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The Truth about Mental Reservations Part 3: Employing Mental Reservations


I had recourse to Jone's Moral Theology to augment the other resource.

A mental reservation is essentially that a "speaker puts a meaning into words which is different from that which the words taken into themselves have in ordinary conversation".

  • Strict Mental Reservation: 
    • Forbidden
    • Used when the actual meaning of the utterance can in no way be inferred from the external circumstances.
    • e.g. I have not stolen - adds mentally - with the left hand but with the right.
  • Broad Mental Reservation:
    • Permissible sometimes with sufficient reason
    • If the meaning of the expression can be inferred either from the circumstances of the question of the answer, of from customary usage, even if, as a matter of fact, such inference is not actually made; such as the conventional polite phrases,
    • e.g. The mistress is not at home, meaning, not at home to receive visitors.

   From my reading I have concluded that the use of mental reservations or ambiguities are governed by the following key "tests:

  • Answer NO to the following questions:
    • Does the questioner have a right to an unambiguous answer? ✅
    • Would the use of a mental reservation injure the rights of another? ✅
    • Is there no other lawful means available (ie. evasion or silence)? ✅
  • Answer YES to the following questions:
    • Is it necessary to secure some good or avoid an evil of a magnitude that compensates for the deception that may be caused? ✅
    • Are you bound to keep the truth from the questioner?✅

 Answer accordingly to all these questions and you can employ a mental reservation. 

Questions to which I would like to have answers are:

  1. Who has a right to an unambiguous answer?
  2. What rights could be injured?
  3. When are you bound to keep the truth from a questioner?



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