Radical Honesty & Relationships – An Addendum

Savvy Sunday Salutations: 

Welcome to another week with guest blogger Patrick Tulley; last week‘s discussions were so engaging that Patrick decided to post an addendum this week; it certainly opens up the discussion in more detail.  I still believe that honesty is the best policy, what are your thoughts?  I hope you find this an interesting read as I have.  We look forward to your comments.

(As always, there is a pdf document at the bottom of the post for those who may find this a difficult read.)


Several commenters’s brought up some interesting points in last week’s post that I thought were worth attaching as an addendum this week. In many ways these points have been reflected in a few of my previous posts, but a little more detail regarding ‘radical honesty’ I felt would be useful in tying them altogether more coherently. What’s interesting is that this addendum is now longer than my original post. Anyway, I hope it explains any discrepancies that you may have had with last week’s post.

1 – Obligations

‘Honesty is the best policy’

We have all heard the expression above, but what is it suggesting? Well for the most part it is saying honesty by definition is a virtuous act. But is it really? Cannot dishonesty be virtuous too? In order for a philosophical concept to work, it is first required to be consistent. I believe I can prove this from a philosophical perspective myself. This is also, where we touch on the more ethical nature of our choices to be honest or not. I hope it makes sense.

Honesty accepts that you have an obligation to be honest. However, the obligations we are faced with may well have been either ‘unchosen’ or a ‘chosen’ one. There is an important distinction between them in order for us to best understand our decision whether to be honest or dishonest.

Negative Unchosen Obligation

Much like the analogy, I made with the murderer and my story about skipping school. Both parties are faced with an obligation to be honest that was forced upon them. The murderer demands to know where your wife is so he can commit an act of violence against someone you love. Sending the murderer in the opposite direction would be considered both dishonest and virtuous simultaneously, insofar as you would be averting an act of violence against another. Unless the murderer is directly threatening the husband, then it would be hard to accept their decision to tell the truth as virtuous if they sent him the correct way.

Regarding my choice to lie about skipping school, whilst it may share some similarities with the murderer analogy, there are some core differences. Firstly, I was forced to go to school, whether I wanted to or not. The obligation was imposed on me from the start. My choice whether I went to school or not cannot be considered either as virtuous or un-virtuous, since this would be merely my preference in deciding whether I went to school or not. However, when I chose to lie about my whereabouts that day in order to stave off some physical punishment, my dishonesty can be viewed as a virtuous act. Why? Well, whilst I have no positive obligation to go to school, other than my fear of punishment, my dishonesty averted a violent act against me. Wherever coercion is being applied to obligate us to tell the truth then there is nothing virtuous in telling them the truth. The person coercing us into truth telling is nothing more than a mugger demanding our wallet.

Positive Chosen Obligation

These are the obligations that we choose for ourselves. They are obligations for which responsibilities are placed upon us by choice. The important difference to the previous obligation is that we ‘choose’ these responsibilities; they are not forced upon us. If I choose to work for an employer and decide to skip a day from work without informing them, then they have a right to ask me where I was, since we both agreed to my coming into work at a certain time. Whilst I could lie and say, I was lost at sea or in an accident unable to reach them by phone. My decision to lie can be viewed as un-virtuous, since I decided to lie about something I had positively chosen to abide by. If I tell my employer the truth that I just didn’t feel like coming in and my employer decides to fire me, then he is perfectly within his rights according to the contract we both agreed to. It would be their choice, since I was the one that broke the agreement. Similarly, as one of last week’s commenter’s suggested, if I elect to own a pet, then I am obliged to feed it and give them some ability to exercise. If I decide to not feed that animal, then I am responsible for its subsequent dying of hunger.


Perhaps the most important positive obligation we can give ourselves is to have children. This subject probably deserves a whole blog post of its own, but I will attempt to condense it for this particular post.  Our relationship with our children whilst entirely chosen by the parent is an unchosen one for the child. We’ve all heard a teenager complain to a parent, ‘I never chose to be born’. Well, it’s true, they didn’t. Perhaps they would have preferred some other persons to be their parents. This means that parents have a special responsibility to their children, insofar as they need to recognise their children’s ‘unchosen’ obligation to them.  It requires an exceptional kind of care that you may not apply to other relationships in your life. This is because they are very vulnerable for at least the first 16 to 18 years of their life and wholly reliant on the parent to protect them. This relationship effectively trumps all others because of this unique responsibility.

2 – Appropriate honesty

This was an interesting question raised in last week’s comments thread. It raised the issue of how much honesty should we give a person at the beginning of a relationship. Opening up the most vulnerable parts about yourself can be viewed as inappropriate before levels of realistic trust have been formed between them. I completely agree with this, but I wouldn’t suggest that this kind of honesty was ‘radical’; it merely reflects a dysfunction in that person and most likely a display of ‘un-met’ needs, which I will come to in a moment. Radical honesty is about understanding your own feelings as much as the other. It requires empathic skills to decide whether this new person is actually worthy of your complete honesty. For instance if I decide to engage with someone I have knowingly seen to be aggressive and irrational and I express some doubts about their behaviour, then I am likely to experience some great hostility from them. Likewise, if I decide to share my most innermost thoughts with someone I only just met, I can hardly be surprised if they then go and tell others about them. These are all signs of a lack of empathy, which probably stem from neglect that some of us experienced as children. Honesty is risky and should only be shared with those that have proved themselves to be trustworthy.

Un-met Needs

These are needs that children desire as they grow up, such as care, empathy, understanding and truth. If some of these were missing in your childhood, then it’s highly likely you will look for people that mirrored your experience as a child; in the unconscious hope they will finally meet those needs for you. Generally this often means you approach relationship building in a dysfunctional way and rather than having those un-met needs being satisfied, they are often more likely to be compounded further.

3 – Culture

I touched on this two weeks ago in Relationships, Friendship & Attraction. There are a lot of myths that surrounds how we approach our relationships and indeed how we hold onto them. We have all seen the endless movies with the guy getting the girl at the very end against all adversity. Culture has endless quotes that seemingly show relationships as this kind of fantastical adventure.

‘Love will conquer all’

‘Unconditional love’

‘Friendship is forever’

‘Soul mate’

Love is often given some mythological status, as if it doesn’t really require any earning and is found more by luck than by judgement. Often these cultural references only serve to hinder and compound dysfunctional behaviour in us. This is why as a philosopher I am always wary of culture and which is why you should be also.

There is a lot more I could say on this subject and indeed, I will in the weeks to come. What constitutes a healthy relationship I feel are generally our ‘shared values’. What those values are exactly I will certainly be discussing in a later post. For now I hope that both this week and last week’s post go a long way into giving you a better understanding of what I have described as ‘radical honesty’. I would also like to thank Joey, Ozlem and Lori for their contribution to this week’s post. As always, the very best of luck to you all.

Real-Time Relationships - Stefan Molyneux

Free PDF of Real-Time Relationships


Copyright © Patrick Tulley 2011 – All Rights Reserved.

Thoughts and comments are encouraged as always.

Pdf document:  Radical Honesty & Relationships – An Addendum



My name is Patrick Tulley. I am primarily a philosopher and an amateur writer but also have been a painter and sculptor in the past.  My background has been quite varied, as I have lived abroad on and off during my 20′s, been in a number of different professions throughout my life. More recently, I have been working as a private consultant within the public sector.

Since philosophy is my preferred interest; it is always something I rigorously apply to all my thinking and writing. Whilst I am knowledgeable about abstract philosophy, I am not particularly interested in taking that route.  Philosophy is about the search for truth, it was always meant to be understandable by everyday people -this does not mean dumbing down the ideas of course.  It just means I do not allow myself to get sidetracked by too many inconsequential arguments, often referred to as lifeboat scenarios.  I tend towards the more Aristotelian and Socratic methods of philosophy, but I also have interests in Hume, Nietzsche and Rand.  Philosophy has been a wonderful and fulfilling part of my life; it’s often been a very misunderstood subject -which I hope to discuss in future posts.  I also enjoy reviewing art, literature, music and passing comments on culture, news and personal experiences that I have found both interesting and enlightening.  I do not have a particular interest in politics –however; I may discuss my reasons with you sporadically throughout this blog.  Overall, this is hoped to be a journal about a philosophical life.  I hope you will enjoy my outlook on things and look forward to hearing your comments and thoughts along the way. I would also like to thank Ozlem for giving me this opportunity to have a voice on her blog.


