When is something immoral to be morally justified?

Cultural education

Susanne Boshammer and Ralph Erdenberger opened their event with a general consideration of the lie. Through the quote "enjoy your lie" they got into conversation with the participating students from different tenth grades.

Susanne Boshammer and Ralph Erdenberger opened their event with a general consideration of the lie. Using the quote "enjoy your lie" they got into conversation with the participating students from different tenth grades. A statement is then a lie if, firstly, it is already wrong at the time of the utterance and, secondly, the person speaking of it In the debate that followed Boshammer's determination, the students added a further criterion: there must be an intention to want to deceive the other. But how often do we lie anyway? For a conversation of ten minutes the students said the frequency was between three and twenty times. The former is correct if - according to Boshammer - one follows a narrow definition of lying and gestures give a false picture of one's own emotional state. If one counts such cases, one has to make it clear higher number can be assumed.

In the further course of the event, the motives that can lead to lying were discussed. In this regard, a student described a case that took up the expanded understanding of the lie: In the context of family (political) debates, he often withheld his opinion because he wanted to keep the 'family peace'. Nevertheless, he is often forced to take part in these discussions, since his consent is required. Since he has no interest in further consolidating 'wrong' positions, however, he then reveals his real attitude. Using this example, Boshammer illustrated that people want to acknowledge their positions. The philosopher Immanuel Kant also shares this insight.

Following on from this, she continued his position: for Kant, the lie is the “really bad spot in human nature.” If one follows Kant's imperative for universalization, then lying must always be rejected. On the other hand, social coexistence would be impossible if all people were always lying. In addition, Boshammer pointed out that for Kant, based on these considerations, lies were not permitted as a protective claim, for example to cover up politically persecuted people. In the following, the students were called upon to discuss Kant's extreme position. One student agreed with his position and emphasized the normative value of truth. She went on to argue that this also applies to protective claims as described earlier. Lying does not necessarily have to lead to the loss of protection. The pupil made whether lying was justifiable depending on her age: from a certain age onwards, the act of lying was "no longer acceptable", as she put it, for the person himself.

In the course of the event, the students came back to talking about the motives that could be decisive for a lie. Avoidance of stress, fear of sanctions, protection of feelings, continuity of a relationship and much more were mentioned. The plenary found these motives understandable in principle. However, if you were lied to yourself, you would not perceive them as sufficient. Boshammer then asked whether a right to truth could be inferred from this. She also suggested that a lie about the question 'how are you?' seldom perceived as an affront. Also, once revealed, a lie (and especially not every lie) does not damage the relationship of trust forever. A schoolgirl confirms the latter consideration with an example: With the knowledge that Santa Claus does not exist, one does not lose trust in all statements made by the parents. Something similar was shown in an example in which a young person realizes that he has been adopted. It seemed to the participants of the event to be questionable whether individual dishonesty could lead to the conclusion of the whole person.

Is it always good to tell the truth at all? A world in which everyone always communicates everything they consider to be true does not seem to be desirable. This would also severely restrict human coexistence. And yet, as Boshammer explained, honesty is one of the most relevant criteria for choosing a partner. By excluding certain questions, however, a kind of lying prevention can be carried out. Using the example of a student who reports that his parents had deceived him as a child about the whereabouts of his deceased pet, she showed that lied about death was relatively common. This continues to apply to many issues that are associated with pain and irritation - a good example is the commissioner who asserts to the survivors of a murdered person, contrary to the facts, that he did not suffer.

Regarding the fake news debate, the students stated that this was another dimension of lying. On the question of how to achieve 'objectivity', different positions relax among the students. For example, the comparison of sources was cited and it was argued that objectivity was generally impossible. Boshammer stated that 98% of our knowledge is obtained through 'hearsay' - it is common to rely on agencies such as newspapers, radio etc. In this context, one student differentiated between personal and public lies, the latter assuming greater damage. Finally, reference was made to the staged (fake) murder of a Russian journalist. Although the journalist was able to give the reason for the public staging of his murder that it was done to protect against persecution, there were serious side effects. These include, for example, the worldwide public horror and the diplomatic upheavals that a political murder entails.

by Simon Clemens