So called, “New Atheist” Sam Harris has just published a new book… sort of. His new book, “Lying” is more of an old school pamphlet of the information age than a full length book. As such, it was published as an e-reader book exclusively. It is a short book, a quick read, and may even compel you to be a better person.
The thesis is simple: Lying is bad. Harris makes the argument that in almost every situation lying is immoral. He reluctantly acknowledges that in war there may be some exceptions to this hard rule.
As I was reading it, there were two particular situations I was hoping he would address. The first is the infamous “Anne Frank dilemma” which Harris mentions briefly in the beginning of the book. Toward the end of the book he deals with a similar dilemma and makes the case that a compassionate and skillful truth may be best. This to me was one of the most compelling aspects of his argument and probably the most controversial as well.
The second scenario that I was hoping he would discuss is the old white lie, “Do I look fat in this dress?” Harris does have a short chapter on white lies where he does indeed address this question adequately.
After reading this book, I really do feel inspired to try Harris's experiment of avoiding all lies (even white ones). I do think that perhaps Sam Harris may be a little naïve when it comes to Nazis searching for Jews in the attic, but how often do we really have to deal with ethical dilemmas such as this one anyway. All in all, it is well worth the $2 price tag.
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