Lying about Lying
In Seven Lies About Lying (part 1, part 2, warning: pop-ups) Errol Morris analyzes lying with expert commentary by Ricky Jay. It’s a rather long and dense read but raises some excellent points on this paradoxical subject. He very convincingly shows how traditional views on lying are pretty much all wrong.
His conclusions are good reminders of how slippery truth can be:
- Lies are not the opposite of the truth.
- Lies are not the same as falsehoods.
- It is not hard to lie consistently.
- Lying cannot be justified.
- Lying is not usually punished.
- Lying is not always avoidable.
- Lying does not threaten the truth.
This last point includes what I thought was his best insight:
… the real problem is not lies but people believing them.
If people weren’t so ridiculously credulous, lying would be a far more risky enterprise.