Read Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life by Sissela Bok Online


A thoughtful addition to the growing debate over public and private morality. Looks at lying and deception in law, family, medicine, government....

Title : Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780375705281
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 368 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life Reviews

  • Darius Liddell
    2018-11-26 01:45

    A bit hard to read at times but it was very informative and intriguing nonetheless. This book wasn't what I expected. It just helped me to contemplate much more about lying (and the motives/reasons for doing so) than I had before. It wasn't a polemic against lying. Literally, it was just a highly reasoned discussion that was backed by plenty of evidence. If you care about all the half-truths and whole lies that we tell everyday (doctors, congress, white lies, lies to children), this book goes through everything. It analyzes the pros and cons without ever taking sides. Basically, Bok just wants to broaden the discourse. She starts every chapter with great quotes from cool authors, and the appendix contains excerpts of some of the authors she quoted (among them Kant, Bacon, Boenhoffer, Warnock, Augustine, Aquinas). A full bibliography accompanies the text also. Never really a dull moment with this one. I have to warn you though, it can be stressful at times because she exposes an enormous amount of bullshit that is the fragile shame of human interaction -- and frankly, the average person (who is a notorious liar) will feel guilty.

  • Cecil
    2018-12-10 05:44

    I bought this book in an attempt to understand why this other person in my life had such an propensity for deceitfulness, but before I could finish the book, I sent her packing to the opposite side of the country. I decided to read it anyway. What a surprise when I found out that I too was a liar when I omitted facts, changed the subject, or engaged other weaselly lawyer tactics in which the question is truthfully answered, but the 'truth' is not conveyed. Actually, I cannot blame that on law school--I had already mastered the technique prior to law school during my tenure in the corporate world. Once I moved beyond that epiphany, and my subsequent self-acceptance as a scoundrel, I found the book quite interesting in its discussions about the meaning of truth and about the moral implications which lead some people to tell lies for the benefit of others as opposed to those individuals who tell lies to keep themselves out of hot water. You will have to make up your own mind as to whether there is any such thing as a good lie and this book might give you some extra things to think about on your journey. Of course, I could be lying about that . . .

  • Mike Dimitroff
    2018-12-01 09:41

    Sissela Bok's task is not an easy one: to define a moral stance on the practiced-by-all-but-condoned-by-none habit of lying. Yet she succeeds brilliantly in capturing the essence of the societal norms associated with the practice. Bok draws on the wisdom of a line of philosophers from ancient times until today to establish the harm lies cause to society and individuals, and the fallacy of the common excuses ("white lies", "the greater good", "inability to handle the truth", etc.). The authors's style is consistent with the contemporary norm for philosophy works (which is to say quite dry and humorless), yet infinitely more readable than the writings of Kant, Bacon, and Thomas Aquinas (among others) she bases her research on. Written in the mid-70s, when our society's transition from a base of very limited tolerance for lies and deception to one where they are almost openly embraced was just beginning, this is probably the last serious book on the subject our generation will ever see (or tolerate). The book is out of print, but available for borrowing from

  • Thomas Edmund
    2018-12-03 08:59

    Covers almost every area of deception that one can think of. Rational and philosophical in approach the author makes no secret of their opinion on lying, yet is able to objectively pick apart the myriad areas of the modern world where deception comes into play.While perhaps slightly dated, most of Bok's arguments still apply, even though society has evolved at least somewhat in the area of medicine and informed consent. In summary, probably best for those erring towards nerdiness (sorry) this book isn't a plain-speak 'talk-home' message piece. More an exhaustive discussion on the subject that won't leave you unsatiated.

  • Todd
    2018-12-03 08:48

    Late 1970s popular philosophy text on lying. Well-written and clear, no jargon. She approaches the problem of lying from an applied ethics perspective and focuses on examining cases when lying might be laudable. She doesn't spend much time on defining lying, basically calling it intentional statements of known untruths. Then goes onto argue that lying should be a last resort and examine various cases where it might be appropriate: crises, to liars, to organizations with more power.

