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date: 18 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

White and prosocial lies are lies with socially harmless or benevolent motives or consequences. In ethical debate, these types of lie are controversial as ambivalent or even paradox concepts. The discussion of white and prosocial lies is based on the definition of lying in general, the status of untruthfulness, and the intent to deceive in particular. Three positions are distinguished: First, the absolute-moralist position advanced by Augustine and Kant, according to which the possibility of white or prosocial lies is completely rejected. Second, the utilitarian position, holding that lying might be justified in some cases of conflicting obligations, rights, or interests or because of its overall better consequences. Third, a neutral position that views lying as a conventional and morally neutral speech act. These approaches are discussed with respect to a number of crucial cases, and a taxonomy of white and prosocial lies is proposed.

Keywords: altruistic lie, autonomy, benevolent lie, collaborative lie, morality, prosocial lie, self-defending lie, social trust, truthfulness, white lie

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