Jan 25, 2018 in Book Review

St Augustine on Lying

In his book “On Lying” Saint Augustine analyzed the concept “lie” in all its aspects taking into the consideration intention of lying, moral side of liar, his will and circumstances which provoked lying. Without doubt, one can observe that philosopher indicated that strong will can prevent us from lying. Will is the possibility to make one's own decision, to choose one's own actions, to determine what is good and what is evil. 

Saint Augustine (2005, p. 390) affirmed that it would be unmoral to lie in any case, even if you want to rescue another life or to save one's own life. As we see he was not the supporter of lying. He supposed that the action with an evil moral object is never justified in any case.

“For there is no need to be afraid of any of those definitions, when the mind has a good conscience, that it utters that which to be true it either knows, or opines, or believes, and that it has no wish to make any thing believed but that which it utters (Augustine, 2005, p. 387)”. 

Saint Augustine distinguished such types of lying: lies in religion; lies that only damage and benefit nobody; lies that damage other people and benefit somebody; lies told for the delight of lying; lies told to satisfy others; lies that are harmful to nobody and that benefit someone; lies which are not harmful that save someone's life; lies that damage nobody and that save someone's “chastity”.

Saint Augustine (2005, p. 383) supposed that jokes or mistakes are not lying because when we listened to jokes we feel that the tone of voice and mood of joker render that his intention is to make us laugh but not to deceit us. The philosopher emphasized the importance of intention of the speaker and told that even truth thought false by the speaker is a lie.

Augustine stated that free will existed and people can choose to choose good (truth, sincerity) or to choose evil (lie). Man can choose a life of good will himself.
 According to Saint Augustine all kinds of lies are sinful in its entity and ruin moral principles of behaviour. Augustine claimed that a lie should never be told for any man's civil life (at the earth), since the value of such is one's everlasting (at the paradise) life. 


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