  • Evan
    2018-11-28 01:58

    Read this some years ago back in college and it made quite an impression. I just picked my yellowing copy and noticed that I underlined a lot of passages in pencil, so I really must have dug it. Every angle of the concept of lying is scrutinized and the book is pretty uncompromising in concluding that a lie is a lie, no matter how you want to slice it.

  • John
    2018-11-16 05:35

    The book was a long essay treating moral problems of lying, incorporating a lot of quotations from ethicists down through the ages. The writing style was at times plodding, dry and academic. However, it can be taken also as a poetic contemplation, and there were many illuminating examples cited. For instance, the idea of truth was deconstructed to show that the moral religious definition of truth (e.g., "I am the truth") differed from assessing the truth of a particular assertion. This calls to mind the paradoxical statement, "I never lie."Many interesting ideas were presented, such as the Asian negative version of the Golden Rule: "[Do not do unto others as you would not have others do to yourself]". Another factoid that stood out for me was a study showing that people who have been brainwashed lose the ability to evaluate the veracity of any news.It was a thorough disection of the justifications and excuses made for lying, in the many forms that it takes, with varying degrees of harm involved; a journey into the nature of honesty and the difficulty of living honestly in a wicked world. Edifying and relevant to our modern life.

  • Glenn
    2018-12-01 04:52

    In depth philosophical study of what constitutes lying and its impact on society and human communication. Bok draws about as clear a line in the sand as one is likely to see on any moral question and uses, as her center post, Kant's Moral Imperative - that one should act as if the maxim of his or her action were to become law in the universe. By this, lying willfully breaks down the fabric of human communication. On the ethical side of the question, she deals with both moral dilemmas and nuanced interpretations, e.g. how does one respond when the Nazi's come to the door asking if you know where the Jews are? Should unfounded complements be avoided? Is making a mistake in what you said the same thing as telling a lie?This is an excellent roadmap for behavior in public and private life. Read it more than once, at different times of your life. Use it as a yardstick to examine the speeches of your politicians, the reporting of media and, more importantly, your own behavior.

  • Tomás Engle
    2018-12-10 05:05

    One of the original five book recommendations from my English professor and writing mentor Dr. Tom Harshman, just finished re-reading it after I first read it a decade ago. "Lying" is basically numerous books in one as Sissela Bok gives a tour of moral philosophy from St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to Immanuel Kant and Francis Bacon, giving detail to what has been considered truth, lies - and most importantly - everything in between. Written originally in the 1970s, the book was inspired by the dubious methods of psychologists in the '50s and '60s (see: Milgram and Stanford experiments) and fleshed out in the wake of the President Richard Nixon's impeachment proceedings.Bok gives few direct answers herself and leaves much to the reader to decipher for themselves what choices are morally right, but clearly delineates paths of divergence between philosophers. She starts from one extreme (all truth) to another (all lies) and the dives into the great middle to show the variety of excuses people give to themselves and others for the choices they make, often not just for themselves. One of her overall points that stands out is that the strongest case against is always lying is utilitarian, in that breaks down basic social trust to the point that nothing can be believed, and in an echo of economist-cum-journalist Henry Hazlitt, adds that one inconsequential lie can lead to a whole web of unintended consequences as others take the statement to be true. One can never really know where one lie ends and another begins, leading one to believe, that it is just easier to be honest to ourselves and others lest a chain reaction of events unfold that no one can predict.The appendix is full of her sources from antiquity to the romantic era to the mid-20th century and is a fascinating insight into why people make the choices they take.

