Chat with us, powered by LiveChat You are the lawyer for a wealthy, now recently-deceased billionaire who has left his entire fortune to his dog. Even though he has no other family, you see this as a terrible was - Very-Good Essays

You are the lawyer for a wealthy, now recently-deceased billionaire who has left his entire fortune to his dog. Even though he has no other family, you see this as a terrible was

Dialogue Prompt: You are the lawyer for a wealthy, now recently-deceased billionaire who has left his entire fortune to his dog. Even though he has no other family, you see this as a terrible waste of money and realize that if you alter his will, you could instead use his estate to set up a foundation dedicated to feeding the homeless. You are quite certain no one would find out, since only you knew about your client’s true wishes. What should you do? Is a lawyer who misrepresents his deceased client's wishes doing something that is equivalent to lying? If so, does the 9th commandment permit lying for a good cause? Defend your answer in light of the 9th commandment while considering the following concepts from Week 3: justice, perfect duties, and imperfect duties

Write a dialogue post that provides an answer the questions above. Apply the concepts presented in this week’s posts must have 250-350 wrds

A successful post and response will contain the following elements:

  • Meets the word count guidelines and is on time.
  • Is a thoughtful answer to the questions presented in the assignment instructions.
  • Demonstrates an understanding of course concepts such as justice, perfect and imperfect duties, and the natural/moral law and integrates these concepts into the posts.
  • Makes use of the assigned readings and incorporates either quotes or paraphrase to make a point more clear. 
  • Demonstrates excellent readability and is error-free.


Augustine’s views on lying, summarized in the following pages, are among the most influential words ever written on the subject. Written in 395 A.D., On Lying details his strict absolutist position: in every situation, no matter what the circumstances might be, lying is always wrong. Lying, says Augustine, is to bear false witness to the contents of one’s own mind, and since the Decalogue issues an unqualified condemnation of false witness, it can be properly said that the Ten Commandments prohibits all lying. While in today’s world this view may seem rather shocking, it has nonetheless remained the predominant Christian view for centuries, perhaps in part due to Augustine’s colossal status and unmatched influence in the Western World. What follows are excerpts from this short treatise, comprising approximately one third of the entire work. 1. The question “ What constitutes a lie? ” is important to our everyday lives because it can give us much trouble, since we might sometimes be tempted to call things lies which are not, or we might decide that we need to tell a certain lie out of a sense of honor, or duty, or even out of mercy. As such, I will treat this question here very carefully to seek the truth along with those who ask the same question. Whether or not I succeed in this task will be up to the attentive reader to decide. The problem I will address is indeed full of dark corners, and it often eludes the comprehension of the person seeking a solution, so that at one moment what was found seems to slip out of one's hands, only to be found again, but then it is once more lost to sight. In the end, however, the solution will be apparent to us. If there is any error in my presentation, I think that because truth frees one from all error and because lack of truth is the source of all error, it is better that the reader err on the side of excessive regard for the truth and hold fast to an equally emphatic rejection of all falsehood. People who find fault in this might say that taking on such an attitude is going too far. Truth, however, would say it is not taking things far enough. I ask you who read this not to find fault until you have read the entire work, because then you will have less to criticize. Yet do not look for impressive use of words. In my effort to probe as deeply as possible into the subtleties of the issue as it applies to daily life, I have paid very little attention to eloquence of speech. 2. In this short work, I have excluded the question of lies told when joking, which have never been considered real lies, since the tone of voice and the attitude of the joker signal that he means no deceit, even though the things he says are false. Whether or not this type of speaking should be used by a person striving for perfection is outside the scope of this work. Putting this


