Is it ever moral to be dishonest?

28 Jul 2011

This question was asked on Objectivist Answers. Here is my answer:

No, not if you mean literally dishonest. Honesty is “the refusal to fake reality” (OPAR, p. 267, cited in the Glossary of Objectivist Definitions). Dishonesty thus consists of faking reality in some way, and is never moral.

Dishonesty is not the same as lying or deceit. Not every lie is dishonest, in the sense of faking reality. To lie is “to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive” (Merriam-Webster). Most lies are dishonest—for instance, lying about cheating on one’s wife in order to preserve a marriage, or about one’s qualifications in order to get a job. But there are honest lies—to protect oneself from a criminal, for instance; to deceive the enemy in wartime; even to protect one’s privacy from the prying questions of strangers.