The ebook has a good example under “Lies in Extremis” of hiding a child from a murderer, and I accept his conclusion that you can tell the truth of “I won’t tell you” rather than acquiesce when the murderer says “Is he here?” And yes, someone stronger, esp. if packing a handy weapon, can do better against this one guy than lying “Nope, haven’t seen him”.
However: what I’d like is a plausible justification for ANYTHING other than saying “No Jews hiding here, sir!” in the following situation, one or more of which apparently Sam heard in his college class:
Even with Nazis at the door and Anne Frank in the attic, [professor Ronald A.] Howard always seemed to find truths worth telling and paths to even greater catastrophe that could be opened by lying.
Are there *any* valid criticisms of this response, or (even microscopically) better options than this particular lie to a squad of SS troops? (This isn’t a completely academic question: the situation continues to occur - see Bosnia, Rwanda, Congo, southern Sudan…)
sam says himself that he can’t take kant seriously on this point and that to truly stick to that principle would lead to results that only a psychopath would choose. and similarly, if you agree with violence in self-defence in certain circumstances then it seems nonsensical to rule out lying in similar situations.
perhaps kant’s position makes more sense when combined with another of his formulations that “maxims be chosen as though they should hold as universal laws of nature”. in other words - if everybody in the world were to stand up to the SS soldiers then they would eventually be overthrown., therefore that is the better way to behave in that situation.
in the grand scheme of things that would be better than lying to protect your own house while allowing the SS to continue murdering, but in the particular situation where to try that on your own would only result in you being killed and then your house searched and everyone inside killed as well, then i suppose you would have to allow the exception to lie in self-defence.
I’d agree ^^
I don’t know that he would ever say that lying will always bring about more ethical consequences in all situations, although there will still be things to worry about it no matter what. The Kant part and that example of extremis weren’t directly told in relation, but i think that that’s what he means by saying you can’t possibly believe one should never ever lie. I found lying to only make me more consciously aware of the ethics involved when about to lie, rather than make me seriously never tell another lie.
my critique on sam harris’s lying.
i want to start by saying i read lying for free on scribd which was roghly 54 pages. it seemed the total essay but if i am missing some of his key points because of that, i acknowledge that.
to start off i find that sams evidence to telling the truth being the best route and the absence of it almost always leading to bad outcomes presumptious.in the examples he uses yes! but in life there are many outcomes and variables to these tales.
For instance an older friend of mine was told that his wife had only 4 years to live due to her medical situation. he decided to not tell his wife this as it would keep her more postivie and possible stronger immune system. in this circumstance it worked she overcame her cancer and is still alive.
on a slight side not sams says by lying to someone you are essentially saying you know whats best for their life.i think it is largely the opposite that is the case. I think they know the truth about themselves better than me, i tell them a white-lie on the backdrop of the clear and harsh truths they know of themselves.
yes some have been ruined for lies yet many have not and managed to live the good life with their practices of white lies and ommisions of truth. In my own life i lived my teenage years until 20’s as a very bluntly honest person almost incapable of lies, this led to a great array of problems, but mostly utterly unsuccesfull relationships of every kind, which led to severe mental health problems such as depression.
i now strive to be honest and compassionate as much as possible but also with a heavy dose of realism to my environment and the consequences it will breed.
I feel that sam is not considering enough his own unique background and where his staunch attitude to honesty comes from. to my knowledge he grew up in a very secular and academic background.he continued to study at some of the best universities and be surrounded by highly academic and civilised humans.i can see how that environment may lead to the conclusion that lying is unnecessary. But is this the situation of most poeple, i would say no. Many are deeply entwined with deeply biased, irrational poeple.
i myself grew-up in a very religous environment and to my own folly thought that being honest would largely be respected and bring good fruits. and even i have suffered less, than friends who lacked less foresight than mine.
This brings me to a facet of honesty that sam did not discuss. To be honest is a privilage, are you powerful enough to be untouched for an honest controversial opinion. we all experience this to different degrees.The more controversial the more powerful your influence must be in its different forms to remain non-dentrimentaly affected.
