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Lying Hardcover – November 5, 2013
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"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."
"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 brutallybut pragmaticallyhonest. 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 allthe 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 liesto yourself, to others, and to society."
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History
About the Author
Mr. Harris's writing has been published in more than 15 languages. He and his work have been discussed in The New York Times, Time, Scientific American, Nature, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, and many other journals. His writing has 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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I truly loved this book. Despite the simple premise, it really made me think. Harris makes a great case against lying, even against the nice 'white lies' we tell each other (and ourselves).
It slightly changed the way I think about something as basic as lying. Even if it only nudged my thinking slightly, that's great impact from a short book.
One of those rare books that I will definitely read again. If you're even thinking about buying it, you should. I highly recommend it, and really doubt you will regret it. I promise. :)
Harris seems to have a way of explaining seemingly grey issues with enlightening clarity. While lying is one of those areas of our lives in which we seem to expect at one point or another we will lie to someone, or be lied to by someone else, essentially as a matter of course; Sam Harris paints a clear picture of the pitfalls of simply accepting this as part of your standard operating procedures, to the point of illustrating that it is simply easier to just not lie. The book makes it clear though, that tact is still very important.
I've changed my perspective on this issue now, and I'd certainly recommend the book to anyone.
The book is also ridiculously short. Obviously printed because Sam Harris is popular.
Save you money and go for a walk.
All the other reasons for lying ultimately lead to bad results, says Harris. For example:
Lying to avoid hurting someone's feelings? That means that person may never hear the truth about, the fact that their acting is terrible and they really need to get some dramatic coaching; or that their writing is flabby and needs some radical editing; or ... You get the idea. He does not argue for tactlessness or cruelty, but he does say that these sorts of so-called white lies are mainly for the benefit of the teller of lies, who just doesn't want to face the discomfort of being honest about a difficult matter.
Lying to cover up your own misbehavior? We all know how that tends to turn out -- if you're famous enough or your misdeed is serious enough, on the front pages or on the blogs or both.
Lying to protect someone else by covering up their misbehavior? Misplaced loyalty to friends, family and tribe has led to a great deal of evil in the world. Think of the cover-ups of child molestation in the Catholic Church, typically out of a desire to protect the tribe (in this case, that of the priesthood and the Church), and how that turned out.
Lying through omission? If it's intended to deceive, then it's still lying.
Overall, I found his arguments very convincing and an excellent lesson in practical ethics. Some I have talked to thought that his writing was shallow. I, on the other hand, thought it was clear and straight-forward, but far from shallow. The path of absolute honesty that he advocates is a difficult one for almost everyone, I suspect, but ethic of honesty that he promotes is well both pondering and living.
P.S. I highly recommend Sam Harris' earlier book, Letter to a Christian Nation. It's superb.
The book starts out with explaining that this was inspired by a college course he took, and then lays out a definition of lying, and explores the morality of many types of lies and situations where one might lie. There are a lot of nicely articulated thoughts in each of the sections, but I kept wanting him to go deeper. It was frustrating when he would spend most of a chapter telling the story of where lying perpetuated some unfortunate situation, and never delve into how telling the truth might solve said situation.
Sam Harris did effectively encourage me to avoid telling as many white lies in the future. He didn't go into a lot of detail about how to do it, and I don't think that was the intention. I think it's a good discussion starter for the situational ethics of lying. If that's what you expect heading in, you'll enjoy the book.