Other Names: Harmless lies
Nature: Although a white lie may be a minor falsehood not meant to injure anyone, and is of little moral import, the accumulated effect of white lies may be confusion, misunderstandings and distress. White lies are rarely told just to be socially adept, they are rarely told in an isolated incidence, and they are rarely totally innocuous.
Incidence: A common example is the giving of a false excuse so as not to hurt the feelings of someone making the request or giving an invitation. They may also include exaggerated compliments, embellishment of gossip, the substitution of a quick lie for a lengthy explanation, gratitude expressed for unwanted gifts, inflated letters of recommendation, and the like. A leading authority on lying suggests that women tell four white lies every 15 minutes to men's three. These figures take into account social courtesies like pretending to be amused by bad jokes.
Claim: Even though some people may defend the telling of white lies as being falsehoods not meant to hurt anyone and as being of little moral import, they are, regardless of their description, lies, and their cumulative consequences do harm.
Counter Claim: The telling of white lies in social situations preserves the equilibrium and humaneness of relationships, and is usually excused as long as its numbers do not become excessive. They often bring a substantial benefit and have the effect of avoiding real harm.
Problem Type: F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update 01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET