Having read “Lying”, I still need an example
Posted: 27 September 2011 06:14 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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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…)

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Posted: 21 November 2011 11:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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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.

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Posted: 24 December 2011 12:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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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.

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Posted: 05 November 2013 06:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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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.

[ Edited: 05 November 2013 07:04 AM by kotoku]
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