Ethics Of Lying: When Lying Can Be More Useful Than Telling The Truth
There are times when lying is better than telling the truth since lies are reflections of reality that people cannot handle. One would instead choose to believe in illusions than the truth because human beings tend to decide to remain ignorant to prevent pain and would struggle to comprehend the complexity of the meaning of truth that if they were granted the chance, they would become distressed. Moreover, if their perspective of reality is then presented with alternate facts that go against their beliefs, they would merely disregard it and fight anyone to keep their realties intact since it is much easier and a more comfortable way of living. Both Friedrich Nietzsche’s “On Truth and Lie in the Extra-Moral Sense” and Miguel de Unamuno’s novel “Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr,” reveal the complexity and the many limitations the desire of truth has when lying can instead be useful by creating a sense of accountability. Therefore, if people are incapable of accepting such burden it would still be an honest act if a person then decides to lie for the interest of others if such truth is so awful to share, then for that reason, the desire for truth would then be unneeded if an illusion is presented as reality.
In Unamuno’s novel, the burden of enlightenment is so horrible for a simple man to handle that Don Manuel, the village priest, decided on his own to keep it a secret and lives a life entirely of falsehood since the truth of existence is too dreadful for others. With that, he prefers to keep his atheism a secret and is aware of the amount of power religion has to the village and displays happiness and love to his people even if his faith is a sham. “. . . The truth may perhaps be something terrible, something intolerable, something mortal; those poor people wouldn’t be able to live with it”. Religion is vital to Don Manuel since he relies on the villagers to accept the word of god as if it were to be factual so they would never question his motives. The amount of pressure that Don Manuel gives to himself is not only to make himself appear virtuous, but to create peace, and to preserve the illusion that he created.
Furthermore, Don Manuel’s actions are linked to Nietzsche’s essay because the reasoning behind the necessity to reveal the idea of truth is such a primitive thing to do and sadly will never be satisfied, ‘Nothing is more incomprehensible than how an honest and pure desire for truth could rise among men’. Nietzsche here is exposing how people tend to think that they are essential beings; however, this reasoning is the foundation to the problem of seeking truth when it is just a mere illusion created by interpretation, and because language is so complex from its deception that created countless possibilities of the meaning of truth. “Truth are illusions about which it has been forgotten that they are illusions, worn out metaphors without sensory impact, coins which have lost their image and now can be used only as metal”. Therefore, since there is no such thing of a universal truth, the very idea of truth is just the name given to the point of view of the people who have the means to enforce it.
Nietzsche would argue that as long as there is no absolute truth, then truth can be absolutely anything. In a way, this idea is demonstrated in Unamuno’s novel when Don Manuel ignores his deep and darkest thoughts so that he can create an illusion for his people. His purpose is his people, to care and nurture as if they were his children to hide them from the solitude that he fears. Throughout the novel, Don Manuel repeats, ‘I am afraid of solitude’, to Angela and Lazaro the only two people who know his secrete. And they too slowly throughout the novel show signs of distress from the “idleness” that Don Manuel hates because he knows it allows them to be alone with their thoughts.
In Nietzsche’s essay, he points out that people use the art of dissimulation to find truth and then mistakenly will define it as forms; however ‘their perception leads nowhere to the truth’. Nietzsche’s here is stating that as humans there is never going to be a true meaning of truth because of language; language is filled with metaphors, and at the moment we think we know something at its purest we only know about the metaphors for such thing.
So ultimately, we will never see a thing authentically because over time their true origins get forgotten. This concept is shown throughout Angela’s character when she discovers that Don Manuel is not religious and become conflicted with herself and starts to doubt her faith.
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