Might Be Justified In Using, Or Is One Ethically Bound Never To Mislead Others On Purpose? Discuss This Question With Reference To Specific Fallacies. Essay, Research Paper
In order to determine whether a fallacy can be justified in using or is ethically wrong, one must examine the specific situation they are in and must study the consequences which they might face. Informal fallacies are not mistakes in the formal structure of an argument, but are based either in the failure of the evidence to be relevant or in some linguistic ambiguity. Informal fallacies include defending a statement by appealing to force, pity, authority, or popular belief. In other words, informal fallacies are alterations of the truth, therefore they are not the complete truth, therefore are lies, which is why the Czech Proverb is accurate:
Half a truth is often a great lie. .
This is because a lie is an assertion of something which is inaccurate and untrue with an intent to mislead and deceive. For example, an informal fallacy would be: a doctor discovers that his patient is dying of a fatal disease, but, due to his pity for him and not to take away the patient s hopes, he tells the patient that he has a harmful disease but he should not worry because everything is going to be alright , even though, the patient is going to die at the end.
A perfect world is usually imagined as a world with no lies, but to many people s disappointment, the world can never be perfect. This is because the majority of the people in the world have lied or will lie at one point in their life, even though they can just be white lies. The main reason why people usually lie is for protection. They lie to avoid punishment or protect themselves, or people who they care for, from punishment of some sort (all types of punishment; from a convict sentenced to death to a child getting sent to his room). Also, to avoid embarrassment (for example, a student lies and says that he is passing because he is embarrassed to tell truth which is that he is failing. He lies because he does not want people to think that he is of inferior intelligence). Another reason can be because of selfishness. Someone can lie and possibly harm others, just to gain attention or to gain a possession (for example, from personal experience, a child will lie and say that his friend s toy is his so he can take it home with him.) People also use informal fallacies because, as the English labour party leader James Callaghan once said,
A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation.
This quotation means that telling a little lie saves the person who tells it a lot of time and explaining. An example of this could be a teenager telling his parents that he went to his friend s house to study while he actually went to his friend s house to party. This little white lie saved the teenager a lot of time of explaining and also the risk of not being permitted to attend this party.
Lying can be divided into three main parts: deception, an exaggerated truth and a white lie. Deception is misleading others by deliberate misrepresentation. It is often used for the protection of one s self or those who he or she care for. An exaggeration of the truth is when someone bends the truth, or in other words, changes the facts slightly to make the thing they are saying more exciting or to emphasize something. This is why an English novelist and critic Aldous Huxley said,
An unexciting truth may be eclipsed by a thrilling lie
This man suggested that exaggeration makes a dull story become exciting, even though it is not completely true. The lie told in the example of the doctor and his patient is a white lie. These are harmless variations of the truth mainly used for protection or to keep others from harm (not just physical harm, but emotional harm). In the situation of the doctor, what he did was, despite the reality of the patient s terminal illness, he lied to make the patient feel at ease and also because he felt pity for him.
Telling lies can save people time, energy, possessions, and protects them. This is why most of the people around the world lie and this is why it is justifiable to lie. If an informal fallacy is used for selfish reasons or will harm others, then it is not justifiable and it is wrong and immoral. An example of an informal fallacy which is not justifiable is Stalin s show trials . These trials were held in front of an audience and victims were forced to lie and agree to what they were accused for and if they disagreed and told the truth, they would be prosecuted in front of everyone.
There is a conflicting argument between justifying an informal fallacy and telling the exact factual truth at all times. This is because ethically, one is bound to say the truth at all times. In most religions, informal fallacies are not acceptable. One of the ten commandments states,
Thou shalt not lie.
Truth is a virtue, therefore lying is immoral and ethically wrong. People should not lie no matter what the circumstances are. This is an argument which many people believe is true whilst many other people believe it is false.
An American philosopher Ralph Emerson once said,
Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the heart of human society.
This means that every lie which is said by someone harms him and society in general. Lying causes corruption in the society and this might lead to larger conflicts such as war.
Lying is also wrong because once someone starts lying, they enter a web of deceits. They must then lie to cover up their first lie and they can never return and take back what they said because than they will be thought of as a liar. This is also why the Russian Proverb is true:
With lies you may go ahead in the world, but you can never go back
This quotation is saying that once you start lying, you can go on with life, but you can never go back and say the truth again. You must lie continuously because if you stop, there will be consequences, which is the primary disadvantage of lying. When a person lies, the person must face consequences if he or she is caught lying. For example, in a court of law, when someone lies under oath and they are caught, they are accused of perjury, which is the breaking of their oath, and are punished conisderably.
Telling the truth is the best solution to almost everything, it is also the easiest way out of trouble and this is why I agree with Mark Twain s quotation,
If you tell the truth, you don t have to remember anything.
This statement is true because when someone lies, they have to remember the lie so if it comes up in the future, they do not forget it and get caught lying.
I believe informal fallacies are justified in using only when the situation in hand is in need of one and the consequences of it will not harm others. Ethically one is bound to never mislead others, but if one is in need of doing so, it is justifiable to use an informal fallacy. One must never mislead others if the informal fallacy is not needed or will harm others.