Hi philosophers , recently a friend of mine said “it’s always best to tell the truth “ until I pointed out examples where this is obviously not true, this lead me to wondering what if we as humans had not the ability to lie ? Would the world be a better or a worse place to live?
I think complete honesty amongst humans would create chaos as although admirable in many ways offence would still be taken and consequences could be dire.
I imagine the anguish most men would have attempting to truthfully answer that awkward question from the wife as in “ do you think I look fat in this dress dear “?
Like your friend, the German Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant in “On a Supposed Right to Lie from Philanthropy” argued that it's categorically wrong to lie, even to a murderer at the door looking for someone inside. Like you, however, I think he's obviously mistaken. It would to my mind obviously be permissible to lie to Nazis at the door looking for Anne Frank, and similarly lying to slave catchers hunting people who had escaped enslavement. There also seem to be harmless, trivial, but nonetheless beneficial lies--call them lies of kindness and social lubrication, just the the sort you mention, for example. Similarly: "So nice to meet you"; and "I'm fine," certainly. Friedrich Nietzsche in a grander but not unrelated way describes in "The Birth of Tragedy" how one of the functions of art is to mask, even lie, to us about the horrifying truths about reality. Elsewhere he maintains that concepts are always bound up with at least poetic lies as well as lies maintaining power relations (an idea later...