Disclaimer; whilst we (guest bloggers and I) do not set about to intentionally upset visitors to the site; I understand some of the topics discussed/raised may touch nerves.  Please note I will do my utmost to screen these posts before I post them however; I do believe in freedom of speech and I would hate to limit someone because they think differently to me or have different values from mine.  Therefore, I urge you to have some understanding and an open mind before jumping in and causing a scene without it being constructive.  Like I said, Patrick and I do have difference of opinions and on most cases we agree to disagree but at the same time we also respect the others’ thoughts and views -after all we do live in a civilized world; with this in mind I hope we will have more cultivated and engaging discussions.  One last note to all:  Here on yikici I have aimed to keep posts and discussions clean; I am not a fan of words that are disrespectful and disparaging therefore, I will not condone its’ use here on yikici; I do hope you share my views on this –if not, at least can respect them.


Thoughts and comments are encouraged as always.

Pdf document:  Radical Honesty & Relationships – An Addendum


~ by Patrick Tulley on July 31, 2011.

11 Responses to “Radical Honesty & Relationships – An Addendum”

  1. Thank you so much Patrick for the follow up. This has all been a fantastic discussion and I’m glad to have taken a small part in it.

    Looking forward to other topics you decide to examine.

  2. First of all, I’d like to thank you for visiting my page today! It’s great to meet new writers, and ROW80 is a good tool to foster this.

    Since this is my first visit to your page, too, I haven’t read all of the posts you’ve hosted on this topic. I am, however, intrigued, to say the least.

    To the writer of this post, Patrick Tulley ~

    Messianic Judaism instructs, via the Torah, Tanakh, and writings of the second Testament that there is, in fact, absolute truth. Do you hold to this belief? If so, has it affected your thoughts concerning the situations you pose for your points? And if not, what factors are the basis for your logic on the subject of Radical Honesty & Relationships? (I may find one or more of the answers when I read back further, and if they are to be found, forgive my asking for a repeat of what you’ve already covered.)

    I ask, because in reading your post, I wondered a few things. In your example of the child practicing dishonesty to avoid punishment, I understand the child’s desire to evade discipline, but the question is much larger than it seems. For in lying, the child paints another person,(the principal, teacher, or other authority figure) in a bad light before the parent they deceive. The parent may be led to view the school official (or whomever) in a negative light. The child also invites the possibility of legal ramifications for their parent, because the law states that deliquincy is a crime, and the same law holds the parent responsible for the minor child’s actions. This adds a new dimension to the question of virtuous vs. un-virtuous. As concerning punishment, I wondered how you would differenciate between deserved and undeserved punishment. I follow you on free choice and imposed choice, but then does it follow that criminals are considered virtuous in lying about their involvement in crimes committed to avoid incarceration or fines? Especially if the actor is a minor, who cannot vote for or against laws…..well, I’m sure you see where my thought trail is leading me in this…… Big quesitons, indeed.

    I will say that is the most stimulating post I’ve read today, and for that, I thank you. ~ Nadja

    • Nadja, thank you for taking the time to visit yikici and thank you in-turn for your comments. Every week Patrick joins us and writes engaging posts, I am delighted to hear you have finding these stimulating -we need to keep our brain cells active where we can! 😀 I will leave Patrick to respond to your queries; I too would be intrigued to hear his reply.

      Patrick, it is always great to have a banter with you on topics that stretch the imagination, so thank you! 🙂

    • Do I believe in absolute truth? Absolutely!.. But only as a philosopher using rational reasoning, logic and empirical evidence of course.. 🙂

      Regarding my skipping school. The fact that authorities will now also punish the parent just means that the punishment has been extended to a third party. This is often how an authority will get us to comply of course, by pitting us against each other. In this case, parent against child. My argument (re virtue) still holds true of course. However, I may have decided to tell the truth given the different consequences that apply to them now. However, I do take exception to the word ‘discipline’ in lieu of the actual act of ‘being beaten with a stick’, since this suggests I needed to learn something about my behaviour, which deserved being physically assaulted. Since I was being forced to go to school I had no positive obligation to either go or tell them I was skipping school or not.

      Without going too much into punishment, which is a whole subject in of itself. If I was to steal your purse, I would be entirely responsible for that act. The difference compared to my other analogies, was that it was ‘me’ that was enforcing my will onto you. I took your purse without your permission, thereby applying an ‘unchosen’ obligation on you to give me money. What methods we employ so that you are adequately compensated for my act of stealing are largely legitimate thereafter (within reason). The question of ‘virtue’ revolves around whether the obligation is either a chosen or an unchosen one. There are many laws that impose unchosen obligations on us that don’t effect others. Just because these authorities can punish us for not complying with them, doesn’t make our compliance with them ‘virtuous’. We comply because we fear the punishment, not because we think the law (obligation) is right.

