A recent article in the New York Times talks about how liars start with small lies and those lies turn into bigger lies. The article refers to a study that was done by an associate professor at the University College London. Tali Sharot is the professor who published this study in the journal Nature Neuroscience. Dr. Sharot’s study consisted of an neurological experiment that used brain scanners to detect brain activity while completing a simple “game” of guess how many pennies are in the jar. There is a catch to the game because the participants were asked to advise a partner in the room how many pennies were in the jar, and if the partner guessed high then the participants would receive more money. The study found that when the participants believed that lying was more beneficial to them they went ahead and lied.
I think that the subject of lying is very interesting and humans have struggled with this concept for as long as we have been alive. There are many different “types” of lies, but ultimately a lie is not the truth. I think that we can relate not telling the truth directly with the concept that Kant promotes in his work called the universal law formulation. The universal law formulation requires that before you commit an action you must ask your self, what if everybody were to commit this action all the time? You then have to analyze it deeper and ask if the action would be “universalizable”, meaning that everyone could commit this action and it would not become self defeating. What does self defeating mean? It means that if everyone were able to do it then it becomes impossible to do. So, lets take a look at the idea of lying based on this principle. If everyone were to lie all the time then there would be no truth and therefore the action would become self defeating. There is an obligation not to lie because it can become self defeating and no one would trust in anyone and therefore the idea of truth would vanish from society. I think that not telling the truth represents Kant’s philosophy on this matter pretty well. If everyone lies then that defeats the meaning of truth and therefore it can not be a universal law that everyone must follow.