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3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  3,777 ratings  ·  474 reviews
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 neuroscienti...more
ebook, 34 pages
Published (first published September 2011)
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Aug 02, 2012 Marta rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: owned
This book - or booklet, with its couple dozen pages - is an attempt of Sam Harris to describe and justify his personal philosophy of honesty and avoiding lies if at all possible. The author does not shy away from the classical "but what if an axe-murderer asks me about a child hiding in my house" dilemma, and from providing a scathing critique of white lies and lies that spare someone's feelings, and in this, I found the essay interesting. It is well-written, too, interesting, not a word too lon...more
I liked this essay. I read its majority while at a cafe with my wife, and it stirred very interesting discussions. Even while reading it alone, I remember constantly stopping and thinking about the insightful ideas and examples that Harris demonstrated.

Harris shows how lies, even those (conveniently?) called "white" do more harm than good. He proposes living a life without a single lie, even at the cost of much discomfort. Of course, situations where telling the truth will undoubtedly cause har...more
This is a very neat little book about lying. It's not out to flesh out the subject in all its glory, but instead to give you enough information and insight that you can make an informed decision on the subject and feel you know what it's about (and that's in 58 pages, *slow clap*).

It can also work as a bit of an eye opener. We're quite used to lying in our every day life - so much so it becomes habit, we don't even think about it. The great thing about Sam Harris is that he doesn't just tell yo...more
This is less of a book than a long essay, one that is currently available in free downloadable PDF form from Harris' website.

Throughout the piece, Harris makes the argument that there are significant benefits to be gained both personally and societally by rejecting lying in both large and small forms.

Most of us think of ourselves as honest people, yet may still frequently engage in the "white lie," an act of dishonesty designed to spare both ourselves and another discomfort.

Harris offers some c...more
Harris, in this insubstantial (seriously -- 50 pages of text, scarcely a paragraph per page) essay/e-book, attempts to illustrate why lying (or, more properly, deception) is almost universally a bad idea. He is not arguing that lying is necessarily wrong, but inadvisable and counterproductive.

Harris doesn't advance any particularly interesting arguments, and even undercuts his own examples more than once. (For example, a lesson involving a child who tells a visiting couple that his father actual...more
On the whole, this little novella (long essay) was really fantastic. Sam Harris makes a really strong case for never lying. And I think the case he makes transcends his commitment to utilitarianism (which he doesn't even mention in this essay), and resonates strongly with this virtue ethicist. I have two problems with his prescription.

1) Harris would be committed to the argument that even lying to someone to keep a surprise party you are throwing for them a secret is wrong. Examples along those...more
When is it okay to lie? When is it not? Sam has opinions which he'll gladly tell you. But they seem a bit arbitrary to me.

On top of that, the writing is incredibly dry. I do think the subject could be interesting (especially if approached by an author with a less simplistic but more internally consistent view), but Sam's take didn't do it for me. There's no sense of humor, there's no exploration, there's just simple and dry utterance of what amounts to moralism.

But let's take an example he gives...more
As someone who finds it incredibly difficult and unnatural to lie, and who, as a result, knows full well the pitfalls of being constantly honest, I was curious to read this book. It had very good reviews - but after reading it I wasn't really sure why. It's not a terrible book, but what it says is either blatantly obvious (to me, at any rate), or else not entirely true. While of course there are many kinds of untruth that cause all kinds of problem, the author goes as far as to argue that any ki...more
Cora Judd
Harris' writing here is so clear and elegant that it might be easy for one to mistake his ideas as simple. However, while 'Lying' can be read in a sitting, it can be mulled over for a very long time.

The ideas that linger are of the power of honest speech. Of his lie-related proposals, however, the most compelling is the destructive nature of the white lie; the one we tell out of compassion or embarrassment. I'm equally moved by his portrayal of plain truth-telling as a "source of power and an e...more
Juan Manuel
Libros de superación personal: ¡Sam Harris llamó y dijo que para hablar sobre cosas relevantes acerca de nuestra naturaleza humana no necesita siquiera gastar cien páginas (o decir pamplinas)!

Mentimos para quedar bien, mentimos para hacer sentir bien, mentimos cuando no aclaramos las falsas percepciones, mentimos cuando obviamos ciertas situaciones. Creemos que no hacemos daño y nos acostumbramos a seguirlo haciendo casi como si fuera respirar.

Harris despliega en este ensayo conciso un argumento...more
Lying is a simple and calmly written essay that seeks to establish an argument against deception. The argument isn't rooted in philosophy, or morality, but rather the pragmatic notion that lying, almost without exception, undercuts our integrity, degrades the quality of our relationships, and impedes on the opportunities and well being of all involved.

