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
"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)
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
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."
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.
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.
So much to learn, and so little time to sit down and read. Thanks Audible.
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.
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.
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.
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,
The evaluation of islam came as a shock, not because it's untrue, but because I so rarely hear anyone willing to say it.
Clear, smooth enunciation. Very enjoyable listening experience.
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.
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.
Andrea (Zumba) Ivins
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.
Books on tape are awesome! Audible sometimes sucks because it won't let you purchase Audiobooks after you already ordered them!
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.
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!
"thought provoking and inspiring"
this is a short book and is basically a manifesto about how lying almost always leads to suffering and distrust. Harris addresses the difference between lying and telling everything well. very interesting is the addendum of readers questions and challenges
it is a very personal account with many practical expels from his life. I would have liked a bit more about other philosophical views on lying. however I recommend it highly.for those willing to consider another way of relating to others.
"An uplifting inspiration to live rather morally "
The author has done a great job making this book pretty short, constructive and most importantly meaningful at all times. It also gives room for discussion and provides some thoughts of pros and cons in practical real life situations.
Worth a listen.. or two. Definitely have some food for thought! I w kills recommend.
"clever , made me think"
Makes you question what you think and a must read (or listen). We'll worth your time.
As one who has experienced all the massive downside of being lied to and manipulated by someone who I had trusted to my bones, I found this a fascinating, and profitable way to spend an hour! It helped me to feel more comfortable with the way I have tried to live my life in the past few years!
"Good but unconvincing"
An enjoyable audiobook however in terms of philosophical argument it asks more questions than it answers.
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.
"Disappointingly short and narrow."
This is more of an essay than a book, and it barely scratches the surface of an interesting subject. In fact, a better title would be ‘White Lies’, because that is where Harris focusses his attention and where he has some worthwhile, commonsense, advice. So if you are worried about your ability to handle your reception of a badly chosen gift, this book may help.
Harris rather assumes a well-behaved, well-intentioned population living under a benign government under the rule of law, and misses a whole world of more thorny lying, both the causes and dilemmas. When you have given a youth sanctuary in your house and the murderous pursuer knocks on your front door, should you lie or should you rather consider a truth-respecting negotiation with the putative murderer that would perhaps give him the chance to reconsider his ill-chosen path, and you the chance to hand him to the police without endangering your neighbours? Mr Harris does not consider the case where the murderer is the police, as unfortunately occurs in rather large parts of the globe. Mr Harris does not discuss the impact of Political Correctness on open, honest, free speech, which is certainly even part of ‘White Lies’. He does not discuss how to deal with slanderous lies propagated on the internet and how an innocent person or company should try to countermand this modern pathology. He does not consider how we may lie to ourselves, and ignores the interesting research on dishonesty by Ariely in recent years. So overall, a rather small and limited take on a vast and complicated topic.
Narration. Mr Harris narrates himself. He frequently uses the phrases ‘Human Beans’ and “Lian’” (for lying). Just saying, it’s different from how I pronounce these key words, though I appreciate it’s just a question of accent.
"A wasteland of embarrassment and social upheaval"
can be neatly avoided by following a single precept in life: Do not lie.”
― Sam Harris, Lying
A very small book that is a dissertation on lying, and the price we pay for omitting the truth or distorting it, the author argues very eloquently that almost never is a lie a good thing, and builds a case for living in full honesty, even when it appears uncomfortable.
“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 ways we cannot always predict. Every lie is a direct assault upon the autonomy of those we lie to.”
― Sam Harris, Lying
He does not frame it in a moralistic way but as a logical conclusion that liberates both the liar and the recipient of the lie from many burdens and possible negative outcomes, while building a better relationship and trust.
“Unlike statements of fact, which require no further work on our part, lies must be continually protected from collisions with reality.”
― Sam Harris, Lying
An excellent exploration of what is a way of life for some or an occasional failure for others; all of us have done it and have had others inflict it on us, making it very personal and useful topic that touches all of humanity. Everyday philosophy served as a very fulfilling read.
“Honesty is a gift we can give to others. It is also a source of power and an engine of simplicity.”
― Sam Harris, Lying
"It did make me think !"
I love it!!! It was short but made me think about lying and the consequences!
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