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Lying: A Brief Introduction to Ethical Considerations. Chris MacDonald, Ph.D. ([email protected]) This presentation was found at: www.businessethics.ca Feel free to use this presentation. I maintain no copyright. Credit, however, would be appreciated. What is a lie?. a statement

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Lying a brief introduction to ethical considerations l.jpg
Lying: A Brief Introduction to Ethical Considerations

Chris MacDonald, Ph.D.

([email protected])

This presentation was found at: www.businessethics.ca

Feel free to use this presentation. I maintain no copyright. Credit, however, would be appreciated.


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What is a lie?

  • a statement

  • speaker knows it’s false

  • speaker intends audience to believe


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What’s wrong with lying?

  • violates autonomy, right to self-direction (deception gives power to the deceiver)

  • generates mistrust, so reduces usefulness of communication

  • a lie can also be a way to do something else unethical

  • Further harm: to the liar (loss of reputation, loss of self-respect, more lies likely – they begin to seem necessary & easy)


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Lying is generally considered wrong, until shown to be justified.

  • The burden of proof is on the person doing the lying.

  • “Other things being equal,” it’s wrong/unethical to lie.


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Justifying Lies / Giving Excuses

  • “It’s not really lying.”

  • “It’s for the greater good.” (individual or group)

  • “Everyone does it. It’s part of the game.” (business, taxes)

  • “It was just something convenient to say.”

  • “I have to in order to get what I’m owed.”


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Acceptable(?) Deception:

  • bluffing in poker?

  • bargaining/haggling over prices?

  • What a lovely gift! Nice sweater! I love your new haircut!

  • Santa Claus?

  • advertising?

  • job applications?

  • taxes?


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Grey Areas

  • What if the claim is vague?

  • What if the speaker only sort of intends to deceive?

  • Is that really “a lie”?

    • We can evaluate the action without deciding if it’s “a lie.”


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Questions to Consider:

  • Does telling a lie automatically make someome a liar? Or does that require a pattern?

  • Does telling a lie remove all credibility?


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