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Evasion (ethics)

Evasion is, in ethics, an act that deceives by stating a true statement that is irrelevant or leads to a false conclusion.

For instance, a man knows that another man is in a room in the building because he heard him, but in answer to a question, says, "I have not seen him," thereby falsely implying that he does not know.

Evasion is described as a way to fulfill an obligation to tell the truth while keeping secrets from those not entitled to know the truth, but is considered unethical[by whom?] unless there are grave reasons for withholding the truth.

Evasions are closely related to equivocations and mental reservations; indeed, some statements fall under both descriptions.

Evasion techniques

Peter Bull identified the following evasion techniques for answering questions: [1]

  1. Ignoring the question
  2. Acknowledging the question without answering it
  3. Questioning the question by:
    1. requesting clarification
    2. reflecting the question back to the questioner, for example saying "you tell me"
  4. Attacking the question by saying:
    1. "the question fails to address the important issue"
    2. "the question is hypothetical or speculative"
    3. "the question is based on a false premise"
    4. "the question is factually inaccurate"
    5. "the question includes a misquotation"
    6. "the question includes a quotation taken out of context"
    7. "the question is objectionable"
    8. "the question is based on a false alternative"
  5. Attacking the questioner
  6. Declining to answer by:
    1. refusing on grounds of inability
    2. being unwilling to answer
    3. saying "I can't speak for someone else"
    4. deferring answer, saying "it is not possible to answer the question for the time being"
    5. pleading ignorance
    6. placing the responsibility to answer on someone else

See also


  1. ^ Bull, Peter The Microanalysis of Political Communication: Claptrap and Ambiguity (2003)