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Lying

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  14,622 ratings  ·  1,260 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.
Kindle Edition, 47 pages
Published October 23rd 2013 by Four Elephants Press (first published September 2011)
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Em This short book is trying to explain why lying is bad for you and the people around you: the bad things and effort associated with it; the reward of b…moreThis short book is trying to explain why lying is bad for you and the people around you: the bad things and effort associated with it; the reward of being truthful; the impact on the people you protect from lies.
It also covers some aspects like when it is reasonable to lie, which are far less often than I thought at the beginning of the book: think extreme situations like war, or a dictatorial society or community; things that may harm you physically; being at gunpoint.
All in all, it's a little book (the audiobook is around 75mins) covering a huge topic. And trying to follow the advice thoroughly will probably be one of the greatest challenges one can attempt. But it's well worth it, according to Mr. Harris.(less)
Ludwik C. Siadlak Audiobook is 1h16m long and Amazon says it's 108p in print.

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  14,622 ratings  ·  1,260 reviews


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Marta
Aug 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Karl-O
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Lena
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Archit Ojha
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
A short and quick read! Interesting book telling straightforwardly why one should not lie. What are the disadvantage of lying, the psychology behind it and what consequences it can land you to.
-uht!
Nov 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Sara Dahabović
A short booklet about lying it'll probably take less than an hour to finish, highly recommended

"Honesty is a gift we can give to others"
Pooja
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lying is royal road to chaos.
A short book that tells you about the consequences of lying, an act we think harmless and small.
Kirstine
Oct 16, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Belhor
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
This is a short essay about lying and its implications. The book has many short comings in my opinion and it could have been written much better and I wish it was longer; I wish it could have been developed into a proper book. There are so many things left unexplained and premises unproven, yet the subject is interesting.
The writer basically argues that is is almost always bad to lie, except in very very rare cases that would probably never happen in the course of the lifetime of the average in
...more
Greg
Oct 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
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
Gail
Apr 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Brendan Monroe
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Despite its pithy title and sparse number of pages, "Lying" packs a wallop! This is perhaps one of the most important books I've ever read and it's clear once reading it that the world would be a sorely better one if everyone followed the precepts written within.

This thin volume has received some criticism of the "oh well, it's just what grandma says and everyone already knows it" variety. Clearly these people didn't take away much from this book, but that likely has more to do with themselves t
...more
Alex J. O'Connor
An intriguing volume, if not entirely convincing. I may post a full review on my website.
Leah Nadeau
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
More so food for thought instead of learning something.

This is more like an essay or small script about the philosophies of lying, it's not really a book.

Food for thought:
- Whatever our purpose in telling them, lies can be gross or subtle. Some entail elaborate ruses or forged documents. Others consist merely of euphemisms or tactical silences. But it is in believing one thing while intending to communicate another that every lie is born.
-Ethical transgressions are generally divided into two c
...more
Tabarek Raad
Feb 02, 2017 added it
Shelves: general
"But what could be wrong with truly “white” lies? First, they are still lies. And in telling them, we incur all the problems of being less than straightforward in our dealings with other people. Sincerity, authenticity, integrity, mutual understanding—these and other sources of moral wealth are destroyed the moment we deliberately misrepresent our beliefs, whether or not our lies are ever discovered."
Sean Liu
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic - should be required reading for everyone, especially because it's so short. This book will make you think twice about telling lies—even the most subtle, well-intentioned white lies. The key things I took away from this book are:

1. "To lie is to recoil from relationship."
2. Lies, even white lies, are indicators of a poor quality relationship.
3. To offer insincere praise is to treat someone like a child when everyone else will judge them as adults. We do them no favors by sparing their
...more
Thomas  Jackson
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Commit to honesty
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. By lying we deny others our view of the world. And our dishonesty not only influence the choices they make, it often determines the choices they can make--in ways we cannot always predict. Every lie is an assault on the autonomy o
...more
JakeR
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lying. Is about what it implies. I love how the author said lying was rejecting the other from accessing the truth. The main problem presented in this book was that lying and telling the truth both have its goods and bad. I believe truth is the right way to go depending on the situation. When lying or telling the truth, we need to imagine the consequences, yet that truth is pure subjectivity or it might not be. If the consequence was pretty definite and negative, then you should probably lie. Ye ...more
Karla
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, ebook
Sam Harris' podcast is one of the more enjoyable ones out there. He's got a great clarity of speaking, and his method is to take the listener through the issue at hand in a thoughtful and considered way. His writing shows the same method: everything is clear and precise and deliberate.

