lays on deceit against enemies do not seem to be taken very seriously. Treaties between nations and promises given by one state to another, either in war or peace, are hardly meant to be kept longer than it is convenient to keep them. And when an excuse for the breach of faith is felt necessary, that excuse itself is generally a lie.




The condemnation of untruthfulness and bad faith springs from a variety of sources. In the first place, he who tells a lie, or who breaks a promise, generally commits an injury against another person.

His act consequently calls forth sympathetic resentment, and becomes an object of moral censure.

Men have a natural disposition to believe what they are told. This disposition is particularly obvious in young

. children ; it is acquired wisdom and experience only that teach incredulity, and, as Adam Smith observes, they very seldom teach it enough. Even people who are themselves pre-eminent liars are often deceived by the falsehoods of others. When detected a deception always implies a conAlict between two irreconcilable ideas ; and such a conflict gives rise to a feeling of pain, which may call forth resentment against its volitional cause, the deceiver.

But .men are not only ready to believe what they are told, they also like to know the truth. Curiosity, or the love of truth, is coeval with the first operations of the intellect; it seems to be an ultimate fact in the human


Reid, Inquiry into the Human 2 Burton, Two Trips to Gorilla Mint, vi. 24, p. 430 sqq. Adam Land, i. 106 (Mpongwe). Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 3 Lehmann, Hovedlovene for det P. 494 sq. Dugald Stewart, Philosophy menneskelige Følelseliv, p. 181. Cf. of the ditive and Moral Powers of Bain, Emotions and the Will, p. 218. Man, ii. 340 sq.

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frame. In our endeavour to learn the truth we are frustrated by him who deceives us, and he becomes an object of our resentment.

Nor are we injured by a deception merely because we like to know the truth, but, chiefly, because it is of much importance for us that we should know it. Our conduct is based upon our ideas ; hence the erroneous notion as

; regards some fact in the past, present, or future, which is produced by a lie or false promise, may lead to unforeseen events detrimental to our interests. Moreover, on discovering that we have been deceived, we have the humiliating feeling that another person has impertinently made our conduct subject to his will. This is a wound on our pride, a blot on our honour. Francis I. of France laid down as a principle, “ that the lie was never to be put up with without satisfaction, but by a base-born fellow.'

« The lie,” says Sainte-Palaye, “has always been considered the most fatal and irreparable affront that a man of honour could receive." 3

How largely the condemnation of falsehood and bad faith is due to the harm suffered by the victim appears from the fact that a lie or breach of faith is held more condemnable in proportion to the magnitude of the harm caused by it. But even in apparently trifling cases the reflective mind strongly insists upon the necessity of truthfulness and fidelity to a given word. Every lie and every unfulfilled promise have a tendency to lessen mutual confidence, to predispose the perpetrator to commit a similar offence in the future, and to serve as a bad example for others. “ The importance of truth,” says Bentham, “is so great, that the least violation of its laws, even in frivolous matters, is always attended with a certain degree of danger. The slightest deviation from it is an attack upon the respect we owe to it. It is a first transgression which facilitates a second, and familiarises the odious idea

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i. 71.

1 Dugald Stewart, op. cit. ii. 334, 340.

2 Millingen, History of Duelling,


3 Sainte · Palaye, Mémoires l'ancienne chevalerie, i. 78.

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of falsehood." Contrariwise, as Aristotle observes, he who is truthful in unimportant matters will be all the more so in important ones. Similar considerations, however, require a certain amount of reflection and farsightedness; hence intellectual development tends to increase the emphasis laid on the duties of sincerity and good faith. At the earlier stages of civilisation it is frequently considered good form to tell an untruth to a person in order to please him, and ill-mannered to contradict him, however much he be mistaken, for the reason that farther consequences are left out of account. The utilitarian basis of the duty of truthfulness also accounts for those extreme cases in which a deception is held permissible or even a duty, when promoting the true interests of the person subject to it.

The detestation of falsehood is in a very large measure due to the motive which commonly is at the bottom of a lie. It is doubtful whether a lie ever is told simply from love of falsehood. The intention to produce a wrong

4 belief has a deeper motive than the mere desire to produce such a belief; and in most cases this motive is the deceiver's hope of benefiting himself at the expense of the

A better motive makes the act less detestable, or may even serve as a justification. But the broad doctrine that the end sanctifies the means is generally rejected; and the principle which sometimes allows


person deceived.

? Bentham, Theory of Legislation,

P. 260,

? Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea, iv. 7. 8. 3 Besides

statements referred to above, see Dobrizhoffer, Account of the Abipones, ii. 137; Hennepin, New Discovery of a Vast Country in America between New France and New Mexico,

. 70; Dall, Alaska, p. 398 (Aleuts); Oldheld, in Trans, Eihn. Sor. N.S. iii. 255 (West Australian natives). “The natives of Africa,” says Livingstone 1 Expedition to the Zambesi, p. 309), ** have an amiable desire to please, and often tell what they imagine will be gratifying, rather than the uninteresting

naked truth.” An English sportsman, after firing at an antelope, inquired of his dark attendant, “ Is it wounded ?” The answer was, “Yes! the ball went right into his heart.” These mortal wounds never proving fatal, he asked a friend, who understood the language, to explain to the man that he preferred the truth in every case.

“ He is my father,” replied the native, “and I thought he would be displeased if I told him that he never hits at all.” The wish to please is likewise a fertile source of untruth in children, especi. ally girls (Sully, Studies of Childhood, p. 256).

+ Dugald Stewart, op. cit. ii. 342.


deceit from a benevolent motive has been restricted within very narrow limits by a higher conception of individual freedom and individual rights. Thus the emancipation of morality from theology has brought discredit on the old theory that religious deception is permissible when it serves the object of saving human souls from eternal perdition. The opinion that no motive whatsoever can justify an act of falsehood has been advocated not only by intuitional moralists, but on utilitarian grounds. But it certainly seems absurd to the common sense of mankind that we should be allowed to save our own life or the life of a fellow-man by killing the person who wants to take it, but not by deceiving him.

It is easy to see why falsehood is so frequently held permissible, praiseworthy, or even obligatory, when directed against a stranger.

In early society an injury inflicted on a stranger calls forth no sympathetic resentment. On the contrary, being looked upon with suspicion or hated as an enemy, he is considered a proper object of deception. Among the Bushmans “no one dare give any information in the absence of the chief or father of the

“A Bedouin,” says Burckhardt, “ who does not know the person interrogating him, will seldom answer with truth to questions concerning his family or tribe. The children are taught never to answer similar questions, lest the interrogator may be a secret enemy and come for

a purposes of revenge. "3. Among the Beni Amer a stranger can never trust a man's word on account of “ their contempt for everything foreign.” 4 That even civilised nations allow stratagem in warfare is the natural consequence of war itself being allowed ; and if good faith is to be preserved between enemies, that is because only thereby useless cruelty can be avoided and an end be put to hostilities.

However, deceit is not condemned merely because it is

Macmillan, Promotion of General 3 Burckhardt, Notes on the Bedouins Happiness, p. 166 sq.

and Wahábys, p. 210. Chapman, Travels in the Interior 4 Munzinger, Ostafrikanische Studien, of South Africa, i. 76.

clan.” 2



p. 337

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