Philanthropic Lies versus Misanthropic Honesty

The preference of the Spanish philosopher Javier Goma Lanzon:

“For centuries people were expected not to be honest, but virtuous. In the 18th century, however, these people, Rousseau and Goethe among them, decided that their only duty was to be ‘themselves.’

“Since then the most shameless and impertinent individuals enjoy almost complete impunity by openly advertising that they simply are what they are, and the rest of us are forced to patiently endure the consequences of their eager confessions.

“Molière made fun of the excesses of this stance in Misanthrope. I agree with him, today more than ever. We need therapeutic dissimulation, the occasional buckling and relenting, the pious lies that make life endearing, because they let us believe that both sides face each other benevolently.

“I certainly prefer the philanthropic lie to misanthropic honesty. If in the future some unsympathetic person addresses me with the words ‘Look, Javier, speaking honestly…,’ I will cut him off there and say: ‘Stop! If you want to know the truth, I would prefer you lie to me.’”

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5 responses to “Philanthropic Lies versus Misanthropic Honesty

  1. You may become, a little, as you behave. You may behave, a little, as you profess.

  2. Michael Gundy

    If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me. ~Alice Roosevelt Longworth

  3. “The story was told by Albert Einstein of the young man who had married a very plain wife. Asked whether he was happy, the young man replied, “To tell the truth, I have to lie.”

    Daniel Lerner in Daedalus, Vol. 87, No. 4, Fall, 1958, “On Evidence and Inference,” Preface