Santa Claus

Should we let children believe in Santa Claus?

Philosophy and Ethics


A well perpetrated hoax Remember what its like to believe? You lie in bed on Christmas eve waiting for Santa to come You might even sneak a look out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of this elusive character

A well perpetrated hoax Where did your belief come from? How did you come to think that Santa Claus was real?

Parents / Society

The myth is so cleverly designed. Built into the myth is the idea that Santa Claus can¶t be seen. He comes only when you sleep.

A well perpetrated hoax Santa Claus is given omniscient properties ± he knows everything about you.

He keeps a check list of good and bad deeds and rewards only those who have been good. Sounds familiar« Almost like a certain religion that we¶ve come to know. All knowing, all loving Santa watching over us and passing judgment on 25 December

Is Santa just God in disguise?

A well perpetrated hoax Just like all religions, this is effective. It helps keep people under control. Santa, provides a moral conscience for people who may not have developed their own.

A well perpetrated hoax Mythology around eternal rewards and punishments are well entrenched and provide powerful deterrent to undesired behavior Belief systems are instilled at a young age and feel very real. If you think your memories of Santa are vivid, consider the strength of emotion some people experience when they contemplate eternal damnation in Hell. e.g. woman in Richard Dawkins documentary

A well perpetrated hoax If it doesn¶t exist, then that fear and emotion is based on a lie. Is that morally right? Is it morally okay to induce such strong emotions based on a lie?

He doesn¶t exist But Santa is different. He¶s a nice guy! Not like hell.

Its all child friendly

But is there really a difference? Its all based on telling lies.

He doesn¶t exist Santa Claus is fictional. But he is represented as being real. Children are convinced that Santa exists, because that¶s what their parents tell them.

Very young children generally do not question knowledge passed on from parents, but when they do, their parents create elaborate lies to ensure that Santa Claus remains real.

Is this ethical? Should parents lie to children?

Perhaps there is no issue. Maybe Santa is the same as any other fictional character, e.g. Spiderman, Superman, Sherlock Holmes But there is a difference between Santa and other types of fiction When we watch a movie or read a book, we understand that its fiction. We understand that when we talk about these characters we are talking about non-existent entities²even if we seem to talk as if they are real.

Unlike other fiction, parents do not tell children that Santa is fictional. They tell children that he is real!

Maybe its okay to implant a false belief in children if it makes them happy. If this is true, then what about telling other lies to keep children happy?

* How about tooth fairy? * What about easter bunny? * How about the difference between males and females? * Perhaps its okay to tell lies about the difference between races? If it keeps them happy, then surely we can tell lies about slave labor or climate change.

Immanuel Kant formulated an interesting theory of ethics.

Kant said that an action is considered morally right if it satisfies 2 criteria

An action must be: Universalizable
It must be logically consistent to imagine the action to always occur in all situations. Telling lies is not universalizable because if all statements were lies, then telling the truth would mean saying something that is untrue.

This is a logical contradiction and Treat people as an end in themselves, never as a means to an end
Don¶t use other people to further your own agenda. Put other people¶s interests first.

Let¶s apply Kantian ethics to the question of Santa Claus Is it morally permissible to convince children that Santa exists?

Fails first criterion: involves telling lies

Fails second criterion: using child¶s innocence to further own agenda

When we convince children that Santa exists we are taking advantage of their innocence. We do this to propagate a lie that we want them to believe. Children have no skeptical ability. They cannot question the knowledge passed down from their parents. Sure, it might make children happy, but it is still a lie. It is only a few steps away from implanting other false beliefs in children. Throughout history children have had racist, sexist, religious beliefs implanted into their minds. The ease of belief in Santa should sound warning bells for enlightened people.

Powerpoint by BRENT SILBY Produced at UPT Christchurch, New Zealand

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