6: Complete honesty

A Thousand Things to Talk About
A Thousand Things to Talk About
6: Complete honesty

Today, we’re talking about honesty. Specifically…

Can one be completely honest without sharing full details?

Show notes & links:
David Hume: politics, economics, justice and miscellaneous (Google Books)

Full episode text

This question has been one long debated in my own life – partially thanks to Cathy, my ex from long ago. Hi Cathy! Defining honesty in and of itself is a challenge that philosophers over the centuries have tackled many times, since the nature of truth and honesty are very closely intertwined.

There is, of course, the practical limitation. “Full” details is a practical impossibility, as few of us can remember every single detail about every single moment of our lives. What was the license plate of the car in front of you this morning?

And yet, there is a legitimate question of how many details must be shared to be considered “honest” about something. Some would argue as many as are necessary for the individual to get a sense of the scope. Others, however, argue that details merely illustrate, and illustrations aren’t a necessary part of the “truth”. And there may be times the larger “truth”, such as it is, requires leaving out details.

In fact, as philosopher David Hume put it, “That honesty is the best policy, may be a good general rule; but is liable to many exceptions: And he, it may, perhaps, be thought, conducts himself with most wisdom, who observes the general rule, and takes advantage of all the exceptions.”