The ethics of stats: Some contemporary questions about telling the truth

Rachel Muers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This essay argues for the importance and interest, within and beyond theological ethics, of the ethical questions faced by professionals who are called on to be producers of statistics (herein "stats") for management purposes. Truth-telling, in the context of demands for stats, cannot be evaluated at the level of the individual statement or utterance, nor through an ethical framework primarily focused on the correspondence between thought and speech. Reflection on stats production forces us to treat truth-telling as contextual and political, and to engage with the idea that the capacity to tell the truth is learned or acquired in communities, societies and institutions. I develop this engagement through a rereading of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on "telling the truth" and Michel Foucault on parrhēsia, identifying and exploring the relationship between the responsible use of stats and the "cynical" protest against them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Religious Ethics
Issue number1
Early online date19 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • audit culture
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • lies
  • Michel Foucault
  • truth
  • truth-telling


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