I was especially taken by the idea that a "white lie", the kind we imagine will protect another person from hurt or embarrassment, is instead an a...more
This is a philosophical Kindle Short about lying. The argument is that, unless you're dealing with someone you never want to have any kind of relationship with (ex. psychopath, enemy in war)--and maybe not even then--lying does more harm than good. Even white lies meant to spare the other person's feelings or be polite cause damage to a relationship. He gives the example of "Does this dress make me look fat?"--Instead of rushing to say "no!", consider the truth, which might be any of these:
- Tha...more
This topic matter is one that definitely needed our attention; full attention. I think that Harris did a great job of showing how a simple white lie could turn really ugly. In ordinary circumstances lying is never helpful and is totally unnecessary. It destroys trust in relationships.

While I was motivated and inspired by his words, I did find a bit of repetition on the scant number of pages, when I wanted something new to sink my teeth into. He could have said so much more, but then it would ha...more
Hatem L Sheemy
قرأت مقال اعتذار باسم يوسف عن خطأ عدم ذكر مصادره .. ثم شاهدت حلقة ل"ألعاب العقل" تتحدث عن "لماذا نكذب؟" بمعالجة لطيفة كالعادة..
هذا ذكرني بالكتاب فقرأته..
أفكار جيدة، راقني عموما تنظيم الأفكار بخصوص موضوع كهذا في شكل كتاب، ربما شعرت كثيرا انه يحاول معالجة نقاط نمطية أغلبنا قد تأملها وتفكر بها كثيرا لكنها بالطبع نقاط شائكة، فتنظيم الأفكار بهذه الطريقة مفيد..
الأمثلة التي ذكرها قد أختلف معه في بعضها لكن أتفهم طريقة استخدامه لها.. الكتاب عموما لم يضف شيء جديد لي لكنني استفدت منه بتنظيم الأفكار -كما...more
Lying is a very serious matter to consider avoiding in life, for lying does not allow us to reach out for a better life and our human relationships. In this essay I liked how Harris introduced lying and discussed it’s consequences, I agree with him.
Avoiding lies specially the white lies is sometimes a hard thing to do, but as in my opinion we can tell the truth all the time, truth and lies has their consequences sometimes people won’t understand and accept the truth but the difference is that it...more
Jim Whitefield
This great little book should be read by everyone. It is short, to the point, at times funny, and teaches one of the greatest lessons we could all learn. Luckily, it is available all week as a free download for those who would like to read it. This is the link from which the PDF file can be accessed.

"Lying is bad, umkay ..."

The idea that lying is bad is nothing new. Sam Harris tries to make something interesting here by extending this notion to extremes saying that all lying is bad, even white lies, etc. The absolutism of his argument is a shame, because there is widespread lying/cheating/stealing/spying/dishonesty now that is seriously harmful to our society. But going after every single lie seems to miss the forest for the trees.

Harris's position seems to miss the distinction between lyi...more
It's hard to argue against Sam Harris' logic. In 'Lying' he provides for the reader yet another essay of great importance; especially in today's environment of constant social and media onslaught - wrought ubiquitously with exaggerations, biases, misrepresentations and falsehoods. Harris manages to rationalize why even the most benign examples of lies – the omnipresent ‘white lie’ – can have harmful and lasting effects on the ‘duped’; and as such, offers alternatives that make sense and take a h...more
Zachary Schwartz
Being a Sam Harris fan, perhaps I expected too much.

I read this book in one day. It consists of a 45 page essay on small paper (maybe a 20 page essay on 8.5x11), a first appendix transcribing an interview between the author and his undergraduate ethics professor, and a second appendix responding to correspondence from an early ebook audience.

I'm glad I read it, but in general the only thing that comes to mind after finishing is "not insightful." Harris' thesis is that lying is wrong (even white...more
Mark Mallett
The best thing I can say about this little monograph is that it was free. That might also be a bad thing, since it is what got me to read it. It starts out with some superficial comments about lying being bad in some particular ways. Most of the comments are things you'd think about the first time you thought about the subject, and I had to go back and look to see if this was perhaps targetted to pre-teens, but alas it wasn't. There's nothing deep in the opinionizing, nor broad, and most of it i...more
Dana Stabenow
So, the subtitle here could read "Things Your Mother Should Have Taught You." As in

A wasteland of embarrassment and social upheaval can be neatly avoided by following a single precept in life: Do not lie.


