Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Best Policy?

A while back it occurred to me, the obligation to be honest might be the most basic moral obligation. Consider theft; while we are told that it is wrong, in most cases we have never explicitly agreed that we would not steal something. On the other hand, whenever we make a non-coerced statement, we are asserting of our own free will that it is true. As such, lying is a more fundamental offense against our own moral agency than any externally induced moral obligation.

However, a couple days later I wondered if we owe everybody honesty, or whether it must be in some way earned. If a casual acquaintance asks me how I am, I am likely to answer with a simple, "ok," which exists in a sort of honesty-grey zone. But, does merely asking me how I am entitle them to the answer? One might respond that I could instead respond that I don't want to answer, but that seems likely to provoke further inquiry rather than discouraging it, or at very least seem moderately rude.

So, do we only owe honesty to those who have earned it through payment in kind? Or to those to whom we have debts of affection? Or is honesty owed to all as the most fundamental expression of our moral autonomy? This is why I much prefer conversation to exposition, I'm sure there is more interesting to be said on the topic, but I would much rather hash it out in dialogue.


elfarmy17 said...

I actually had to write an entire essay on this topic for english two weeks ago, so I'll probably type it up sometime in the next couple days to post and then we can discuss.

Kenny said...

HooRAY! That is all.