lying and ethics

Tue, 27 Feb 1996 14:47:44 -0600 (CST)

I have read with interest the posts on lying and constructivism, and wonder
whether the issue of lying in PCT relates to what I construe to be an even
broader issue: ethics in PCT. Much of the discussion on lying seems to be
treading around the question of whether it is ethical to lie under certain
circumstances. This relates to one of my deepest interests related to
constructivism. Bob Neimeyer challenges all of us to think long and hard
when he asks "how can a constructivist
salvage the concept of 'Lying' vs. 'Honesty.'" Is it unethical to lie? For
that matter, given the concept of constructive alternativism how can we discern
ethical form unethical behavior period? Isn't unethical behavior simply
behavior we construe/categorize as unethical? Likewise for ethical behavior.
If "lying-honesty" and "ethical-unethical" are merely constructions rather
than absolute truths, how can we assert that any behavior is more or less
ethical than any other. If I accept the constructions that underlie
ax murder as an ethical choice, then isn't ax murder ethical? Don't we
all end up in that dreaded realm of relativism: all ethical constructions
can be accepted if we accept their underlying constructions?

Unless we examine faith in our constructions, I do not think PCT can say
much of value about ethics. We have to BELIEVE in our ethical constructions,
because we don't have access to universal moral principles (assuming they
even exist!). On the other hand, too much faith in our ethical constructions
can lead to a dangerous righteousness (current example in my mind is Pat
Buchanan and the Christian Coalition).

I realize I have tried to pack a lot into a brief post. I have more fully
elaborated my ideas on this topic in a recently published paper. The
reference (for anyone interested) is:

Raskin, J. D. (1995). On ethics in personal construct theory. THE HUMANISTIC
PSYCHOLOGIST, 23, 97-113.

Any other thoughts people have on ethics and PCT would be appreciated!

Jonathan D. Raskin, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Tennessee State University
3500 John A. Merritt Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37209-1561
tel (615) 963-5158
fax (615) 963-5140
e-mail: raskinj@HARPO.TNSTATE.EDU