In today’s time of social media, and social rank we find numerous inconsistencies with the news, our politicians, and our government. We also lay eyes on our neighbor’s, our very own friends and acquaintances, and can’t help but think the time to time, that they are just plain lying and feel a sense of betrayal. Do we really know what the truth is, is this betrayal a just betrayal?
Lies come in various forms, we will examine these various lies and determine if it is immoral or moral to lie in certain situations or circumstances. What is a lie? Lying is a form of deception, but not all forms of deception are lies. Lying, as defined by St. Thomas Aquinas, is a statement at variance with the mind. Aquinas condemns lying (and other ways of communicating falsehood) because he believes that it violates the very purpose of signification or communication which is to convey what is in the mind.
The purpose of the mind is to grasp reality correctly and the purpose of signs or communication is to manifest or display that correct understanding of reality. As he states: a ‘manifestation or statement is an act of reason comparing sign with the thing signified; because every representation consists in comparison, which is the proper act of the reason.’ (ST II-II, 110:1)
A lie is wrong because it improperly represents what is in one’s mind. As he states: ‘Now a lie is evil in respect of its genus since it is an action bearing on the undue matter. For as words are naturally signs of intellectual acts, it is unnatural and undue for anyone to signify by words something the (Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Thomas Aquinas, n.d.)t is not in his mind.’ (ST II-II, 110:3; my emphasis)
Thomas Aquinas also thought that all lies were wrong, but that there was a hierarchy of lies and those at the bottom could be forgiven. His list was:Malicious lies: lies told to do harm Malicious lies are mortal sins’Jocose lies’: lies told in a fun These are pardonable’Officious’ or helpful lies These are pardonable Malicious lies would be when one hurts another on purpose, by making up a lie purposely to aim to hurt them. Jocose lies would be playing around telling someone they look funny or pull some prank on them. Officious lies would be lying to save someone from harm, or in form of helping someone.
St, Aquinas believed all lies are immoral. And sinful. But maybe pardonable. Aquinas uses Aristotle’s ’causes’ (specifically matter, form and finality) to define a lie: if these three things concur, namely, falsehood of what is said, the will to tell a falsehood [voluntas falsum enuntiandi], and finally the intention to deceive [intentio fallendi,] then there is falsehood – materially, since what is said is false, formally, on account of the will to tell an untruth, and effectively, on account of the will to impart a falsehood [voluntatem falsitatem imprimendi]. (ST II-II, 110:1) Aquinas describes Aristotle’s causes so we can understand an intentional lie, with an unintentional one.
As referred in class, you walk into class and your classmate question’s if it’s raining outside on their way out, and you answer yes, but by the time your classmate steps outside it’s clear as day, that would be considered unintentional, for you didn’t intend to deceive the person, for you didn’t know the rain stopped because as you came in it was still raining. A lie is defined, as an intent to deceive. And to deceive is immoral, a sin, with no tolerance no excuse or reason in the views of Aquinas.
I agree with St. Thomas Aquinas, and believe lying is immoral. Lying, in my opinion, is a form of betrayal. As Aquinas says: ‘Since man is a social animal, one man naturally owes another whatever is necessary for the preservation of human society. Now it would be impossible for men to live together, unless they believed one another, as declaring the truth one to another. Hence the virtue of truth does, in a manner, regard something as being due.’ (ST II-II, 109: 3. Ad1).
I’m certain one and all have lied in some sort of way or form. From personal experience it’s never amusing being the person who comes up with a lie, for you must follow up with it in every instance it comes up. It also gives you a sense of insecurity of yourself when you lie. A way of patronizing yourself. No matter how big or small the lie, or for what occasion a lie always catches up with the liar. I believe that’s why it’s also considered a sin to lie, a religious belief is only there to protect one to live a fruitful life.
Catching up with a lie, can also be in many forms, in my opinion the very first one would be the betrayal of yourself, a person who has lied, in some way would be uncomfortable with themselves or the decision they have made, in some way lying drives you mad in my opinion and personal experience. You feel a sense of guilt. The second way of a lie catching up would be when your lie is discovered, you not just only are humiliated in some sort of way, but the person you lied to no longer embraces trust in you. Every consequence of telling a lie ends with some sort of loss for the individual who told the lie.
Aquinas believes that we can kill in self-defense, but we can never lie to defend our own lives or the lives of others. This is also ingrained in his understanding of what truth is and what a lie is. For example, there have been many court cases with individuals who plead not guilty, who in fact are guilty. After the court proceedings, if you are found guilty with evidence you are sentenced prison, a longer sentence and based on what the crime is, you may even have a death sentence. You tried to save your life by pleading not guilty when in fact you lied and are guilty, the end is never a good one.
When you try to protect one with a lie, this is one’s instinct in my opinion. Who wouldn’t want to save someone? Who wouldn’t want to lie to please someone? But Aquinas, describes, to lie is to deceive, and to deceive it’s immoral whatever the regard be. Today we have forgotten virtue in honesty. We become power hungry, as politicians and promise a better world, and never live up to the expectations. Our relationships are at risk because we are scared, to tell the truth to one another. Our health is at risk because these labels are all wrong.
These pharmaceutical companies are all wrong. Everything around us, in some way, is conducting some sort of immoral lie. All these lies started with one lie, and have since then grown, and we as a society face the consequences. All forms of lies, big or small, for whatever the circumstance is wrong, immoral and a sin. To live a fruitful life is to live a life without sin, and one of those sins are lying.
- Aquinas, T. (1911). The ‘Summa Theologica’ of St. Thomas Aquinas. 1. Retrieved 4 27, 2018, from https://books.google.com/?id=YzNDAQAAIAAJ&pg=PR36
- Aquinas, T. (1920). Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas. (L. T. Province, Ed.) Retrieved 4 27, 2018
- Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Thomas Aquinas. (n.d.). Retrieved 4 27, 2018, from Newadvent.org: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14663b.htm
- Toner, P. (2012). St. Thomas Aquinas on punishing souls. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 71(2), 103-116. Retrieved 4 27, 2018, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11153-011-9303-8