issue aside, the first question I will consider is whether it could be properly said that a person is lying when he is actually not telling a lie. 3. The first problem, then, involves what a lie really is, since it is clear that a person who says something false does not tell a lie if he believes, or at least assumes, what he says is true. There is a distinction between believing and assuming. Sometimes the person who believes realizes he does not fully understand what he believes, although by firmly believing it, he has no doubt about the things which he realizes he does not fully understand. On the other hand, he who assumes thinks he knows something, although he does not actually know it. Whoever speaks something which he either believes or assumes does not lie even if the statement is false. Such statements are expressions of one’s faith, and in what the person says, he is merely disclosing the contents of his mind, which he does his best to put into words. Yet even when he does not lie, he is still blameworthy if he believes something he should not believe or if he thinks he knows what he actually does not know, even if it is accidentally true, since he is considering something to be known which is actually not known by him. Instead, a man only lies if he has one thing in his mind and yet says something else, either in his words or by signs or other outward expressions. This is why the person who lies is said to have a double heart, or to be two-fold in thinking. One way this occurs is when a person chooses not to express what he knows or thinks to be true; the other is when a person expresses as true what he knows or thinks to be false. Therefore, a person may say something false and yet not be lying if he thinks things are as he says they are, even though in reality they are not so. Likewise, it may happen that a person is lying if he speaks as true what he believes is false, even if the actual truth is exactly what he says. This is because a lie is determined based upon the intention of the person’s mind, not based upon the truth or falsity of the words themselves. Therefore, a person who utters a false thing while saying it’s true may be called mistaken or rash but might not be lying, because at the moment he speaks he does not have a double heart and does not intend to deceive. Instead, he himself is deceived. What makes him guilty of a lie is the desire to deceive while expressing the contents of his mind. So when that person utters a falsehood, whether he has successfully deceived someone because he is believed or he has been unsuccessful because he is not believed or he has tried to deceive but has actually said something accidentally true, he is in each case nonetheless guilty of lying. In this last case, he certainly does not succeed in deceiving, unless he is wishing to deceive by trying to make his listeners think he knows what he is talking about… 5. … Let us now turn from this question upon which we all agree and inquire whether it is sometimes useful to utter a falsehood with the desire to deceive. Those who think lies can be beneficial often use the example of Sarah who, after she had laughed, denied that she had laughed to the Angels (cf. Gen 18:15); the example of Jacob when questioned by his father, who


answered that he was the elder son Esau (cf. Gen 27:19); and the example of the Egyptian midwives, who lied to save the Hebrew infants from being slain at their birth and who were commended by God for their lies (cf. Ex. 1:19-20). Pointing out examples of this sort, they make use of lies told by Biblical figures who no one would dare to blame, and by doing so they lead others to believe that some lies are not blameworthy and even worthy of praise. They add to this a special case which would convince not only those devoted to sacred Scripture, but all men, asking questions such as: “ If someone fled to you for protection and if you could free that person from death with a single lie, would you not tell that lie? ” If a sick person asked you a question and it be better that he not know the answer, and if he would be more grievously afflicted without you replying to him, wouldn’t you tell a noble and merciful lie to improve his weak health rather than either tell the truth or not answer and imperil the man's life? By these and similar arguments they think they’re convincing us that in certain instances we must lie in order to accomplish some good. 6. Contrary to this point of view, those who say we must never lie remain even more steadfast, appealing first to Divine authority, because in the Decalogue itself it says “ You shall not bear false witness ”(Ex 20:16). Under this precept, all lying is condemned, since whoever utters anything with his mouth bears witness to his own mind. Even if some might be unconvinced that every lie is an instance of false witness, what then will they say to this saying that is also in sacred Scripture: “ A lying mouth destroys the soul ” (Wis. 1:11)? If anyone would think that this scripture passage, too, is unconvincing, he can read in yet another place, “ You destroy those who speak lies” (Ps. 5:6). Even our Lord said with his own lips,“ Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one ” (Mt. 5:37) . The Apostle, when he directs that the “old man” be put off (which we understand to be all sinfulness), also says very clearly “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth ” (Eph. 4:25)… 9. …With even greater confidence do those who oppose all lying insist that daily life does not justify exceptions to the rule. They teach that lying is always sinful by using many examples from sacred Scripture, especially by pointing to the following verse: “ You hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies” (Ps. 5:5-6). Here, there are two possibilities. Either Scripture, as it usually does, explains the first verse with the one that follows, so evildoing has a wider meaning and we might understand lies to be a type of evildoing; or, if some think there is any difference between the two, then lying is so much worse since it comes after “ you destroy ” rather than “ you hate .” It may be that God hates a person to a lesser degree and so does not wish to destroy him, so we can assume the person He does want to destroy is the one He must hate even more, which is why He punishes that person more severely. He hates all who do evil , but He goes beyond that and destroys all who tell lies. If this is true, how many who assent to this nonetheless find


