Writing in The New York Times Gerald Dworkin, distinguished professor of philosophy, emeritus at University of California, Davis posits that, ”we could not lead our lives if we never told lies — or that if we could it would be a much worse life.”
Dworkin lists ten examples of lies he believe to be either permissible, or, in some cases, obligatory, and invites readers to weigh in. His scenarios include:
- A man lying to his wife about their destination so he can take her to her surprise party.
- A grown son lying to his father who has dementia in order to keep his father calm when he leaves – knowing his father will forget their conversation in a few minutes.
- JFK flat out denying the secret deal he’d made with the Soviet Union to prevent the Cuban missile crisis from going nuclear.
While aware that not everyone will agree that all the lies he deems permissible are in fact so, Dworkin’s larger point is that—even though “it is usually a bad thing for people to come to believe false things”—the range of permissible lies is broader than we might have considered.
We want to hear. Can you give examples of types of lies you consider to be permissible, even beneficial? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.