Honesty is upheld as an age-old virtue of civilisation. A requirement for our leaders and those in public life. Yet there are many instances where we deem lying desirable. Few would think it right for parents to be honest with their offspring about their favourite child, or to be honest about talents or abilities if it is likely to be hurtful for a relative, colleague or friend. And it is not just in personal relationships. We are not critical of Churchill for his rousing wartime speeches even if we now know he did not always believe them himself.  

Should we recognise that lying can be valuable, constructive and sometimes necessary, not only for ourselves but for those in power?  Or is honesty not only essential in public life but lies should be insisted upon in all aspects of our everyday life as well? More broadly, should we give up the idea that honesty is a virtue and recognise that along with lying it is also potentially a vice.

In association with New Humanist.

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