Monday, January 28, 2013

If everybody deceives …



Reading Parfit’s On What Matters, I came across this passage:

“Turn next to lying. Herman writes that …
‘… Universal deception would be held by Kant to make speech and thus deception impossible.’
Korsgaard similarly writes:
‘lies are usually efficacious in achieving their purposes because they deceive, but if they were universally practiced they would not deceive...
But no one acts on the maxim ‘Always lie’. Many liars act on the maxim ‘Lie when that would benefit me’.” (Vol. One, p. 278; my italics)

When I read this, I immediately thought: Lance Armstrong could have said it, especially the italicized part (cf. his interview with Oprah Winfrey). And indeed, what would it matter, if everybody would lie? If everybody would deceive everybody, in particular if everybody did it in the same way? Then Armstrong would still have been the best. But it doesn’t work that way. Even if 90% of all pro-cyclists would have used drugs in his days, as some say, then there is still this 10% that has been robbed of their victories or couldn’t renew their contracts because they performed “poorly” (or because they didn’t want to take drugs for obvious reasons). Not to speak of the sponsors, the crowd and others. The morality that an act is allowed if everybody does it …

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