  • Mike Morg
    2018-12-02 07:03

    In Lying, author Sissela Bok examines what is a lie and its definitions, implications, ramifications, and moral standing. As she said herself, this book doesn't answer these questions but instead examines them thoroughly and eclectically. It examines consequences and causation, and extrapolates whether the lie is tenable or not. What you'll see is that there are many variables that you have to factor in when trying to justify lying such as unintended personal subconscious consequences (e.g. one might develop a propensity to lying by lying just a few times), non-evident and latent consequences to others (what Nassim Nicholas Taleb would call "silent evidence"), personal gain and loss as well as the receiver of the lie. Ethically speaking, lying can be perplexing and inclusive. The chooses one makes should be examined prudently, therefore your conviction to lie should come with great thought and consideration.To conclude, in a nutshell, the author examines all kinds of lies ranging from white lies, crisis lies, lies to liars, lies to enemies, lies to protect others, lies for public good, lies for research, paternalistic lies, and lies to the sick and dying. She also speaks on justification, excuses, and the weighing of the consequences of every kind of lie. Execution was good - the author has a good way with words, and was very objective in her diction. The text had an ample amount of real-life examples and insertions by great philosophers and thinkers on the subject matter. This speaks to her objectivity in this text, just how she wanted it to be. I highly recommend this book, especially to my lying girlfriend!

  • Mof
    2018-12-12 06:49

    When in doubt tell the truth. It will confound your enemies and astound your friends. The effects of deception on the liars themselves - the need to shore up lies, to keep them in good repair, the anxieties relating to possible discovery, the entanglements and threats to integrity - are greatest in a close relationship where it is rare that one lie will suffice. The price of living the lie turns out not even to have been worth the gains for the liars themselves. Perspective of deceived Feel wronged Wary of new overturesManipulated Liars Choice to lie is reserved for oneself Harms integrityResistance to future lying is diminishedAugustine All lies are badEight different levels of lyingThree types Helpful Jest Malicious White lies HarmlessSocial Flattery Gossip Placebos Letters of recommendation Excuses Harm Avoiding harm = self defense Benefit FairnessVeracity

  • Nicolas Name
    2018-11-19 02:37

    Sissela Bok's Lying is a well-written book about an obviously interesting subject, deception, and when and under what circumstances it should be employed. While I did find the topic interesting, I do believe that the conclusions would be different had the author taken another perspective into account, stop the ones she discusses within her book. Namely, should one lie about Nihilistic/existentialist conclusions and outlooks? While all the other cases are mentioned, and I believe Bok makes a convincing point regarding each, the question of the meaninglessness/meaning of life, of the suffering inherent in the human condition, etc. are not adequately addressed. It is my personal opinion that those questions are much harder to address. Anyways, for future readers, I would recommend beginning by reading the introduction, then conclusion, and then skipping to the chapters that interest you personally to read.

  • David Gross
    2018-11-21 07:37

    A catalog of the various excuses people make for speaking deceptively, and an ethical examination of these reasons.Bok thinks that there are some good excuses for lying, but that in general people tend to be far too willing to justify lies and that the various reasons they give -- while they may be superficially appealing -- typically don't stand up to scrutiny.For one thing, justifications for lies tend to be from the liar's point of view, whereas a good justification for deception ought to also be valid from the point of view of the person being lied to.For another, even the more sophisticated ethical defenses of lying tend to only look at the isolated instance of the particular lie and its effect on the person or persons being directly deceived. Bok believes we need to also take into account the effects of the lie on the character of the liar, on the culture of communication and trust, and on by-standers.

  • Erin Gough
    2018-11-19 03:02

    249 pages with little development therein. Bok explores every aspect of lying, but each so-called analysis is the same. She relies on general unfounded assumptions about the moral fiber of our society with little specific information that backs her sweeping claims. She also refuses throughout the book to take any actual position against or for any sort of lie she discusses, instead providing the reader with unhelpful and obvious suggestions, such as trying to find alternatives without lies or insisting that the subjects of social research experiments give consent (but declining to clarify how much the subjects would be told before giving their consent, even though the problem in most of these experiments is that fully revealing the nature of the experiment would render it useless). I read a lot about lies and learned very little.

