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Andrea Borghini

Cheerful, Happy, and Honest

By February 25, 2013

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What fosters social bonding and cooperation? I bet many would say the absence of lies. And yet, not only it is quite difficult to define what a lie is: there are several moments when lying seems the best ethical option. Furthermore, lying may be so endemic to any human society that there is no hope to live without it, as the tradition of carnival - when observed philosophically - and as the authors who have written on the subject teach us.

Too often we assume that a ban on lying is the only mean to strengthen a community, forgetting another key aspect to our living: cheerfulness. Now, cheerfulness shall not be confused with happiness: while the former is a behavior, the latter is a condition. In opposition to the purist and idealistic ethics, which would desire to build a society void of sin, we may hence oppose a model of society that maintains itself on cheerfulness and sympathy. Even if you had to lie to me, as long as there is cheerfulness, I will accept you.

Of course, contemporary Western society reminds us that cheerfulness can be dangerous too: corporations as well as politicians often disguise under cheerful advertisements and slogans some dishonest purposes. But the solution is not to ban cheerfulness from our life, or to ban lies. (The liar paradox, one of the most difficult paradoxes to solve, is a witness to the elusiveness of the the concept of lying and, perhaps, to its unavoidability.) Rather, honesty should be the goal. Cheerfulness, happiness, and honesty: if you have those three in your life, you may hope to be blessed; if you have those three in a society, you may hope that it will grow strong.

Comments

March 11, 2013 at 5:09 pm
(1) gemeDextume says:

Nice Post.

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March 19, 2013 at 12:59 am
(2) stephen mann says:

A society can’t be “made strong” by a negative: e.g.,” not lying”. It is defined by what it is rather than isn’t. Sure, societies cast “shadows” but these are the negatives of its positives, the nights of their days. What makes societies strong is an inclusion based upon fairness. India’s caste system made it vulnerable to Islamic conquerors but not to others because their egalitarian promise won over lower castes (now the Pakistanis, for example). But the Roman Empire acquired permanence through grants of citizenship to “aliens”.

But it ironically destroyed this unity by requiring Christian belief from all while before religious pluralism as well as pan citizenship had allowed for a balance between political unity and ethnic diversity and between local and imperial rule.

Steve

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