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Lying | [Sam Harris]

Lying

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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Editors Select, November 2013 - Like most, I don't believe in lying, but I've never been opposed to the occasional white lie when I felt it was warranted. So I was pretty intrigued when I heard about this essay from Sam Harris, in which he argues that all forms of lying are inherently detrimental to our lives and relationships with others. From false encouragement to omission, Harris dismisses the notion that any kind of lie is truly harmless - often using insightful, true stories as examples. It's a short listen that is definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in psychology, human behavior, or self-improvement. I predict I'll be choosing my words wisely when I open a gift I don't love this holiday season! —Sam, Audible Editor

Publisher's Summary

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.

©2013 Sam Harris (P)2013 Sam Harris

What the Critics Say

"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 number-one New York Times best sellers 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 has compelled 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)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Teri Ambrose Mesa, AZ, United States 01-05-14
    Teri Ambrose Mesa, AZ, United States 01-05-14
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    "Inspirational, quick read"

    I'm writing this review months after listening. I enjoyed the book at the time, but what has me inspired to come back and write a review is the fact that the general premise of this book has stuck with me so well. I used to routinely tell seemingly innocent lies to grease the wheels of easy social interaction. Small things, not big boldface lies. Morality totally aside, the author contends that everyone would benefit from committing to being truthful. Personally, I now find that I really enjoy the authenticity of owning and saying the truth in even the smallest of circumstances. I don't mean hurting people's feelings or anything like that. There is certainly diplomacy and kindness to consider, too. This book argues for the premise that it's just plain smart, emboldening and genuine to be an honest, straightforward truth-teller.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 11-29-13
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 11-29-13 Member Since 2008

    College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

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    ""Telling The Truth..."

    is being aware of what the truth is in any given moment..." This is perhaps the most pivotal line in Sam Harris' challenging essay on lying and truth telling. We must first be perfectly honest with ourselves before we can be honest with others. (Consider Emily Dickinson's "...we hide ourselves behind ourselves..." or a line from the sitcom "Community:" the biggest lies are told six inches from the bathroom mirror...") Then it all boils down to "do unto others." Harris very poignantly asked us how we would want people to deal with us on a daily basis. All, right, in way, we want politicians to "tell us what we want to hear," but if we go by rule one, being aware of the truth in any given moment, wouldn't we want the truth always given to us straight? Of course, where we are going to cringe is not with extramarital affairs, financial cheats and calculated harm, but rather with the everyday, work-a-day social lying. "Do I look good in this dress?..." "Does my son's behavior bother you?..." "Are you free to come to my party on Friday night?..." Harris makes a compelling argument--if one not all of us are probably going to run out and implement immediately--that the truth can be told in ALL situations, that these little social situations can be handled TACTFULLY, but that tactfully doesn't have to skirt the truth. In a writing class I teach based in Theories Of Morality, I tell this true story: One evening, I was teaching a five-hour block of college English classes, and it was 6:50, and I had not had any dinner and only a fairly sparse lunch. My only chance was to get to the student union and the commissary for a quick slice of dried out pizza before it closed at 7:00 and my next class started. I had ten minutes to cram some bad food in my mouth before pressing on to my next class, and a female student was leisurely strolling beside me, speaking to me about a personal manner of no earth-shattering import. I was trying to be polite and listen and respond appropriately, barely able to make out the words being spoken for the screams of hunger my body was giving forth. The student would not pick up the pace or pick up the silent visual cues that usually say "all right, got to get going! [we are done here]." And so, automatically, with no due calculation, I said, smiling gently and touching her on the arm, "you know, I have to hurry by the office to get some papers real quick before my next classes, can I catch you later?" With that, I darted toward Salish Hall, and then, when out of sight of the student, I made a mad dash for the union and got my pizza. At the time, I rationalized that this was simply sparing the student hearing, "getting a slice of crusty, sun-lamp desiccated veggie is more important right now than listening to you babble on!" But Harris says I was not being polite, but rather lazy. And it's true. I could have carefully and tactfully explained my situation to the student in the time it took to reroute to Salish and then back to the union. The small becomes the big after all, and we should not get too used to misrepresenting things, or, before long, we ]might take to George Costanza's immortal [immoral] advice to Jerry: "it's not a lie, if you believe it."