His background in neuroscience puts his approach towards the issue of belief and disbelief on a different level than other famed atheists such as Christopher Hitchens (snarky, acerbic and entertaining) and Richard
...more
Hesamul Haque
Oct 26, 2018 rated it liked it
What's the right thing to do? Came to my mind as I finished this short book in a very short span of time. Sam Harris's book Lying is not a philosophical book which tells you the ramifications of lying or speaking the truth but it merely shows the two side of the same coin and ultimately leaves it to the reader on making any decision. It could be thought-provoking for those who are about to take the journey of life in his hand and also for those who are to write an essay on the same topic. I came ...more
Amirography
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
Sloppy and philosophically bad quality arguments. Which one would expect from an existentialist philosopher. But not a scientist. Sam Harris fails to abandon intuition and descriptive ethics as a prescriptive. This method of reasoning is what I call lazy argumentation in which one would try to justify (very quickly) their already made decisions.

My ratings:
Flow: 4/5
Style of writing: 5/5
Consistency: 1/5
Content: 2/5
Talbot Hook
Sep 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review might be just as long as the book, but, as the kids say, yeet.

Coming to Terms

Lying is a fraught little concept, quite charged in use and bandied about whenever people don't like what they hear. But what is it precisely? Harris's definition, which works for me, is simply that it is an intentional misleading of other people who are expecting honest communication. The keys here are that: A) the liar is intentionally leaving out information or manufacturing it; and, B) the person on the
...more
Bakunin
While being no major work it is nonetheless a thoughtprovoking piece of writing. Sam Harris thesis is that lying is by definition unethical and he carefully dissects different situations to show how lying is no alternative to telling the truth.

The small booklet (which I read) also contains a dialogue with Harris old philosophy teacher at Stanford. I found this dialogue to be more informative than the essay by Harris because it provided more reasons to actually believe in Harris arguments. He is
...more
Bee
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I like Sam Harris. Just like in Waking Up, and in fact through using his meditation app by the same name, my respect for him grows and grows. As a young man I got deeply involved in Buddhism, and went as far as becoming a monk for a few years. But as is often the case I left after a crisis of faith and understanding, and took years to assimilate what i had learned. Sam Harris is massively influential in my coming to terms with what I feel Buddhism and in particular Insight Meditation is and taug ...more
Leo Robertson
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I forgot I read this. Where did I even get this??

Interesting blog post or so about why lying might be bad. Problem with philosophy is that an argument can be made for anything, with little to no underpinning evidence, or with an equally strong counterargument. It's not my favourite discipline!!

I don't know, I mean, truth can go on endlessly, and there has to be a point where communication is curtailed.

I'm fine.

Deanna
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: repeatable
Sharp, concise, provocative, insightful.
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
Lauren
Mar 09, 2018 rated it liked it
To agree to keep a secret is to assume a burden. At a minimum, one must remember what one is not supposed to talk about. This can be difficult and lead to clumsy attempts at deception.

Harris' essay on lying and honesty is simplistic, but brings up some essential and thought-provoking topics. The ebook version included an interview between Harris and his former ethics professor from Stanford University. Many good "case studies" in honesty and ethics are mentioned here, and that section contained
...more
Kalle Nordenstorm
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
2nd read and I bet I will read it again

What he is saying
In committing to be honest with everyone, we commit to avoiding a wide range of long-
term problems, but at the cost of occasional, short-term discomfort. However, the discomfort
should not be exaggerated: You can be honest and kind, because your purpose in telling
the truth is not to offend people: You simply want them to have the information you have,
and would want to have if you were in their position.


What truth feels like
The year was
...more
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Sam Harris (born 1967) is an American non-fiction writer, 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 attrac
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27 likes · 7 comments
“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.” 95 likes
“Of course, the liar often imagines that he does no harm as long as his lies go undetected.” 61 likes
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