Greg Stoll's Reviews > Lying

Lying by Sam Harris
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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 trust and integrity even if the gifter never discovers that you lied. Another example: if somebody asks "Do I look fat in this?" you can try to judge if they're actually asking or just seeking reassurance. A friend recently asked this and he responded "You're not fat, but you could probably stand to lose twenty-five pounds", which led to the friend going on a diet. This seems extremely situational and depends a lot on how close the friend is. They also give some horrific (to me) examples of lying to a family member about what their prognosis is. Don't do that!

- If someone asks for an opinion about a project they're working on, again it's best to be honest. If they've been working on a script and it's terrible, best to tell them early than have them waste more time on it. I agree with the principle here, but my conflict-avoiding nature would make it very hard to do this in practice.

- Lying to the enemy during wartime or as a spy is OK, but these are so far out of normal circumstances for most people that we shouldn't use them as the basis to draw conclusions for ourselves. (although it has the weird aside "that is, if we grant that espionage is necessary in today's world", which I think it pretty clearly is...)

Anyway, even though I don't agree with all of the conclusions, it was an interesting book and I'm going to try to be more honest in everyday life. We'll see how it goes!
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 25, 2011 – Finished Reading
September 28, 2011 – Shelved

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