    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 11-23-13
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 11-23-13
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    "Confronting oneself"

    I liked the way this book made me feel a bit uncomfortable. You don't hear or read these bluntly honest opinions about the type of lies that we often consider socially acceptable (if you think about it, as the author explains, they are harmful). I did not agree with some of his arguments, but the most important thing was that this book made me re-evaluate my approach to life. I also liked the last 30 minutes where he responded to readers' questions. When there are too many books out there in which the authors stretch and repeat the same points over and over again, this to-the-point style was also refreshing.

    12 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brock DONOSTIA-SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain 11-19-13
    Brock DONOSTIA-SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain 11-19-13 Member Since 2015

    So much to learn, and so little time to sit down and read. Thanks Audible.

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    "To tell the truth (or not)"

    This was a really enjoyable, short reminder of the importance of telling the truth- always. Harris does a great job of explaining why he doesn't believe there's ever a good time to lie, even though it may seem like it's the best thing to do at the moment; like when a girlfriend asks if a dress makes her look fat. I know life is complicated, but I really like the straightforward way Harris makes his case that honesty really is the best policy.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    qwertyuiop 01-18-15
    qwertyuiop 01-18-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Persuasive case against lying."
    Would you listen to Lying again? Why?

    Yes. It is short, and it makes good points.

    My favorite quote from the book:
    "One of the worst things about breaking the law is that it puts you at odds with an indeterminate number of other people. This is one of the many corrosive effects of unjust laws. They temp peaceful and otherwise honest people to lie so as to avoid being punished for behavior that is ethically blameless."


    If you could give Lying a new subtitle, what would it be?

    How seemingly trivial lies hurt people and relationships


    Any additional comments?

    I listened to this book the day before my Eagle Scout board of review. I was asked many questions at the review, and I knew that some of the questions might be about religion. I am an atheist, which would prevent me from becoming an eagle scout. If I was asked about religion and claimed to be religious, I would have caved into an immoral rule and bullied into conformity instead of speaking unabashedly for the truth. I thought of how I would look back at that decision in the future, and I decided that I would rather not lie. However, if I had told them that I did not believe in their religion, I would have been kicked out of scouts. My parents would have been furious, and I would have had to explain the situation to my grandparents. I resolved that I would not lie at my board of review before I read this book, but this book helped convince me further. Religion never came up at my board of review. Kind of anticlimactic, considering I got butterflies in my stomach every time I thought of the board of review for the three months preceding it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. Calkins 01-06-15
    R. Calkins 01-06-15

    Deeply simple, that's me. My preferences gravitate to stories that offer chances to reflect. However, don't give me a lot of sugar coating.

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    "The truth as we don't want to see it."

    I love everything Sam Harris has written. This book is no exception. I really wish I could argue with some of his ideas, but he makes such a strong case that I often have to resign myself to accept the unacceptable.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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    Sandy landin 01-10-15
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    "Surprisingly Excellent"
    What did you love best about Lying?

    I came across this book accidentally. I thought it was a book on fiction writing, so when I started to listen was surprised that it is actually a book on the ethics of lying. I was going to return it, but thought I'd listen for a few minutes. I ended up listening to the last word. It was thought provoking to say the least. I've always thought of myself as an honest person, but I found myself questioning some long held beliefs about white lies and the value of any lying at all. A strong case is made for a life of truth-telling (within the context of a person's well being, not as a dogmatic rule) and I am now on a mission to catch myself in lies, not just the lies I tell to save a freinds feelings but lies I tell myself when I eat the icecream that I know is contributing to my weight gain...I'm convinced that lies are doing me damage and are preventing me from seeing truths about myself that I would do well to be aware of. Lots to think about in this excellent, short, book,


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Lying?

    The evaluation of islam came as a shock, not because it's untrue, but because I so rarely hear anyone willing to say it.


    What about Sam Harris’s performance did you like?

