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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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  •  
    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."

    13 of 15 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.

    11 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brock DONOSTIA-SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain 11-19-13
    Brock DONOSTIA-SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain 11-19-13 Member Since 2012

    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.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CrazyBird United States 01-28-14
    CrazyBird United States 01-28-14 Member Since 2009

    I am a retired Histology Technician. My time is spent caring for my grandchildren, my dog, cat, and blue & gold macaw.

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    "NOW, WOULD I LIE TO YOU?"

    THE BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN ON THE SUBJECT OF LYING, SHORT AND SWEET WITH NO GUILT TRIPS, NO SHAMING. AN EXPLANINATION, IF YOU WILL, OF LYING AND WHAT IT DOES TO THE LIER AND TO THE LIED TO. A RELIEF TO READ FOR ALL OF US WHO LIE, AND WE ALL DO. HARRIS MAKES US WANT TO STOP LYING TO OURSELVES AND TO OTHERS. IT IS ACTUALLY A FEEL GOOD BOOK>>>

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teri Ambrose Mesa, AZ, United States 01-05-14
    Teri Ambrose Mesa, AZ, United States 01-05-14 Member Since 2012
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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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lance , California, United States 11-29-13
    Lance , California, United States 11-29-13 Member Since 2012

    I listen to learn, gain new perspectives, and grow

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    "Truth"
    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    That the truth trumps all and it is the medicine to fix almost all of your problems, only because it gives you the chance to learn from them.


    Any additional comments?

    Even the most truthful among us can always use a helpful reminder. this book will do that along with learning a few other aspect of lying that you may never considered a lie.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristi Edmonton, AB, Canada 11-24-13
    Kristi Edmonton, AB, Canada 11-24-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Simple, Short, Argument Against Lying"
    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    I enjoyed how easy it was to listen to. It kept me engaged and interested without being too difficult for audio format.


    Any additional comments?

    I really enjoyed listening to this. It was short, but made a good argument for telling the truth, without being unreasonable.

    I regularly lied years ago, and came to my own conclusion that it wasn't worth the mental stress. However I still often tell white lies, or conceal the truth. This book has pushed me further, to aiming to be truthful as often as possible. However this was already something I was working on, so I am probably quite biased because this book was what I wanted to hear.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    brenty United States 01-05-14
    brenty United States 01-05-14 Member Since 2008
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    "Required reading for human beings"

    You have to train and pass a test to drive a car. Why? Because we're living in a society, and without some agreement on a basic set of rules, chaos ensues and people get hurt. It's a communication problem. Similarly, we all could benefit from everyone being on the same page in regard interpersonal communication.

    Just as the fact that you or your associates may be reckless drivers does not invalidate the virtue of traffic laws, the prevalence of liars does not negate the benefits of integrity.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Yoshida Pasadena, CA USA 11-30-13
    A. Yoshida Pasadena, CA USA 11-30-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Good book but skimpy"

    This was more like an essay rather than a book. It had some good points for not lying followed by some stories of how people diminished or ruined relationships through lies. At the end, the author answered questions about lying in specific situations (e.g., there is a surprise party -- no, don't lie; tell the person that plans have been made and don't ask anymore). More thought and research should have been given to these situations and been made chapters of their own in the book.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason FPO, AP, United States 11-29-13
    Jason FPO, AP, United States 11-29-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Fantastic insight into being honest"

    Sam Harris delivers a powerful essay (with some follow-up questions and answers) in this short but powerfully reasoned work.

    If, like so many other people, you don't see the harm in "white lies", this might just make you stop and re-consider that position -- I know it did for me.

    Trying to be honest, truly honest, is a very scary proposition, but Harris makes a compelling case, illustrating with anecdotes and reason both.

    After hearing a story about a family that kept a mother's illness secret from one another, I sat down an talked to my wife about how we would handle any similar situation that might arise in the future. If only for that one story and the result I would give this work the highest recommendation!

    There's lots more and it is deep thought that needs reflection, so please don't be put off by the brevity. It's perfectly long enough to lay out the argument for your consideration.

    Highest recommendation!

    3 of 5 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
  • Philbert Stevenson
    Merseyside, United Kingdom
    12/11/13
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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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