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The Refuge of Honesty

A new kindle single by neuroscientist and public intellectual Sam Harris argues that all lying harms relationships and society.

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 a view of the world as it is. Our dishonesty not only influences the choices they make, it often determines the choices they can make – and in ways we cannot always predict. Every lie is a direct assault upon the autonomy of those we lie to.

Several reviews of the 26-page Lying lament that his case for honesty isn’t very controversial. It is a gift of Harris’s writing to make the routine behavior of most people seem obviously wrong. In reality, most people casually lie and think it is o.k. and considerate to tell “white lies.” After reading his essay, I caught myself – more than I’m comfortable with – about to reflexively engage in minor deceptions to “benefit” other people. Who wants to hurt someone’s feelings, after all? But Harris builds his case on examining the consequences of lying and truthfulness, not on a Kantian prohibition removed from practical consideration.

I recommend you buy his $2 e-book and think it over honestly.

(cherry tree)

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