Lying and Christian Ethics

Lying and Christian Ethics

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This book defends the controversial 'absolute view' of lying, which maintains that an assertion contrary to the speaker's mind is always wrong, regardless of the speaker's intentions. Whereas most people believe that a lie told for a good cause, such as protecting Jews from discovery by Nazis, is morally acceptable, Christopher Tollefsen argues that Christians should support the absolute view. He looks back to the writings of Augustine and Aquinas to illustrate that lying violates the basic human goods of integrity and sociality and severely compromises the values of religion and truth. He critiques the comparatively permissive views espoused by Cassian, Bonhoeffer, and Niebuhr and argues that lies often jeopardize the good causes for which they are told. Beyond framing a moral absolute against lying, this book explores the questions of to whom we owe the truth and when, and what steps we may take when we should not give it.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 1139699490
  • 9781139699495

Table of contents

General editor's preface; Introduction; 1. What is lying?; 2. The Christian case against lying: Augustine and Aquinas; 3. The Christian case for lying: Cassian, Bonhoeffer, and Niebuhr; 4. Moral absolutes; 5. Integrity, sociality, truth, and religion; 6. Justice and the right to truth; 7. The casuistry of truth-telling and deception; 8. Lying for a good cause; Conclusion.
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Review quote

'... the book offers a serious and sustained theological look at the real consequences of lying from the viewpoint of Catholic moral theology ... Recommended.' A. W. Klink, Choice
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About Christopher O. Tollefsen

Christopher Tollefsen is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. He has also been a visiting Associate Professor of Politics and a visiting fellow in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He serves on the editorial boards of The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy and Christian Bioethics. His most recent book is Biomedical Research and Beyond: Expanding the Ethics of Inquiry (2010).
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