palfrey: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] palfrey at 01:18pm on 21/03/2009
I actually wrote this post at some point last year (18/10/08 to be exact), but never got around to posting it as I was offline at my parents, and it's been sitting on my desktop ever since, until now.

As a general rule of thumb, I tend not to lie. Some of you will probably mistake this for a moral choice, which despite the general hijacking of the notions of truth/untruth by the societal conventions of morality it is not. It's more about making my life simple. For most everyday notions ("what colour is this", "what time is it", "how much was that pint") there are relatively clearly defined answers (I'm ignoring stupid people, things like religion on which some people repeatedly give wrong answers, and anyone attempting to argue "but we can never really know what is true" stuff for the purposes of this monologue), and if you always tell the truth then when you forget the answers you can ask other people. In effect, everyone else gets to act like extra bonus external brains for you (plus other similarly reliable sources, say the WWW or random textbooks). If you lie, then only you know the "correct" answer (maybe some others, but remembering the quote about "Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead", group lies tend to be even more likely to fuckup than one-person lies). Also, given the usual problems of everything being connected to everything else, you've then got to change various other answers so they're consistent with the earlier lie or people tend to catch you out and then there's no point in lying to start with. Reality, as a general rule of thumb, tends to be more-or-less internally consistent, and so you don't have to keep correcting non-lies (again, this is for simple everyday stuff, not things like new theories of physics).

Of course, there are certain situations where I don't strictly tell the truth e.g. jokes, parables, etc. Also, despite all of this, I will on occasion lie outright e.g. "No, I know *nothing* about a surprise birthday party", but these are intended strictly as limited-time lies with clearly defined endings and the intention of being fully honest with the person at the end, plus the convention that we assume the person being lied to would wish that we'd lied if they were in full possession of the facts. If that's not at least probably true, I have difficulty with those lies too.

I'm not even sure I could properly lie to protect someone's feelings, but overall I think most of those cases tend to be seriously up for debate what the "right" (for values of "nicest") answer is there, and I'm heavily on the "tell the damn truth" side of things. Recent events have also pointed out to me that I'm at least nominally incapable of keeping up a pretence when directly questioned, especially when the answer is weighing heavily on my mind and I really want to talk about it, which was particularly true in the given situation, but also holds true even for less weighty truths. Heck, it took me a bunch of time to get out of the habit of telling people the time to the second, and even now I only tend to round to the minute with notions like "half past" only occuring if it's actually exactly 30 minutes past the hour. In that case, it's a matter of any further rounding would be "less true" and I think the main reason I accept the minute rounded version is because my watch isn't accurate down to the second.

If we're going to be excessively picky, then "truth" is a very fluid thing, but quite frankly for most day-to-day things, assuming fairly sensible things (the world exists, I exist, all of you lot ain't NPCs, etc) it's often not very fluid at all, and "absolute" (if not very important in the wider scheme of things) truths do in fact exist.

I think that's about enough introspection for the moment.


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