A polite host might not acknowledge that one of her guests has said something so stupid as to slow the rotation of the earth.


It is simply astonishing how people destroy their marriages, careers, and reputations by saying one thing and doing another. Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer...more
Joseph Suh
As is always the case with Sam Harris work, "Lying" was easy-to-read and immediately applicable to your daily life (or, at least, it was for mine).

If you didn't know Sam Harris before reading this short e-book (or PDF), you undoubtedly should after you finish it. As one of the most prominent intellectuals of our time, Harris provides his thoughts on honesty (and lying) in this succinct single.

Not only is this essay short in regards to length, but Harris also writes directly, utilizing four-syl...more
Greg Stoll
Lying is a Kindle single whose thesis is simple: lying is (almost always) bad. In general I agree, but the book takes it to extremes where the argument is more interesting and harder to get behind:

- White lies (when getting a gift, for example). The example they give is for an ugly piece of clothing: you could say that you're touched the gifter thought of you, but "I don't think I can pull this off" or something. This sounds very hard to do in real life. The authors explain that you're eroding t...more
Sam Harris is the incarnation of purely rational thought. Lying serves as well as any of his works hitherto published to demonstrate this. Weighing in at what probably amounts to half the size of Letter to a Christian Nation, Lying is a very short read (I took an hour, but I am generally rather slow). But it is dense, and, while by no means is it, or would it claim to be, comprehensive, it does cover its topic very well. The arguments seem not only indisputable, but entirely natural. They simply...more
Lying (Kindle Single) by Sam Harris

“Lying" is the Kindle Single that makes the compelling case that society and our own lives would simplify and improve if we didn't lie. Neuroscientist, atheist icon and accomplished author Dr. Sam Harris provides yet another thought-provoking title. In this brief but eloquent essay, Harris convincingly establishes the virtues of not lying. This 145-KB book is composed of the following twelve chapters: 1. What is a Lie?, 2. The Mirror of Honesty, 3. Two Types of...more
There are a lot of details and special scenarios that are worth exploring in depth, but that should not take away from the the general applicability of Sam's thesis which I find very compelling. Lying doesn't seem like an optimum strategy for most of cases where we actually end-up lying, because we are bad judges of this kind of decision making. In terms of a cognitive cost-benefit analysis, it seems that lying is a waste of energy.

Now, without dismissing the central thesis of the essay, I woul...more
An intriguing, influential take on a classic ethical conundrum: Is it ever right to lie?

Sam delivers his arguments with a free-flowing, conversational writing style. Many of his examples ring a little too hypothetical for my tastes, but his personal accounts add much persuasive power. After reading of his encounter with a US Customs Officer, I must say that my respect for Mr. Harris has increased tenfold. This is truly 'walking the walk'.

However, I feel that a few arguments put forward by Harris...more
Everett Pantaloons
Of recent I've been dabbling a bit into the philosophy of lying and the one thing I've discovered is that everyone seems to have a completely different definition for the word "lying."

In Mark Twain's On the Decay of the Art of Lying he discusses lying as an art form and defines lying as anything that is not the truth. Twain argues that there is an art to lying and that people do, and indeed should, lie at the right times so long as it benefits others. I, for the most part, agreed with what Twain...more
This is a bit longer than a magazine essay and in its length feels more like a journal article than a book. It covers a lot of ground and makes the point quite clearly.

Harris is a consequentialist, something he does not argue for in this book but explained previously in The Moral Landscape. Consequentialism is a theory that maintains that the ethical value of an act is determined by its consequences. Consequentialism is often broken down into two main types: one in which the outcome of each spec...more
Ross Blocher
All the fat is trimmed from this little book (Sam Harris refers to it as an essay) - it's a quick read, but full of content. The message is simple: lying gets us nowhere, both as individuals and collectively as a society. Harris explores some of the common excuses and justifications for lying, and suggests that in the long run simple honesty is always the better strategy. A truth-teller doesn't have to keep constant record of what he has said, and doesn't foist a false impression of reality upon...more
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"Sam Harris (born 1967) is an American non-fiction writer and philosopher and neuroscientist. He is the author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason (2004), which won the 2005 PEN/Martha Albrand Award, and Letter to a Christian Nation (2006), a rejoinder to the criticism his first book attracted. His new book, The Moral Landscape, explores how science might determine human...more
More about Sam Harris...
Letter to a Christian Nation The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values Free Will The Neural Correlates of Religious and Nonreligious Belief

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“Of course, the liar often imagines that he does no harm as long as his lies go undetected.” 40 likes
“Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship.” 38 likes
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