In his hometown of Königsberg, in east Prussia the philosopher Immanuel Kant rants and raves. He comes to discover ” political reactions “, a text in which Benjamin Constant, writer and politician French, says it can be perfectly legitimate to lie, and that it is, indeed, sometimes a duty. “Every man is not worthy to hear the truth,” he wrote. Only the right one who respects me. “We’re in 1797, France fate of the reign of Terror introduced by Robespierre. Many suspects have had the life saves thanks to the trickery, deception, and denial. It is this situation that refers to Benjamin Constant.
But to Immanuel Kant, a supporter of a legal entity with no exception, lying is always wrong. “By him, the man makes himself contemptible in the eyes of others. It is a crime of man against his own person ” (Foundations of the metaphysics of morals, The Book of pocket). Would he give his best friend a refugee home of the assassins ? To denounce the migrant hidden ? Probably ! “While making believe to his enemies that the fugitive had already escaped, I’m not sure I can save it, argues Kant. On the other hand, one thing is for sure : I will have denied the truth ! “
However, Kant clarifies that nothing prevents us from silencing a part of the truth. If my neighbor asks me, out of pure courtesy, if I’m doing well, nothing forbids me to answer him in the affirmative, without mentioning my marital problems and professionals. Not because I know for a fact that he did not want to hear. But because the silence does not attack the moral law. The debate between Immanuel Kant and Benjamin Constant is now a classic question of philosophy. Their difference of position is that the first has the head in the universe ethereal ideas, when the second envisages a concrete situation. And, it is often because we are in the pure intellect, the “mind,” that we get lost in assumptions unclear. In real life, not always to lie we would be social suicide or would make us criminals.
The lie is sometimes more effective than the truth
Today, with the quest for happiness that characterize our time, the philosophical current that inspires us is not the moral absolute of Kant, but the utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) wondering how to increase the amount of well-being in the world. His thinking, pragmatic, does not care about intentions but the outcome of the acts. Before you open the mouth, I have to weigh the pros and the cons, calculate the pros and cons of what I’m going to say. If a lie can kill four people and save the ten, there was no hesitation. Similarly, if I can improve the life of someone in the deceiving.
A utilitarian, believing that hope makes live, will not hesitate to tell his old uncle suffering that the doctors predicted a speedy recovery. This lie will boost may be its pulsations of life. And by the same means, will be transformed into truth. Utilitarianism inspires many politicians, in that it grants a wide place to the “little arrangements” with the reality. The belief that only the result counts has allowed more of a say without missing a beat : “I’ve never opened a bank account in a tax haven, “” I have never provided employment dummy to my wife (or my children) “, etc. – These men believe so much in the accuracy of their comments that they are indignant to be questioned.
When a person is lying, amygdala, brain, nucleus, regulating emotions (especially fear), is active. It sends an alert signal in the form of anxiety, shame, to remember that lying is ugly. These emotions unpleasant are there to motivate us to avoid the moral danger incurred. However, the more we get used to lie, the less the amygdala is active. “Bah, it’s not serious,” would it say if it could speak.
And the “speak the truth” in all of this ?
Yes, that is it, “speak the truth” ? Françoise Dolto, in the 1970s, had alerted the parents : it is not necessary to lie to children, but to tell them the truths delicate with words they can understand. Moreover, the truth itself is supposed to come out of their mouth. Yet when Valentine complained that grandmother stings and smells bad, her parents invite her to be quiet. So speak the truth, yes, but not too much. To be sincere, of course, but know also retain his word. Not to lie, because it’s evil, but also learn how to deal with the real and the susceptibility of others. “What do you think of my new hairstyle ?” asks Ginette to her friend, Arlette. It is atrocious, but then that Arlette is a good girl, and she will arrange to pass on a message less cruel.
While being held for a behavior highly questionable, the lie is part of social relationships. We like to be seen as sincere, reliable, and at the same time, we have at least two lies per day, according to Claudine Biland, psychologist, author of Psychology of the liar (Odile Jacob “Pockets”).
It is that the relationship of humans to the truth and a lie is from the outset problematic. The man is a ” speaking being “, said the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan : “it is “, by the language. However, as soon as the child begins to master it a bit seriously, he begins to lie. Because he exercises his imagination. To make the reality conform to her desires. Because it encounters situations it can’t cope. To escape his conscience. To control the other – adults. The headshrinkers for children find that the small lie, all the more that their environment requires of them, so tyrannical, the whole truth : “Do we hide anything. “The lie becomes a protection against the demands of the outside world.
Dedicated to the bad faith, we grow and persevere.
We lie out of weakness, out of politeness, sometimes out of need – will rejuvenate to get a job when you are a senior, for example. To read Sartre, we are disingenuous, in the sense of bad faith – because the freedom to be and say we got scared. In Being and Nothingness (Gallimard), he cites the example of the café waiter who shut themselves up frileusement in its role to avoid knowing who he is and what he really wants. By his gestures, his way of behaving, it attempts to persuade and make others believe that there is no other choice, other destiny for him.
If we do so often evidence of ” bad faith “, it is that staying in the us of the dark places where the consciousness can delude itself. Philosophy and psychoanalysis agree on one point : a part of the – of our – truth remains necessarily inaccessible. “Everyone lies,” repeats Dr. House, the hero of the series of the same name. “We are committed to the lie,” proclaimed Lacan. We are condemned to ignore the reasons for our actions and our thoughts. Freud noted, however, that the more a person progresses in his analysis, the less it lies. This is to say that the more we strive to clarify the reasons for our actions, of our behaviour and of our blockages, the more we get closer to the truth. Most importantly, we become able to find the part of authenticity that contains any falsehood. It is that it is not an empty word : if it distorts the reality, it always says a lot about our vulnerability, our limitations and our desires.
To go further
To hide an infidelity, avoid responsibility, or even conceal a secret embarrassing, some do not hesitate to use lies to disguise the truth as they see fit. It may be hard to recognize a speech is misleading, the actions can sometimes betray him. Explanations of a specialist in body language.