There is a great deal of nuance to this situation and the landscape has shifted greatly, largely due to the internet.we can share opinions anonymously with largely little tax to our person. thus only now giving birth to such things as the arab spring and anonymous.
This ties into sams theme with the book, trying to make us more ethical by being honest. I feel this is largely an incorrect or largely inefficient way to galvanise humanity to be more ethically honest. You must design it into the structure of our relationships, this seems to me the only meaningful steps to progress with this ethical problem. This is a question of technolgy and how it can effect honesty, which i know sam is very open to but none the less has put his energies into writing a book to convert rather than a tech project.
lastly i challenge the very premise of the book, Will society really be better if we were more honest? i find all his suggestions to leave me actively unsure.He mentions the follys of tiger woods. but what would tigers life have been if he had always been open about his voracious and undiscerning sexual appetite, would his life have turned out better?
we can also imagine a situation were the social blow back throughout his life may have led to little or no sponsorships. Disruptions with his close family and colleagues leaving him regularly unpopular much earlier in his career thus affecting his mental game, confidence…..culminating in him being a little known of golfer and a reputation of being a creep without the finances to pay for his appetites.Is that outcome so implausible from an honest tiger woods, i think not.
and if not for our individual lives would society.
when i learned sam wrote on lying i wanted to read it asap cos i have always had problems with society cos i just don’t lie. so i read it. i agreed with it fully until i talked to my son,who knows me well,together with my problems with society and probably knows the reason for it. my love for the truth and saying it to anyone who would listen. so he told me that it’s all nice but whoever tells the truth and nothing but the truth can get even murdered by the society,thing that happened to socrates. i am greek.
so i thought of asking sam the following.
listen sam. i know you have a beautiful little daughter and you love her very much. so i’ll put you in a hypothetical situation that your little beautiful daughter is instead of very beautiful,very ugly. yes plain ugly. so she asks you if she is pretty.
what would you say to her sam?
i know saying to her she is pretty would be a white lie,but as far as i remember you are against those lies too.
for your consolation,i fully agree with humans having no free will at all,in spite of what your opponent says. and also,i don’t agree with the philosophy stand that the two can compromise.
simply said it’s so obvious there is no free will.
in spite of random movements of microwhatever.
That’s a pretty good example.
Even if one dislikes lying, would there be any benefit to telling your daughter: “I’m sorry sweetie but you’re about the ugliest baby a woman ever gave birth to.” There are two options; you lie or you crush your kid. Eventually side-stepping the question with a “You’re special as you are” isn’t much different from lying.
People lie all the time and if they didn’t, society would collapse. A degree of lying is required for it to function. If you meet someone in the street and ask them how they are, they’ll probably say “fine” while in reality they could feel like shit, had a fight with the wife last night, are behind on payments and so very much hate their kids right now. But they lie and answer “I’m fine” because they know you don ‘t want to be overwhelmed by their misery. Or they don’t desire to share how they feel. And you didn’t ask to hear the truth either.
People lie all the time. “No, your ass doesn’t look too fat in those pants.” “You’re still as pretty as the first day I met you.” “That new shirt indeed looks pretty.” “I love working here boss.” “I’m the right candidate for this job.” “Yes we can.”
I’m a blunt person but learned that often it is better to not say anything at all or simply tell a lie. The lie usually doesn’t cause problems. The truth more than often does.
It isn’t the lying which is the root of any problem, it is the emotions triggering or requiring these lies.
In a social context a lie might appear negative, even if it is a white lie. And while I somewhat agree society would be better were some more brute honesty applied, the view we have upon lying is largely defined by our morality.
If you think about lying in the context of competition you realize that there is a strategical benefit to it. It gives you a direct benefit while honest behavior has no direct benefit at all. Some monkeys “cry wolf” to scare the competition into the trees in order to ensure that snack they spotted. That’s basically lying. Of course when caught this lie, or cheat, can very well turn into a disadvantage. Nonetheless it can make a serious difference, especially when the lower ranked use it to momentarily out-compete their superior.
Our whole society is constructed upon lies, some well-intended, some not so much. Many of them too are purely for strategical benefits and often the higher one is ranked in our hierarchies, the easier it is to get away with them, even when exposed as a liar and as such, the more tempting it becomes to use them strategically. Look at politics as an example; everyone knows politicians lie and we don’t even think twice about it and thus, neither will they.
