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According to an article in Wikipedia,

The philosophers St. Augustine, as well as St. Thomas Aquinas and Immanuel Kant, condemned all lying.[22] However, Thomas Aquinas also had an argument for lying. According to all three, there are no circumstances in which one may ethically lie. Even if the only way to protect oneself is to lie, it is never ethically permissible to lie even in the face of murder, torture, or any other hardship. Each of these philosophers gave several arguments against lying, all compatible with each other. Among the more important arguments are:

  1. Lying is a perversion of the natural faculty of speech, the natural end of which is to communicate the thoughts of the speaker.
  2. When one lies, one undermines trust in society.

I think lying is one of humanity's greatest crimes. Yet there are situations where I would lie.

  1. Chief among these is self-preservation. For example, if someone attempts to mug me, I might tell them that I have a gun (even if I don't).

  2. I also believe in fighting fire with fire. If someone wants to make up stories about me, I'll smear them in return. To put it another way, I don't care to play games where I'm forced to play be the rules that everyone else breaks. If the government and media are going to lie, I have no objection to using strategic lies to attack them in return.

  3. Another example is warfare. You don't tell the enemy you're going to attack Point A at noon on Monday. You falsely claim you're going to attack Point B on Wednesday.

What notable philosophers or philosophical doctrines support my view that lying is acceptable or even necessary under certain circumstances?

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    A Hindu saint said once - 'Always tell the truth, but never tell a harsh truth.' meaning if telling the truth will do harm to another person, then it is best not said. You might like the book "Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive" by Bruce Schneier – Swami Vishwananda Aug 20 '17 at 23:36
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    That Kant's views condemned all lying, including lying to, e.g., Nazi SS soldiers about the Jewish people hiding in your basement, is a common criticism of his ethics. – Dennis Aug 21 '17 at 14:11
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Of course it is OK to lie at times. Indeed, in certain circumstances, it may be immoral and wrong to tell the truth. If it were WWII and I were hiding a Jewish family in my basement and SS soldiers showed up to my door to inquire about the whereabouts of my Jewish neighbors, I would be right to lie and wrong to tell them the truth. Obviously.

Not to mention that this question begs the question: who said lying was wrong in the first place? You can't simply assume its "wrongness"; you have to prove it. I would love to see someone try to do that. And no, I buy neither Kant's argument nor Augustine's.

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    Interesting answer. I do believe that lying is wrong in general. People need knowledge and information in order to navigate through life, and when people lie to them, they corrupt their road map. Of course, lies can also be easily exploited (especially by organized groups) in order to exploit people. So balancing a passion for the truth with strategic lying is a difficult task. – David Blomstrom Aug 21 '17 at 0:34
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    Yes, Kant' defense of his Imperative was misguided imho. Nothing wrong with the Categorical Imperative but to interpret it as meaning we should never lie renders it impractical and useless. Charles Kingsley summed it up with 'Do as you would be done by'. Lying cannot always be wrong. No action can always be wrong since circumstances change. The problem may arise from placing too much focus on the action and not enough on the motivation. – user20253 Aug 21 '17 at 10:16
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    Kant and Augustine were simply lying. Their interest is the same of the church when the priests force the fools to "confess", threatening them with "hell's eternal fire". They want people (not themselves) telling the truth, so as to have a stronger dominion over them. – Rodrigo Aug 21 '17 at 16:30
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    @David Blomstrom: We cannot stamp out lies in the world, even if we tried hard. We should not teach our children to always say the truth. That would not improve the world but it would disable our children in the competition with others. We should teach them that others will often try to deceive them in a world that emerged from natural evolution. – Heinrich Aug 21 '17 at 21:15
  • @Rodrigo: You have an amusing hypothesis right there. I don't think Kant was lying so much as deluding himself. He must have assumed that lying is never right, and hence sought to prove it, not caring that his argument falls flat on its face in light of his own principles about morality. About Augustine I agree with you! – user21820 Sep 13 '17 at 5:53
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Lying is a natural habit that is even common among intelligent animals. I have often observed that one among a group of sparrows eating my grass seed uttered a warning cry in order to make his buddies fly away and leaving the table to him alone.

Apart from the reasons spelled out in the question a very important reason seems to me to spare other's feelings. If I met a contemporary who in my eyes is very ugly or stupid or is a loser I would never tell him or her this mercilessly but, if asked, try to address his or her merits. In my eyes this kind of lying is a moral obligation of every human.

Philosophers rigorously forbidding the lie are unwordly (or they are like my sparrow to have the lie exclusively for themselves).

I am not a notable philosopher but I hope the above is acceptable as a notable philosophical doctrin. (If you think otherwise: lie.)

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    Ah, I never even thought about the "white lies" alluded to in your second paragraph. I agree; I'd much rather lie than tell someone a truth that might devastate them. Regarding your first paragraph, how can you be sure the sparrow was lying? Maybe the sparrow simply thought it saw a threat, uttered an alarm, but realized it wasn't an actual threat after the other birds fled. Nevertheless, the possibility that animals might lie is intriguing. I would venture to guess that some species engage in deceptive behavior that might be likened to a lie. – David Blomstrom Aug 20 '17 at 16:57
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    To tell the truth, I have read about the behaviour of the sparrows. (But then I have also observed it.) Here is more information about the case: br.de/themen/wissen/luegen-tiere-verhalten100.html – Heinrich Aug 20 '17 at 18:39
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    @DavidBlomstrom I once saw one of my two chickens "lying" to the other (let's call them A and B). A found a source of food, caught a piece and ran away, with B following her close (B didn't see the food source). After A finished swallowing it, she returned to the food, but when she noticed that B was right behind her, she took a different route trying to mislead B, but B perceived there was something wrong, stopped, looked for and finally found the food. Then both ate it all. – Rodrigo Aug 21 '17 at 16:37

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