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Lying (Kindle Single) [Kindle Edition]

Sam Harris , Annaka Harris
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (393 customer reviews)

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Book Description

As it was in Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, and Othello, so it is in life. Most forms of private vice and public evil are kindled and sustained by lies. Acts of adultery and other personal betrayals, financial fraud, government corruption—even murder and genocide—generally require an additional moral defect: a willingness to lie.

In Lying, bestselling author and neuroscientist Sam Harris argues that we can radically simplify our lives and improve society by merely telling the truth in situations where others often lie. He focuses on “white” lies—those lies we tell for the purpose of sparing people discomfort—for these are the lies that most often tempt us. And they tend to be the only lies that good people tell while imagining that they are being good in the process.


This essay is quite brilliant. (I was hoping it would be, so I wouldn't have to lie.) I honestly loved it from beginning to end. LYING is the most thought-provoking read of the year.

Ricky Gervais

Humans have evolved to lie well, and no doubt you've seen the social lubrication at work. In many cases, we might not think of it as a true "lie": perhaps a "white lie" once in a blue moon, the omission of a sensitive detail here and there, false encouragement of others when we see no benefit in dashing someone's hopes, and the list goes on. In LYING, Sam Harris demonstrates how to benefit from being brutally--but pragmatically--honest. It's a compelling little book with a big impact.

Tim Ferriss, angel investor and author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers, The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Workweek

In this brief but illuminating work, Sam Harris applies his characteristically calm and sensible logic to a subject that affects us all--the human capacity to lie. And by the book's end, Harris compels you to lead a better life because the benefits of telling the truth far outweigh the cost of lies--to yourself, to others, and to society.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Albeit with tongue in cheek, Mark Twain once wrote: "No fact is more firmly established than that lying is a necessity of our circumstance--the deduction that it is then a Virtue goes without saying." Well, Sam Harris begs to differ. And differ he does, with an impassioned, straight-shooting argument not only that lies are "the social equivalent of toxic waste," but also that each of us is capable of, and would benefit from, a life led free of the lie. Harris takes his time defining and stratifying types of lies--from adultery to government cover-ups to the seemingly innocuous little white lie--but insists that at any scale, a lie "condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act." Worse, the gravest danger is the liar's inability to contain its effects; when we gamble on deception, we can't anticipate how far the lie will spread, and thus we limit the informed decision-making of who knows how many others. Conversely, Harris argues, even if we're motivated only selfishly, lying less frees us to trust others more. And that's the truth. --Jason Kirk

Review


"This essay is quite brilliant. (I was hoping it would be, so I wouldn't have to lie.) I honestly loved it from beginning to end. Lying is the most thought-provoking read of the year."
Ricky Gervais

"Humans have evolved to lie well, and no doubt you've seen the social lubrication at work. In many cases, we might not think of it as a true "lie": perhaps a "white lie" once in a blue moon, the omission of a sensitive detail here and there, false encouragement of others when we see no benefit in dashing someone's hopes, and the list goes on. In Lying, Sam Harris demonstrates how to benefit from being brutally—but pragmatically—honest. It's a compelling little book with a big impact."
Tim Ferriss, author of the New York Times bestsellers, The 4-Hour Body, The 4-Hour Workweek, and The 4-Hour Chef

"In this brief but illuminating work, Sam Harris applies his characteristically calm and sensible logic to a subject that affects us all—the human capacity to lie. And by the book's end, Harris compels you to lead a better life because the benefits of telling the truth far outweigh the cost of lies—to yourself, to others, and to society."
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History

Product Details

  • File Size: 145 KB
  • Print Length: 26 pages
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005N0KL5G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,813 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
117 of 127 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terse but immensely effective... September 19, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having briefly glanced at the previous reviews for Sam Harris' long-form essay, "Lying", I felt the need to clarify a few points of error:

- One might argue that this piece pales in comparison to Sam's denser work but to do so is to draw a comparison between strikingly unlike works of literature: In "Lying", it would seem that Sam Harris seeks to make no revelatory claims about this common phenomenon in social culture but instead seeks to effectively outline how and why to combat the insidious force laying dormant at the heart of our relationships.

- To call Harris a huckster or charlatan for charging a mere $2 for this eBook is to overlook one obvious point: We've all purchased the item of our own volition. Not coincidentally, neither Harris nor his editors deceived about the contents of the book. It may be brief in form and function but it is...

- Effective and necessary. In theory, the necessity to avoid fatuous white lies and instead supplant them with integrity and honesty may seem so self-evident that one need not read about them from scholarly sources. Yet in practice and principle, deceit is so engrained in social culture that many view it as unavoidable. Sam Harris, in a mere 26 pages, inexorably highlights how and why we should view the practice of lying with utmost caution.

For what it's worth, I enjoyed the book and want to send out a congenial thanks to all those involved in its authorship.
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58 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tactful approach to an age old ethical issue September 19, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
This short essay tackles a catastrophic and, and the same time, seemingly harmless issue. Lying. We've all done it. Some more than others. Most of us are oblivious to the far reaching implications of telling a lie, and Sam does a great job explaining the networking of falsehood, and how one little lie could exponentially lead to something devastating. I definitely recommend this read, especially since it's only 2 bucks!
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111 of 141 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unimpressive, perhaps by comparison September 19, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
"Lying" wasn't terrible, nor do I disagree with most of what Sam Harris put forward; I was just surprised at how little thought-provoking information was to be found in it. I suppose that I have been spoiled by reading his books. Usually, he is able to at least provide a new angle from which to view ideas about morality, but this essay was just a long, drawn-out rant that lying does more harm than good, in a practical sense. A few vignettes from his own life here and there, and some discussion on how lying is a burden for the liar.

