Retaliation is the test of whether you’ve stated a white vs grey or black lie. If someone will retaliate, or feel the need to retaliate, or be negatively disposed to you for your lie, then it’s not to be done. If the person will thank you for it, then it should be. If I am ever again in an ambulance, please tell me I will be fine because I need it. I will thank you for it.
Paternal Lying: I lie to children – we all do to some degree – because they can’t understand the truth at times. I notice that I ‘lie’ pretty often by giving people partial information just so that I don’t have to give them a full explanation – for the simple purpose of saving time, energy, and patience. I notice that if people are treating me dishonestly, or stupidly, i let them believe what they want, rather than correct them or challenge them – to save effort and stress. When I was young in business during the Yuppie era I engaged in misdirection. When I negotiate I engage in misdirection to gain access to information.
But in general I try to avoid immoral OUTCOMES, and to produce moral outcomes. This is a form of paternalism that is in fact, dishonest. Yet I am not sure it is immoral. I have very few things I regret in life and many of them are before I made a rather dramatic change in my own outlook and decided to invest in teaching people instead of outwitting them. I have a few regrets in business not because I was dishonest, but because I was simply wrong and it appeared I was dishonest. Usually I do the opposite: hold the moral high ground at all costs, even to my detriment. But that does not prevent one from engaging in outcome ethics rather than rule or virtue ethics. Hence, paternal lying: when there exists and asymmetry of understanding, knowledge and ability, such that higher moral purpose is preserved by use of knowledge than by adherence to virtue or deontological rules.
The anglo saxon version of the ancient wisdom – the silver rule: “do not unto others that what you would not want done unto you” is, it turns out, the epistemology of imposed costs.
(Interesting. first draft. I haven’t worked through that idea before.)