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Humans cannot live without deceit

ysabel

/ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5
There's a new book that came out Born Liars: Why We Can't Live without Deceit (Book) by Ian Leslie (2011): Waterstones.com suggesting that the social world would cease turning without a good scattering of white lies, half-truths and evasions. It also says that we cannot understand ourselves without first understanding deceit.

Our attitudes to lying are confused and contradictory. On the one hand we hate lies, and liars. On the other, we all indulge in fibs, tall tales and fantasies. If lying is wrong, why do we all do it - both to others, and to ourselves? In Born Liars, Ian Leslie argues that, far from being a bug in the human software, lying is central to who we are.
What do you think? It makes me wonder if we're surrounded by lies, what is reality then? Made up? :hmm:
 

ZeevRa

New Member
I think humans will always lie to get what they want. Some people do it more than others, some people do it but in less extreme ways. Everybody I know has lied to get something. Whether it is to get out of trouble, get money, etc. etc. People tell white lies all the time, it's how we are. I'm not saying that everybody is bad because they lie, but, from my experience, everybody lies.
 

ysabel

/ˈɪzəˌbɛl/ pink 5
A related article on Prospect magazine, reviewing this book has been though provoking for me. The article is very long but I included excerpts below. It makes you ponder if lying is always wrong or whether truthfulness as a virtue should always trump all other virtues, or whether there really such a thing as THE truth and THE WHOLE TRUTH and NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH.

In his new book Born Liars: Why We Can’t Live Without Deceit (Quercus), Ian Leslie is the latest writer to try to work out some of what might follow from the simple realisation that lying is not always wrong.

The problem with telling “the truth” starts with the definite article, because there is always more than one way to give a true account or description.

So while it is not possible to give “the truth”, it is possible to offer any number of accounts that only contain true statements. To do that, however, is not enough to achieve what people want from truth. It is rather a prescription for what we might call “estate agent truth.” The art of describing a home for sale or let is only to say true things, while leaving out the crucial additional information that would put the truth in its ugly context. This is also the truth of many lawyers, who always instruct their clients to say only true things, but to leave out anything that might incriminate them.

Moral codes that stress the avoidance of telling lies are more legalistic than moral because they ultimately focus on the technical issue of whether a claim is true or false, not on the moral issue of whether one is being appropriately truthful.

...there really is no such thing as “the whole truth” anyway. Full disclosure is never possible. Truthfulness is largely a matter of deciding what it is reasonable to withhold.

....Does truth always trump other virtues? “Nothing but the truth” is the wrong maxim if things other than truth matter more. The most obvious examples are of courtesy and concern for people’s feelings, where kindness matters more than revealing the full, naked truth. Even here, however, we need to be careful. There is a risk of second guessing what is best for people or what we think they are able to deal with. Normally, it is better to allow people to make up their own minds on the basis of facts. Withholding truth for someone’s own benefit is sometimes justified but often it simply diminishes their autonomy. This is what Kant got right when he claimed that lying violates the dignity of man.

...There are, then, numerous reasons why lying is not always wrong, and why telling the truth is not always the main priority. Nevertheless, it is vital to remember that—ultimately—truth matters. You could concoct a hypothetical situation in which we had to choose between lying or creating misery for all humankind, but until and unless we ever come against such scenarios, most of us value truth, even to the detriment of some happiness. That is why we should develop the habit of telling truth, and distaste for lies. Truth should be the default; lying an exception that requires a special justification.

In Born Liars, Ian Leslie rightly points out that lying is deeply connected to what makes us human. We may not be the only creatures who have a “theory of mind”— the ability to see the world from the point of view of others—but we are certainly the species in which that capacity is most developed. It is precisely because of this that the possibility of lying emerges. We can lie only because we understand that others can be made to see the world other than as we know it to be.

But theory of mind is also connected to another human capacity: empathy. As Adam Smith and David Hume argued long before modern psychology strengthened their case, our ability to understand how other people feel is what makes morality possible. Emotional insight is what drives the golden rule: simply by imagining what it would be like to suffer a wrongdoing shows us why it is indeed wrong. So it is with being lied to. In that way, our ability to take up the viewpoint of another is both what makes lying possible and gives us a reason not to do it—usually, at least.
 

Random9

Registered Member
There's a new book that came out Born Liars: Why We Can't Live without Deceit (Book) by Ian Leslie (2011): Waterstones.com suggesting that the social world would cease turning without a good scattering of white lies, half-truths and evasions. It also says that we cannot understand ourselves without first understanding deceit.
What do you think? It makes me wonder if we're surrounded by lies, what is reality then? Made up? :hmm:
i don't think humans cannot live without deceit-however i do find that impossible:-/-lying in a world where the concept of lying does not exist would simply be too tempting.
what is reality then? Made up? :hmm:
possibly.

I think humans will always lie to get what they want. Some people do it more than others, some people do it but in less extreme ways. Everybody I know has lied to get something. Whether it is to get out of trouble, get money, etc. etc. People tell white lies all the time, it's how we are. I'm not saying that everybody is bad because they lie, but, from my experience, everybody lies.
first you say people lie to get money and then "people tell white lies all the time",i mean not that there is contradiction i just think that mentioning the example you gave before(get money) saying "people tell lies all the time" would be more appropriate.(it just bothered me a little)
 

Shwa

Well-Known Member
V.I.P.
I don't think the world would completely stop turning without the use of little lies, great or small. Simply its the responsibility of the single person to decide whether or not they want to admit the truth or not. Sometimes telling lies can get you out of a situation or gain you something in the end (money wise or advancement). But then again, there in goes the lie again just to get ahead.

I do agree with you that the world is surrounded by lies, but not everything is a lie. People will know the difference if they have a high constitution to think for themselves and not believe everything said to them.

~Shwa
 
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