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Intro to Ethics, Oct. 16

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McMaster University
V Igneski

October 16 White Lies, Excuses and Justifications - White lies: o Definition: a falsehood not meant to injure anyone and of little moral import. o Motivations: avoiding hurt feelings, flatter, cheer up, exaggerate, understate. - Are they harmless? o Bok: rarely permissible, to avoid hurt feelings and as a last resort. o One white lie, in isolation, may not be harmful, but the culture of white lies leads to the gradual increase of white lies, a cumulative effect, which is morally conflicting. - Excuses: sometimes to excuse a lie and sometimes to replace a lie. o “not really a lie” o Wrong, not blameworthy and not responsible  Excuses function as redirection of blame. o Bok’s understanding of excuses: Action acknowledged as wrong, and as personally responsible but not blameworthy (or only partially blameworthy).  Presumption against lying, although outweighed in some circumstances, excuses are the reasons/arguments for why the lie’s negative worth is outweighed.  It somehow undercuts our blameworthiness, even though the lie is still wrong. o Reasons given to Excuse Lies:  Avoiding harm (hurt feelings, personal injury, self-preservation, avoid trouble, save face)  To avoid self-harm, lying is biased, and not such a good excuse – it is a better excuse to avoid harm from coming around to others.  Producing benefit (make someone feel good/better)  Again the benefit of telling a lie for ourselves is less honorable than telling a lie for the benefit of another. Altruism is an acceptable excuse.  Problem: it does not always have the intended effect.  Fairness/Justice (lying as the fair, the right thing. Tied up with notion of deserving in some way- if someone is being ex
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