A Philosophy of Lying (Paperback)
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From lying to friends to lies in politics, a wide-ranging examination of the forms and ethics of falsehood.
From popular philosopher Lars Svendsen, this book is a comprehensive investigation of lying in everyday life. What exactly is a lie, Svendsen asks, and how does lying differ from related phenomena, such as “bullshit” or being truthful? Svendsen also investigates the ethics of lying—why is lying almost always morally wrong, and why is lying to one’s friends especially bad? The book concludes by looking at lying in politics, from Plato’s theory of the “noble lie” to the Big Lie of Donald Trump.
As phrases like “fake news” and “alternative facts” permeate our feeds, Svendsen’s conclusion is perhaps a surprising one: that, even though we all occasionally lie, we are for the most part trustworthy. Trusting others makes one vulnerable, and we will all be duped from time to time. But all things considered, Svendsen contends, truthfulness and vulnerability are preferable to living in a constant state of distrust.
About the Author
Lars Svendsen is professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bergen, Norway. He is the author of many books.
Matt Bagguley is a translator of Norwegian fiction and nonfiction. He lives in Oslo.
"'It is better to be fooled occasionally than to go through life with . . . chronic distrust,' writes philosopher Svendsen in this clever take on lying and telling the truth. . . . And though people can be dishonest, Svendsen remains hopeful that serial lying is an anomaly. His reflections are nuanced, his conclusions smart, and he keeps things free of academic jargon. Philosophy-minded readers will find this an enjoyable and enlightening study."
— Publishers Weekly
"What are we to do if we confront lying honestly? . . . Svendsen gives us ready access to the thought of the best and brightest in the philosophical tradition, and he does so with wit, charm, and clarity. But he gives us more than that. He offers considerate advice on questions of utmost importance to living well in a world where lying is a fact."
— Jeffrey Kosky, professor of religion, Washington & Lee University, Virginia