      I hope that makes sense Nadja and thanks for your comment.

      • Patrick,
        Thanks for adding to your thoughts. This is the first chance I’ve had to stop back, so I’m a bit lagging in the ‘conversation’. Ha!

        But what of the question of the ‘imposed obligation’ being viruous in and of itself? Is there room for that within the framework you’ve established? And how does one reconcile the two when (and if) you acknowledge that the ‘virtuous imposed obligation’ can therefore affect the idea/responsibility of ‘positive obligation’ on the part of the second person in the situation?

        – The question of ‘virtue’ revolves around whether the obligation is either a chosen or an unchosen one

        This statement, I admit to having a great deal of trouble with. While I can accept the idea that an imposed obligation can be either virtuous or unvirtuous, I cannot accept that just because an obligation is imposed it follows that it is, therefore, unvirtuous. That would be a logical fallicy.

        For example, I impose the obligation on my children that they will not hit one another. (I have three boys) This is an imposed obligation that is virtuous, as it prevents (well, usually) the outbreak of fisti-cuffs in my livingroom. And I would follow that when my sons decide to ignore this imposed obligation, they are opting for an unvirtuous choice, as they are now making a choice that negatively affects their brother. Even if they disagree with the imposed obligation, they have a responsibility to obey it. 1. It is my home, and I make the rules. 2. They have a responsibility to treat one another with respect whether they believe it to be virtuous to do so or not.
        ~ Note ~ This is an example where their choice affects another clearly. I would also note that point number 1. does not suggest virtuous or unvirtuous -ness. I accept that there are some who make rules that are unvirtuous, and that would affect the responsibility to follow it.

        I also impose the obligation to go to bed at a certain hour. This is also a virtuous imposed obligation, as it lends to the physical and mental health of the child. If the child stays up until his heat’s content, he will not be able to function at his best in school. You may say that this choice mostly affects only the child, but I disagree. If the child does not get adequate rest, he will be more suseptable to illness. The child will make poor decisions if exhausted. The child will be cranky. This, then, affects many other people.
        I would argue this same case within the framework of the child who chooses not to go to school. Their choice ultimately affects many others. If they don’t receive a proper education, they affect society as a whole, as they will not be able to support themselves and thus, may become a burden on the community in which they live. This has deeper repercussions as well. The child may never reach their full potential, and therefore be cheated of achieving all that they might have.

        As for the terms physical punishment as opposed to discipline, I’m not certain if you are saying that because I used the term discipline, I was talking about something different than what you were, or if you are implying that they are one and the same, and that I’m seeking to imply a difference where there is none…..So, I’m going to have to wait to address that.
        Food for thought. Jeepers! I’ll be thinking on this all afternoon……
        ~ Nadja

    • Right well you bring up the common problem of authority. Now I’m not particularly against all authority per se. After all if an authority can prove itself to be for the betterment of my life in general, then I will certainly take heed of its advice. I will take the authoritative advice of a nutritionist in order that I may prolong my life and be free of diseases and aliments that may also curtail my enjoyment of life. So authority when its proved itself to be of value can indeed be deemed worthy to follow. However, an authority that is merely an authority because it has the ability to punish is not valid, since this authority is not using reason or empirical evidence, but is merely frightening us into submission. This kind of authority is tyrannical by definition. Obedience to this kind of authority whilst advantageous in avoiding punishment is not a virtuous act.

      Regardless of whether the school system has benefits or not for the child. I was saying that it wasn’t a virtue for me to admit skipping a day, since school itself was imposed on me. I nether committed a virtuous or unvirtuous act in what ever decision I took. The decision I took was in my own best interest of avoiding an ‘unjust’ beating.

      Where children are concerned a parent needs to find ways in which to get them to brush their teeth or go to bed at a reasonable hour. Whilst I agree they are very often difficult issues to resolve, since the child has no knowledge about longer term living strategies. This is where the parent needs to devise ‘peaceful’ strategies that give that child the incentive to do the things that are good for them. The types of strategies required are dependent on the child of course and parents are able to find them generally as they become accustomed to their child. It is a virtuous act for that parent to get their children to do these things, since if they don’t, the child wont thank them as an adult for that neglect of course. However, this is your virtuous act as a parent. To the child this is nothing more than acting in their own best interest, neutral let’s say. So there is no logical fallacy in my argument, since you were applying the virtuous act on the child, when it only applied to the parent.

