First and foremost, this book is, at best, a booklet but since I bought it, it counts. My rules are arbitrary and my decisions, final.
Sam Harris is a neuroscientist who is most famous for his secular writing and criticisms of religion. I chose to read Lying because I’d read articles by Harris and I’d seen his name discussed. I knew he was a young(er) and stood for science over spirituality. I suppose that based upon the name of the essay, I knew it would be a philosophical take on the topic but I found it to be far more engaging than that. Regardless of your thoughts on Sam Harris and what he stands for, Lying is a thought provoking read.
The essay contains a series of vignettes that all support the central narrative that- in any situation, lying will lead to negative, or more negative outcomes, in spite of intentions. Harris argues that even white lies represent a fundamental breakdown of trust that erodes relationships. He states that telling the truth leads to more positive outcome regardless of the situation. I think that it is easy, and incorrect, to dismiss the opinion outright. My initial reaction to Harris was to disagree.
The essay discusses this in detail using the time honored cliché of “Do I look fat in this?” Anyone who answers that question in the positive will have a very bad time. But, is it lying to say that someone does not look fat in those jeans if they do? Harris states that it may not be lying to do so. He says that since the underlying question is not whether or not someone looks fat in a certain outfit but more likely that the individual simply desires to be complimented, therefore it might not be lying to answer “no”. After some thought, I think I agree with that idea. I also think I agree with the notion that small lies can hurt relationships as they demonstrate a lack of trust, even if it is minute.
While very short, this was one of many examples found in the essay. Lying invokes discussion from any who might read it. It is a FAST read and I recommend it.