You are right as far as Kant and I go – we had the ame scores, just different reasons. I still believe that the slaves stood up with Spartacus because they completely identified with him. I do not believe the thought of whether or not it was a lie even entered their heads, just as it wouldn’t if I stood up and said “I’m Paula.” However, I realize that that particular point of view is reflective of the internal mind of the slaves rather than a conscious thought. No matter their motivations, I still say it was no lie; I don’t think they gave a tinker’s dam what the Romans believed or wouldn’t believe.

nrhatch - January 30, 2011

I agree, PTC.

Why would slaves in that position evaluate the morality of their utterances? To protect Spartacus, they worked as one to keep him from being identified.

I’m sure none of them took the time to think, “Hmm . . . is this a lie? And, if so, is it justified?”

6. Booksphotographsandartwork - January 30, 2011

I was most in line with Kant. I have been in that sweater incident! Who hasn’t really. I am horrible at lying so I hate to get presents. My face always reveals exactly what I am thinking. So when opening a present I am always very tense.

nrhatch - January 30, 2011

I try to avoid lying by saying something true:

“Oh, how sweet of you! But really, you shouldn’t have!” 😉

7. Booksphotographsandartwork - January 30, 2011

Really you shouldn’t have! Funny.

nrhatch - January 30, 2011

If you need any more tips like this, read Jane Austen. She’s a master of sounding polite while saying something else entirely. 🙂

8. Paula Tohline Calhoun - January 30, 2011

“Thank you so much for thinking of me! I can see why you chose this sweater – it looks just like you! The pink and blue match your eyes!”

nrhatch - January 30, 2011

And continuing . . .

“In fact, it’s so perfect for you that I insist you must keep it for yourself. I have so many sweaters and could never do this sweater justice.” 🙂

9. Cindy - January 31, 2011

The whole of SA are having connectivity problems on the internet at the moment, the quiz site has been trying to load for the past 10 minutes and it’s gobbling up my broadband, had to give up 😦

nrhatch - January 31, 2011

Oh, that’s too bad. I tire of watching the “loading . . . loading . . . loading. . . ” button. If you try it later, let me know what you thought.

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