    Clear, smooth enunciation. Very enjoyable listening experience.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Not necessary, but I did. I'm going to listen to it again (maybe even several times) beause I want to stop and think about several important points. My first run though I didn't have the patience to stop and think in depth.


    Any additional comments?

    I would have liked to hear a more distinct break between questions and answers at the end of the book, because on a number of occasions I was confused as to which I was hearing. It was concise and well written, but I would have liked more.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrea Ivins Palestine, TX 01-09-15
    Andrea Ivins Palestine, TX 01-09-15 Member Since 2014

    Andrea (Zumba) Ivins

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    "Insightful - Will Read Again"

    This is one that I knew I would agree with but fail to implement completely. I plan on reading many times in the future to gain the strength to change. Complete honesty in this society is tough. Loved this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dustin 01-06-15
    Dustin 01-06-15 Member Since 2014

    Books on tape are awesome! Audible sometimes sucks because it won't let you purchase Audiobooks after you already ordered them!

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    "Amazing"

    Amazing book/ essay yet again from the incomparable Sam Harris. Many of these ideas are familiar to us but Harris does what he does best and sheds light where many times there is none.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Coredapple Milford, DE, United States 01-02-15
    Coredapple Milford, DE, United States 01-02-15 Member Since 2010
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    "The black and white truth on lying!"

    How ethical are white lies? Sam Harris gives us reasons where even white lies can be detrimental to us or people around us. A very insightful read. The addition of his responses to readers' questions where saying the truth might not be an easy solution, and his responses to them are very welcome. Totally recommended for aspiring politicians!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Lee
    Colchester, United Kingdom
    5/12/14
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    "Interesting essay"

    For an Audible 'short' it's an Essay on lying and not a lot else.
    Not sure what i expected from the book but i wasn't left with anything more than i'd just listened to a guy talk to me over a dinner meeting.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Dorian Wilde
    Manchester, UK
    7/12/15
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    "Reeks of arrogant male hubris"

    Sam Harris thinks he's better than you, because *he* never tells a lie. You must lie all the time. You definitely do. And those white lies you tell to make people feel better about themselves? Those are also terrible and make you a bad person.

    Does a friend who is sensitive about her weight, single and struggling with her self-esteem *really* need to hear positive affirmations from a trusted friend, rather than a tirade about how she'll never get a husband if she doesn't go on a diet? Sam Harris does not think so. Similarly, his experience as a white guy going through customs and admitting he'd smoked weed on holiday will definitely be *exactly* the same as the experience of a person of colour.

    *sigh* Basically, Harris believes that all actions exist in a vacuum. He's created a black-and-white view of truth and falsehood and refuses to believe it can alter. He takes his experience as ubiquitous and fails to acknowledge all the privileges he has as a white cishet man and how they impact the way he interacts with the world.

    This book feels like listening to a white dude toss into a microphone whilst talking about how moral he is. So... if that's your thing? Otherwise, avoid like the plague. I nearly burst a blood vessel reading this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Matias
    3/16/15
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    "insightful look at important subject"

    I've listed to a lot of stuff from Sam Harris. This is the first time paying for his work, as he gives a lot out for free on his website. Will definitely buy more of his stuff published on audible.

    Disclaimer. He is in my top five favourite public intellectuals of today. Neil Tyson, I love you too.

    I really liked this audio book. A good first buy if you are familiar with Sam. Didn't mind the short duration as the author is very concise.

    Sam Harris brings up some really good points throughout the book pertaining to the subject matter. I especially like the last part, some twenty minute long Q&A.

    Sam Harris is climbing my list. Not long ago he wasn't even in the top ten.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Yas
    1/13/15
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    "Very insightful!"

    Worth a listen.. or two. Definitely have some food for thought! I w kills recommend.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Philbert Stevenson
    Merseyside, United Kingdom
    12/11/13
    Overall
    Performance
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    "Well worth the purchase price"
    Would you listen to another book narrated by Sam Harris?

    I would listen to another book written by Sam Harris but it would have to be cheaper than his other books currently are if narrated by himself because he speaks a little too fast for such brain-food.


    Any additional comments?

    I thoroughly enjoyed this little book, I really appreciated the extra section which answers questions raised by readers of the ebook.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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