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
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Critic reviews

"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)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Judy Corstjens on 25-09-16

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.

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8 of 9 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Mr. R. Mallia on 12-01-17

Very good essay. Very short

Really good topic very well written and narration was great. However very short with half taken up with answers to questions. I felt it left me with more questions than answers about the truth philosophy

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Kazuhiko on 23-11-13

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.

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27 of 29 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Douglas on 29-11-13

"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."

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24 of 26 people found this review helpful

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