I wouldn't say not to buy it, because it's cheap and Sam Harris certainly releases a lot of free writing to his readership via his blog, so if you're a fan of his writing then it's worth the $2 and 10 or so minutes to glance it over I guess. If you're looking for an introduction to Sam Harris, I would pick up "Letter to a Christian Nation" instead.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous primer on truth-telling and integrity September 19, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Those who know me know that I often say "reality is my God and integrity is my religion." By this I mean that what is real, as evidentially understood, is my primary allegiance, and living in right relationship to reality and helping others (and our species) do the same is my 'calling' and deepest inspiration.

In light of this stance, I must confess that I consider this little e-book by Sam Harris to be modern-day scripture (i.e., dependable guidance in the service of living in integrity -- that is, in right relationship to reality).

There are a number of excellent books on the subject of integrity and truth-telling, including those written by my friends and colleagues, Brad Blanton (Radical Honesty, The New Revised Edition: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth and Practicing Radical Honesty, and Susan Campbell Getting Real: Ten Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life. I recommend each of these, but none quite covers the territory Sam does in this potent and inspiring little guide. I especially enjoyed his section on so-called "white lies", as well as the sections on Trust, Secrets, Faint Praise, and Mental Accounting.

To quote just one example of a sentiment all too seldom expressed in American culture today: "By lying, we deny others a view of the world as it is. Our dishonesty not only influences the choices they make, it often determines the choices they CAN make -- and in way we cannot always predict. Every lie is a direct assault upon the autonomy of those we lie to.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but honestly could be better September 24, 2011
By Tintin
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It's hard to judge the length of a kindle book, but this one is short enough to be considered a good chapter. It's Sam Harris, so it's well put, succinct, and a pleasure to ponder. He makes some excellent points about the effects, costs, and alternatives to lying - even small lies - and I believe I may become an even more honest person because of it.

Lying, he says, is "almost by definition a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. ... To lie is to recoil from relationship." This is a brilliant observation, and it's almost seems like common sense. Harris goes on to make a case for vigilant truth-telling, quite well.

It is a strong argument, but it's not airtight. State secrets present an exception, he points out; espionage sometimes requires a complex set of lies. But spies, Harris says, operate under the ethics of war and therefore the "ethics of emergency," and are therefore not only exempt from the golden rule of truth-telling, they are irrelevant exceptions. "We can draw no more daily instruction from the lives of spies than we can from the adventures of astronauts in space. Just as most of us need not worry about our bone density in the absence of gravity, we need not consider whether our every utterance could compromise national security." This begs a question. Without a limiting definition of "emergency," emergency ethics *are certainly relevant to daily life. There is a spectrum of emergencies. I've had emergencies. If on one end lying is ok, the other end not -- doesn't that suggest a spectrum of wrongness to lying, as well?

As I read through it, interesting questions arose for me which unfortunately were not addressed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but...
An amusing essay, excellently written in the style very particular to Sam. His communication of ideas is impeccable and it was a pleasurable read. Read more
Published 20 hours ago by Tin Sulejmanpasic
3.0 out of 5 stars I am a big fan of Sam Harris. I ...
I am a big fan of Sam Harris. I believe that he is one of most important thinkers of our time. The book is brief but interesting. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Tim Fahvin
5.0 out of 5 stars important lessons
I love the entire story. Lying does take away another's autonomy. I recommend this for everyone especially high school kids and their parents.
Published 1 day ago by b brathwaite-petrie
5.0 out of 5 stars Harris intelligently put out the fire on my pants
Harris at his best. Awesome analysis of a guilty part of ourselves which is a bigger part of our lives that few of us like to admit
Published 13 days ago by Chris Ware
2.0 out of 5 stars Men...
Meh....
Published 28 days ago by Carlos L Sutter
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, very insightful
Huge fan of this novel.
Published 28 days ago by RykerOut
4.0 out of 5 stars An easier life for everyone if followed.
Some good points on the ethics of lying and worth sharing particually with young people as a guide to what can come from lying.
Published 29 days ago by Ian Kath
4.0 out of 5 stars Sam Harris - Make one think
This book is typical of Sam Harris. As always the tone of Harris' books is serious and reflective. I know Harris has always presented his ideas well, but I have to think more than... Read more
Published 1 month ago by ReaderOne
5.0 out of 5 stars Good for an ethical refreshw
A very short and concise book on ethics, truth and lying. Most of it is common sense, but he goes very well into depth on differnet scenarios and types of deception
I like... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Belea Simion
1.0 out of 5 stars Pompous
I expected this book to be about lying - not many many iterations about how lying is immoral. In fact, the author's sanctimonious diatribe was so overwhelming that the few... Read more
Published 1 month ago by mnater
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More About the Author

Sam Harris is the author of the bestselling books, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, and Lying. The End of Faith won the 2005 PEN Award for Nonfiction. His latest book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, will be published 9/9/14.

Mr. Harris's writing has been published in more than 15 languages. His work has been discussed in The New York Times, Time, Scientific American, Nature, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and many other journals. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Economist, Newsweek, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere.

Mr. Harris is a cofounder and the CEO of Project Reason, a nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. He received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA.

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Topic From this Discussion
Clarification on one of Harris' examples
His thesis is consistent throughout - almost all lying is harmful and unnecessary. In the few instances where it is needed, he says so explicitly - 'Lies in Extremis'.
So here's an example of lies of omission, with detrimental consequences. You're right, he doesn't write: 'Somebody should have... Read More
Oct 3, 2013 by A. Thompson |  See all 2 posts
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