Previous Page/Table Of ContentsNext Page



F . The Rule of Honesty34

Individuals should deal with one another with the maximum amount of honesty which is appropriate to the particular circumstances, and should never assert an untruth when the truth is called for. At a minimum, this means total avoidance of any act or omission which would constitute a fraud upon the other individual,35 except when a higher order rule demands a dishonest or fraudulent course of conduct. For example, evasive or dishonest answers are demanded when some higher authority has determined that the truth must be withheld for the protection of a greater good, or even the protection of society as a whole, and in these circumstances, honesty is a vice, not a virtue. Secrecy does have its useful and proper applications in various circumstances, and secrecy should not be allowed to be defeated by persistent questioners who have no real right to the truth. Also, dishonest answers are demanded when an individual requests an opinion which is essentially rhetorical in nature, such as where one person asks another "how do I look" where the implication is that the only acceptable answer which will not injure the feelings of the questioner is a positive reply of some sort. Dishonest statements are also appropriate in any circumstance where society tolerates deception, such in arranging a "surprise party" for an individual. However, in the absence of the circumstances where one of these clearly defined exceptions to the rule of honesty applies, then the honest answer, the honest denial of possession of knowledge not possessed, the full disclosure of material facts which are possessed, and the keeping of promises are each mandatory for all civilized individuals.


34 Thomas Henry Huxley [1825-1895] said "Veracity is the heart of morality." (Universities, Actual and Ideal [1874].)

35 There are four things which constitute fraud as defined by the principles developed from the old English common law: 1.) The suggestion, as a fact, of that which is not true, by one who does not believe it to be true; 2.) The assertion, as a fact, of that which is not true, by one who has no reasonable ground for believing it to be true; 3.) The suppression of a fact, by one who is bound to disclose it, or who gives information of other facts which are likely to mislead for want of communication of that fact; or 4.) A promise, made without any intention of performing it. An individual who wishes to deal honestly with another individual must always avoid: 1.)  Suggesting any fact which is known not to be true; 2.)  Asserting any fact for which there is no reasonable ground for believing it to be true; 3.)  Suppressing any fact for which there is a duty to disclose the fact or for which the suppressed fact would be material to the consideration by one or more other individuals of any fact which has been asserted; or 4.)  Making any promise when there is no intention of performing as promised.

Copyright 1994-1999 by the Agnostic Church

Please send us your feedback!

Previous Page/Table Of ContentsNext Page