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Harris implies throughout his essay that truth and honesty should prevail in all instances of human interaction,including those who employ ‘white lies’ to protect people from uncomfortable realities and unnecessary harm.
Skillful truth-avoiding is the evasive tactic of withholding one’s actual feelings by instead inserting a less relevant, albeit true, statement, and is far from being honest.
It is essentially to replace a lie of commission with a lie of omission.
Although Harris rails against active lies in this book, he fails to acknowledge that ‘skillful truth-telling’ is nothing more than lying by another name.
The truth-teller is a kind of liberator, rescuing the deluded individual from his protective fantasies.
Those who employ white lies in an effort to benefit others are demonstrating the “quintessence of arrogance” since in such cases the liar assumes he knows what truths can be handled by the other person.
Harris assumes that the beneficiary of these truth statements is themselves blind to reality.
Sam Harris’s major, and dubious, assumption, is that complete honesty is possible.
The concept of unconscious motives or maladaptive psychological underpinnings that we can know nothing about, or of ‘bad faith’ (a form of self-deceit), are not considered in Harris’s analysis.
Since we are then all liars by nature, the best course of action is only to lie in ways that are intended to promote another’s well being.
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Augustine (354-430) was one of the first to define a lie explicitly as the intent to deceive.
Augustine argues that lying is not permissible regardless of the circumstances that provoked the lie.
Kant defines a lie as an “intentionally untruthful declaration”.
Kant identifies truthfulness as an utterance that accurately represents one’s thoughts (including one’s beliefs), regardless of whether those thoughts are themselves accurate.
Kant argues that lying is not permissible, but he allows for engaging in deception through careful word choice or evasion.
Narcissists lack empathy, so telling the truth does not matter to them. They may not even realize they are lying most of the time, because they are not aware of it.
Compulsive liars are often too careless to tell the truth. They don't take the time to think things through.
Although it is really hard to break this habit, they need to learn to control their urge to lie.