      I did briefly mention in this post about the special relationships we have with our children. They are a very unique relationship compared to any other. The trouble is though, is that the children never chose the parents they got, so their obedience to them is merely something they do in order to survive. You mentioned, ‘they are in my house, so they obey my rules’. From a philosophical point of you, that demand is somewhat arbitrary. What rules exactly? since if you are saying you need to brush your teeth or get a good nights sleep otherwise you will be sleepy all day tomorrow or the dentist will have to do a painful procedure, then the rules makes sense. However, if your boys are hitting each other, I’m wondering where they learnt this way of resolving disputes, since children don’t naturally gravitate towards violent solutions to conflicts of interest.

      As I said obedience is not a virtue, since it implies a punishment by the person that imposed the unchosen obligation onto us. Regardless of what people say, we are only responsible for ourselves. Taking responsibility for others (where we haven’t chosen too) is neither rational nor logical. This doesn’t mean we can act as if there are no consequences to our actions. Where we use force against another person, either by stealing, assaulting or defrauding them, then we must accept we will be held accountable for those actions. But where others are imposing their will onto us with no choice, we have a choice to either comply or be punished. Not be virtuous or unvirtuous. I hope that clears up the differences. I will probably discuss the parent/child relationship in more detail in a later post.

      • One huge flaw in your post is this…..

        – I’m wondering where they learnt this way of resolving disputes, since children don’t naturally gravitate towards violent solutions to conflicts of interest.

        Children do naturally gravitate towards violent solutions. Child behavior 101. The reason is that any two year old simply believes him/herself to be the center of the universe, and therefore, they believe they have a right to take what they want – when they want it.
        They are not even considering that their actions hurt/harm another, as they are not yet capable of comprehending that depth of relationship. They simply want gratification.

        This issue changes as the child grows. For example, an eight year old knows better than to hit. But that does not mean that without the rule, the child would naturally force themselves to obey what is right. That’s simply not human nature – else why the needs for governments, laws, police forces, militaries, prisons, etc.

        We do agree that it is a virtuous act for parents to impose decisions in the areas where the child is not yet mature enough to act in their own best interest. That is the nature of being a parent. And we also agree that just because a parent makes a rule that does not necessarily make the rule virtuous. I noted that in my last post, also.

        All in all, the discussion generates many more questions as we go. And this is a topic that interests me a great deal.

    • Please re-read my previous comments to you Nadja, including my original post. You have made a number of baseless assertions that I’m not going to unpick again, since I have already answered them. If we are discussing philosophical aspects to ‘obligations’ then we have to be consistent with them. You cannot decide whether one unchosen obligation mitigates another (for your own purposes), if we are to come up with a principle. Otherwise there is no principle and we are merely discussing our preference in ice cream flavours.

      Regarding children naturally gravitating towards violence to resolve differences. I need evidence, since there is plenty to the contrary, confirming that violent tendencies in children are indeed learnt and not innate.

      “Child behaviour 101” = means nothing to me (baseless assertion)

      I am a philosopher Nadja, so you need to approach any disagreements you may have with me, philosophically. However, if you still feel you don’t need or wish to disprove me philosophically, then I would suggest we call it a truce, since any further discussion on this subject between us (in the current manner) will benefit no one. I hope you understand my position here.

  3. Hi, Patrick. I agree with the “special obligation of parents to their children.” I think it is one that is not well understood – and, actually, hasn’t been well understood by very many cultures in the world. I’ve been listening to Stefan Molyneux reading from Lloyd Demause’s book “The Origins of War in Child Abuse” and I have to say, as bad as it has been for many of us alive today, it has been far worse for the generations before ours. We can only hope that things will actually keep improving in this area.

    • Yes, children are a subject that is steeped in so many fallacies of course.. With a little bit of care I will try to simplify our preferred responses to them, since they are indeed the most vulnerable in society and deserve much support.. 🙂

  4. I’ll have to give Alice Miller credit in my own awakening to the special circumstances of children. Reading “The Drama of the Gifted Child” helped me re-frame, better understand, and move beyond the limitations of my own childhood experiences. It also made me much more sensitive and compassionate towards children in general.

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