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Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life Paperback – September 14, 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

A thoughtful addition to the growing debate over public and private morality. Looks at lying and deception in law, family, medicine, government.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Updated edition (September 14, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375705287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375705281
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brian Pawlowski on January 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
I found this book thought provoking. Through references, contrasts, and scenarios, Sissela Bok challenges the reader to consider the effects of lying on the individual, relationships and society. The author systematically covers the spectrum of lies from "little white lies" to avoid an unwanted dinner invitation to the arguably moral lies required to survive in a totalitarian state - taking the reader step by step through a journey of increasingly complex moral questions. The book argues that lying, as it is often conducted in society, often lacks the moral basis of those few case where it can be justified.
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Format: Paperback
Can any lie be justifiable? Is it ok for a Doctor to lie to a patient, or is it ok for a person to lie - to get out of a date? These scenerios are examined in _Lying_. Bok examines the effects that lying has upon society and individuals.
It is rare to read a book, where the author is critical of society because of thier choice to allow and accept little white lies as normal behavior. After finishing this book, the reader can take this information and begin to think of ethical and moral problems in our society and why we accept certain actions.
Bok continued choice to tackle ethical issues is a noteworthy endeavor - especially when she writes quality work such as _Lying_.
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Format: Paperback
This book is about something we all do but rarely think about - lying. It is densely packed, hard to get through but well worth the effort. It changed the way I thought about lying and told lies, and therefore my life.
Even its structure of the discussion about lying around started me thinking in new ways about the topic. The analysis presented was organized and orderly on a topic that deals with much of human interaction.
This book is a must read - you will lie less after reading it.
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Format: Paperback
"Lying" is a thought-provoking exercise in applied ethics. The author, Sissela Bok, applies her razor-sharp intelligence to a variety of common deceptive practices, such as dishonest social science research or official deceptions about foreign policy. She believes that analyzing specific cases is a far better way to advance ethical knowledge than developing grandiose philosophical theories. (She's certainly right about that!)

Bok could be described as an enlightened utilitarian: she concedes that the benefits of lying can occasionally outweigh the costs, but she insists that the costs be weighed realistically and sensitively. To do so, she proposes the use of a hypothetical "publicity test" to consider how reasonable people would discuss and evaluate the broad, long-run effects of a deceptive practice. The test would cast its net widely and assess the impact of deception on duped individuals, the level of social trust, and the characters of liars themselves. When considered this way, the costs of deception almost always outweigh the benefits, Bok believes. She concludes that any ethical evaluation of a deceptive practice should proceed from a strong presumption that lying is wrong.

Her book is great. It's clearly written, filled with references to classic philosophical literature, and savvy about the routine deceptions practiced in government and the professions. As she puts it, if knowledge is power, then lying alters the balance of power. I definitely want to read the companion volume on "Secrets." I knocked off one star only because some sections of "Lying" tend to meander and reach no clear conclusions. Maybe that's a problem inherent in casuistry.
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Format: Paperback
I think one of the greatest parts of this book is that Bok did not just state her ideas and opinions on the issues being discussed. If you think you are pretty honest person, read this book and see just how honest you really are. After reading this book, I thought a whole lot about my own actions. I realized just how many times in my life I am not completely honest. I am a college student and in the week I was reading this book, I had two roommates ask me to lie for them. The first one asked me to tell someone on the phone who was not there. The guy was an ex-boyfriend who just didn't get the point that she didn't want to talk to him, so I justified that I was helping out my friend by lying for her. Before I read this book, I probably wouldn't have felt that bad lying to guy, but this book made me rethink what I was doing. In the other instance, one of my other roommates asked me to pretend to be her mom so she could change her cell phone plan. Her mother knew she was chaning to plan, so I justified it by thinking that, but it was hard when the person on the other end asked me if I really was who I claimed to be.

My advice is that if you don't want to know how dishonest or unethical you are in your life, don't read this book, but if you want to see where you are going wrong or you think you are really ethical, read this book to see just how ethical and honest you are in your life. I think you will be amazed at the results.

Another thing I can say about this book is that I am currently in a media ethics and mroal reasoning class, and I have read a few books in this class, but I personally think this is the best one I have read in the class.
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