themselves shaken by extreme examples, such as when it is said, “ What if a person who flees to you can, by your lie, be saved from death? ” Yet this kind of death, which is foolishly feared by men who are nonetheless not afraid to sin, kills not the soul but the body. Our Lord himself teaches in the Gospel (Mt 10:28) that this is the wrong kind of death to be feared. Moreover, the mouth that lies kills not the body but the soul. These words are plainly written: “ A lying mouth destroys the soul ” (Wis. 1:11). Is it not a perverse thing to say, then, that it is one person’s duty to die spiritually so that another person might live bodily? Love of neighbor has as its limits a person’s love of himself. Our Lord says, “ You shall love… your neighbor as yourself ” (Lk 10:27). How can a person choose to love another person as he loves himself by preserving that person’s bodily life while losing his own eternal life? If a person destroys his bodily life to preserve the bodily life of another, he doesn’t love the other as himself, but more than himself, and thus he deviates from sound doctrine. Even more mistaken is the person, then, who by lying throws away his eternal life in order to save the bodily life of another. Of course a Christian would not hesitate to give up his bodily life for the sake of his neighbor's eternal life. In this way, our Lord has set the example by dying for us. Regarding this He says, “ This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends ” (Jn 15: 12-13). No one would be so foolish as to say that our Lord’s words provide anything other than the eternal salvation of men, whether it be following what he commanded or commanding what he did. Since eternal life is therefore lost by lying, it is never permissible to lie in order to save the bodily life of another. Some, nevertheless, become angry or even indignant if a person is unwilling to kill his own soul by telling a lie so that someone else might be able to grow a bit older in the flesh. Would these same people say we should commit theft or adultery to save someone from death? Should we therefore steal in order to commit adultery? These people do not realize what follows from such reasoning. They would have to say we ought to submit ourselves to a sinful man who threatens to hang himself if we were not to yield to his sexual advances. If this demand is both absurd and wicked, since the person who gave up his body to be defiled in this way would be found guilty of immorality at the final judgement, then why should someone corrupt his soul by lying so that another may prolong his bodily life? There is nothing further to be explored regarding this question, then, except whether lies are morally wrong. Although the answer to this is made clear in the Scripture passages above, there still remains the issue of the lie told to attain the salvation of another, which is the same question as to whether a man has a duty to act immorally in order to secure the salvation of another. Since eternal salvation would have us place conformity to the moral law not only before the bodily safety of another, but before even our own bodily safety, if the salvation of the soul rules out all lying, what other reason is there left for us to doubt that no lie must ever be told? There is no worldly good dearer to us than the safety and life of the body. So if truth should be preferred to


even the most desirable of worldly goods, what other argument can they use to convince us that it is sometimes right to lie?… 13. … Suppose there was a man willing to die a Christian martyr’s death because he would not bear false witness against Christ and refused to sacrifice to demons, but he learned that as a consequence another man would be put to death before his very eyes and that this man would be his own father. Suppose also that his father begged the man not to be so stubborn so as to cause his own father’s death. Isn’t it clear that the man, if he remained steadfast, would not be guilty of his father’s death, and that the oppressors alone would be the only murderers. Even if his father, a sacrilegious man destined for eternal punishment, was killed as a result of the martyr’s choice to not violate his faith by false testimony, his consent would nevertheless not make him guilty of this heinous crime because he refused to do the evil himself, regardless of what the oppressors threatened to do because of his refusal to comply with their wishes. What are these oppressors saying other than “ Do evil, or else we will do it? ” Just because our own wrongdoing would prevent them from doing an evil deed, this is not good reason to assist them by doing evil ourselves. Since they are truly doing an evil thing when they make such statements, why should we have to accompany them in their wickedness rather than let them be wicked by themselves? Our attitude must never be an attitude of consent, since we do not approve of what they do. Instead, we always desire to prevent them, and we try to prevent them using all means within our power; yet we avoid joining them in their evildoing and condemn all wrongdoing as strongly as we can. 14. Some might ask, “ If someone else’s act would prevent wrongdoers from committing their evil deed, how does he not share in their act? ” According to this line of reasoning, we are accomplices to the robbers breaking into a house because we did not leave the door open for them, and we share the guilt with murderers we knew were lying in wait to kill someone on the grounds that, had we arrived there first to kill the murderers, they would not have killed their victims. Or if a person tells us he intends to kill his father, we are guilty along with him if we are unable to prevent him by other means and therefore do not kill him first before he kills his father. In each case, the argument can be expressed in the same form: “ You shared his deed, since he would not have done it if you had done that other thing .” But I should wish that neither evil is accomplished. I should take measures only against the evil deed that is within my power to avoid. The other deed belongs to another, and if I am unable to dissuade him with my pleading, I am not duty-bound to commit another evil to impede him. In no way is a person approving of a sinner if he refuses to sin at his request. Neither crime pleases him, since he wishes neither to be done. In matters pertaining to him, he is not responsible for things done that are not within his power. In matters pertaining to what another person does, he condemns such things by his will


