Daily Archives: July 30, 2014

* Lying by Sam Harris


Lying is short and carries a simple message: lying is bad, always and in every circumstance. Instead, we should tell the truth and always confront others with it.

Now I wholeheartedly agree that telling lies deceives others and sometimes the teller of the lies, too, and I’m a great fan of directness. But insisting on telling the naked truth in all circumstances seems needlessly brutal, even cruel. A little social courtesy seems to me to be helpful, not destructive. It brings to mind a friend of mine, whose demented grandmother insists on telling her husband that he is fat at each encounter — not kind and not helpful, albeit perfectly honest. Instead, the author debates at length whether lying would be permissible in extreme situations where it would save a life. I have not had many homicidal maniacs show up on my door demanding a victim, so the deliberations are of little use to me. But we encounter many people who are fat, ugly, or mean, and I don’t think we should find it necessary to tell them the truth in every circumstance.

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