  • Heather Leipart
    2018-11-16 05:01

    Every possible angle on the issue of lying is explored, but when it comes down to it- after a few pages of discussion, it is easy to "get the point." Even still, there were parts that were mildly interesting. I personally enjoyed the dilemma of the doctor confronted with the choice of whether to tell his patient he has 6 months to live, knowing this man was to soon depart for a family vacation. He went ahead and told him- I think he should have waited a week and let him have fun on vaca. Am I now a liar for not being willing to divulge the truth earlier? Anyway, if you are locked in a white-washed room with no exit and stainless steel furniture, you might want to read this for entertainment, otherwise, pass it up. I'd say it is best left to the classroom for psychological studies.

  • Chel
    2018-11-25 09:51

    A very meaty discussion of the ethics of lying, how lies are justified, and whether the justifications hold up to scrutiny. A few doors are left ajar for extreme cases in which maybe a lie is the most ethical choice, but mostly she points out the various ways that lying erodes public confidence, personal relationships, and moral standards in general. I especially appreciated her discussion of "paternalistic lies" to children and the consideration of lying in social science research. What's missing in this book (written in 1978 and last issued in 2011) is any discussion of the role that the internet and social media play in today's world -- in our general practice of and expectations about truth.

  • Kylie
    2018-12-01 04:49

    Lies are a huge part of everyday life for many people. This book explores everything from the little white lie to blatant and incriminating lies. It explores the way parents lie to children about Santa and the Easter Bunny, as well as simply "mistruths" told to quite a child or, in some cases, to protect a child.It really is an interesting read. I read it while taking an ethics course at BYU from Sherry Baker and actually read it cover to cover, which is saying a lot for a busy college student who hated reading at the time.

  • Tim
    2018-12-10 09:43

    Excellent. Weakness: surprising shortage of argumentation, it's place too often taken by formulations like "surely we..." Quite a big defect in a book purporting to be philosophical.Strengths: rich compendium of problem categories of lying, well illustrated with examples. Also rich review of the history of doctrines re lying. Also much interesting discussion, even with the argument deficit, of the rich review of lie types and their pros and cons.Every moral agent should read this.

  • Peter Podbielski
    2018-11-14 07:04

    This second reading of Bok's 'Lying' was as riveting as when I first read it in 1989. The passage of time and experience underscore how lying remains rampant. Bok's penetrating and illustrative study remains current.

  • Scott
    2018-12-06 07:48

    How many ways can one author say that lying is bad. No, there are no acceptable times to lie even if someone's life might be saved. One of the most idealistic books I've ever read and one of the most misguided.

  • Barb Cherem
    2018-11-22 09:01

    I guess I'm not used to reading a book on such a narrow topic. I'll never even tell a little white lie again. This philosopher is a genius and writes well, but I must admit that I had tedium in reading this. I couldn't quite finish, but my fault, not the author's.

  • Carmen
    2018-12-07 06:43

    I read this in college (ethics class). Basically, the book states that the only reason someone should lie was to protect the innocent. As we read the book, we analysed the movie "Hiding Place," "Bonhoeffer - Agent of Grace."

  • Kevin
    2018-11-19 08:02

    Fascinating exploration of lies and why people tell them, who tells them, and the effect it has on people. It isn't just about "liars" but also about priests, lawyers, doctors, and other professionals who may lie in order to protect confidentiality oaths or help a patient.

  • Genevieve C
    2018-11-14 09:42

    a look at the ethos of lying. A liberating read.

  • Karen
    2018-11-23 01:42

    Required reading for faculty. Perhaps too idealistic.

  • Becky
    2018-11-19 01:49

    A good book on improving self awareness about the topic of lying and why as humans we at times lie to ourselves and each other.

  • Amanda
    2018-11-16 06:40

    Well written examination on lying and the consequences and benefits to self and society.

  • Jeremiah
    2018-12-01 01:46

    A book that left an impression.

  • John Moss
    2018-11-22 02:52

    A must read for those interested in everyday choices based on ethics and moral integrity.

  • Alex Gleason
    2018-12-01 08:00

    This book takes as its point of departure the banal notion that lying is morally wrong and never wavers therefrom.