alone. Therefore, if some were to offer terms such as “ If you will not burn incense to our gods, this you will suffer ” and if the person answers, “ For me, I choose neither because I detest both, and so I consent to neither of your proposals, ” in saying these words, which certainly would be true, he will not be giving in to their demands. Whatever that person suffers as a result will for him be counted as wrongs received, and for them counted as sins committed. Someone might ask, “ Should he even suffer defilement rather than burn incense ?” If this question is about what he ought to suffer, the answer is neither. For if I was to say he ought to have suffered one of these things, I would be approving of one or the other, whereas I do not approve of either. But if the question was which of the two alternatives he should avoid, given that both could not be avoided, I would answer by saying that in choosing he should always avoid his own sin, even if it be the lesser evil, rather than avoiding the greater sin of someone else. Even though sexual defilement is worse than burning incense, which is a point I shall reserve for some other time when the issue can be more carefully explained, burning incense to pagan gods would be his own sin, whereas his defilement would be the deed of another, despite the fact that it had been done to him. The sin belongs to the person who does the deed. Although murder is a greater sin than stealing, it is worse to steal than to suffer murder. Therefore, if someone was threatened with death if he refused to steal – in other words, he would be murdered – and if he could not avoid both, he ought to avoid that which would be his own sin, rather than the sin of another. Furthermore, the guilt of his murder would not fall upon him because the crime was committed against him, even though he might have been able to avoid it if he would have committed a sin of his own… 22. Now consider another situation in which a Christian is asked about a murderer, who either has sought refuge with him or whose whereabouts is known to him, by someone who wants to bring the murderer to justice. Should the Christian lie? How is it that a sin would not be concealed by the lie, since the person on whose behalf he lies has committed a wicked deed? Does it make a difference that he is not questioned about the crime itself, but about the place the murderer is hiding? Is it wrong to conceal the sin of another, but not wrong to hide the sinner? “ Certainly! ” some might answer. “ A person commits no sin when he avoids punishment, but only when does something deserving punishment. Plus, a Christian should always hope for the conversion of the wicked and should do nothing that would deprive a sinner the opportunity for repentance. ” Is that so? If you were to be led to a judge and asked about the murderer’s hiding place, are you really going to say either that he is not somewhere when you know he’s there or that you do not know where he is, even though you do? Are you then prepared to bear false witness and to kill your own soul so that a killer may not be put to death? You suppose you’re killing the man yourself by betraying him, and you think “ Even sacred Scripture detests a betrayer. ” Perhaps it’s not the person who tells the truth to a judge who is a betrayer, but rather


anyone who brings another to his own destruction. Apply, then, the case to a just and innocent man who is hiding. If you are questioned by the judge who is simply carrying out a sentence which has already condemned this man to death, will it not be false witness for you to lie to protect an innocent man, even if the judge is only charged with carrying out his execution? What if the unjust judge who sentenced the innocent man questioned you? What would you do? Will you bear false witness, or will you be his betrayer? Will he that discloses the location of a murderer hiding from the authorities be a betrayer, yet not the person to whom the location of an innocent man has been entrusted but who nevertheless discloses the information to an unjust judge seeking to put him to death? Will you be unable to make up your mind between giving false witness and betraying an innocent man, or by keeping silence will you avoid both? Why not do this before you come to the judge, that you might also avoid lying, since by avoiding all lies, you will avoid all false witness, whether or not you believe every lie is an instance of false witness. Although by simply staying clear of all false witness, you will not eliminate all lying. How much more courageous, then, and more excellent would it be to say, “ I will neither betray nor lie! ”… 23. This is what a Bishop from the Church of Thagasta named Firmus, who was even firmer in willpower, once did. When the authorities arrived asking for a man who had taken refuge with him and who he had been carefully hiding, he answered by saying he would neither lie nor betray the man. These authorities were agents of the emperor at a time before the emperors were Christian. Although he was subjected to many physical torments, he held firm in his resolve not to disclose the man’s whereabouts. When he was finally brought before the emperor, the emperor was so impressed with what the bishop had done that the bishop was able to obtain a pardon for the man whom he had been hiding. What other course of action could be more courageous and devoted than this? To this example, a more timid person might say, “ I am willing to suffer torments and even to face death in order to avoid sin, but it is no sin to lie if the lie does no harm or bears no false witness yet benefits some man. However, it is foolish and sinful to subject oneself voluntarily yet needlessly to cruel tormentors, even at risk of throwing away one’s own life. ” To this person I ask, “Why do you fear the commandment ‘ You shall not bear false witness ’ (Ex. 20:16) and yet not fear God when he says “ You destroy those who speak lies ” (Ps. 5.6)?” This person might answer, “ It does not say ‘every lie .’” I, however, would reply by saying the passage is equivalent to “ You will destroy all that speak false witness ” and that it’s unnecessary that this statement use the words ‘all false witness.’ He might respond, “ Yes, but the verse [from Psalms] appears in the context of deeds that are evil in every way. What about the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill?’ If killing is evil in every way, how can just men who have nonetheless killed many people be excused of this crime? ” The answer to this question is that the just man himself does not kill when he carries out some jus

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