White lies are more often than not done purely for emotional reasons. Either the one telling the lie can’t bring up telling the truth or they don’t because they know the other can’t handle such truth. That’s the root of the problem; most humans are emotional creatures and lying is just a symptom of that. As long as their emotions rule their rationality, lies are needed.
As it is now, honesty doesn’t last longest but too often it takes longest. And more often than not it ends quickest too.
not because you are special is another lie cos it may not be but because she knows that every child is special to her father but she wants to be special AND PRETTY. she know that being pretty is VERY important.
there have been conducted two galops polls with very large samples.
both showed that most people want their match to be
with good social status themselves or of their family and preferably both
then a big gap
to be well educated
to have social graces
to have good character and other human virtues that reside in the brain
they forgot the religion and other such…
and smoking alcohol and drugs
i forgot to say that i believe that lying in the world as it today and as it has always been,is inevitable. otherwise you are done with. and,again in my opinion,lying ‘could’ be stopped only if more than fifty percent in ones region stopped lying. and it is impossible to arrange. not to say a ward about that most of people dont want to stop lying.
one more thing. lying is in nature of human beings being a part of animal world. its a way of survival.
and finally,as water runs only where it CAN run,as human affairs and nature developed in evolution and history. as they only could. some accidents made the things as they are in personal and global scheme,but accidents are part of the causes of events to happen an human character to develop…
Indeed, a truth not spoken equals a lie being told. If someone asks me if they’re pretty and I tell them they are special as they are, I am basically stating that I think they’re not but they, or I, are too emotionally fragile for that to be outspoken. Thus I dodge that fact with a platitude that, hopefully, makes at least them feel good about it. Even if I’d not answer the question at all, that could very much equal a lie. When I think something, whether I say that in the open or not, does not make that much difference in such context.
Of course beauty not only is in the eye of the beholder, and even while there is a biological basis in relation to health or reproduction, that what we consider beautiful is largely culturally defined. But in a culture in which the visual tends to be put on a pedestal, being brutally honest seldom leads to less “pain”. Such would first require a culture in which the rational is put on a pedestal.
i do not agree with that beauty is only in the eye of the beholder,in the context that i had described. i meant the beauty in the eyes of the mean person,the average person. when a littles girl asks her daddy if she is pretty she means if she is pretty in the eyes of 50 percent viewers and not in her dads eyes. she knows she is pretty in his eyes. she wants to know if she is pretty in most mens eyes,when she grows up,the objective beauty she wants,not the subjective,of her parents and the people who know her and love her. they are not objective. i dont think there is one mentally and emotionally normal person who would say that garry cooper and elizabeth taylor were not the most beautiful people on the planet.
Beauty is indeed not only in the eye of the beholder but, as I mentioned, largely culturally defined. Here in the West, Hollywood and fashion have an enormous influence on what has become our standard of beauty. Any objective judgment of beauty is largely a judgment of what society considers beautiful.
I guess I’m that one person that doesn’t consider Cooper and Taylor the most beautiful people on the planet. I prefer faces that breathe life. The option that I’m not mentally or emotionally normal I won’t exclude.
well i am sure you know what i meant. alain delon is there too,and also merylin monroe.
if you insist that you don’t know what i meant i’ll tell you. i meant the physical beauty. what you said is some other kind of beauty,beauty of soul.
i myself consider alain delon very beautiful but i am not attracted to him at all. i am not attracted to garty cooper either. too cold. both of them. the same goes with elizabeth. bur not with merylin. she is warm. and not so beautiful as elizabeth.
so beauty in its physical only sense is cold. beauty in the sense that you described is warm but is not physical. its of the soul.
and finally i am also sure that you knew i was joking saying that all the normal eartheans consider garry and elizabeth the most beautiful people on the earth. if for no other reason,many people would disagree for spite and many illogical reasons. i am logical at the cost of emotion. i am afraid of emotion. logic is safe. emotion brings disaster. that’s why.
and i wander how sam could have made such omissions…