As it was in Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, and Othello, so it is in life. Most forms of private vice and public evil are kindled and sustained by lies...

                                    Sam Harris, Lying, 2013, Four Elephants Press, at page 40

Sam Harris’s philosophical essay rests upon a simple ethical proposition: If you approach life with a strict commitment to honesty, you eliminate a large number of potential futures plagued with hardship, stress and regret.  

He describes lying as “the royal road to chaos” (p. 1). He articulates how lying can sabotage our relationships, limit our opportunities for personal growth and cause harm to others. He also discusses how lying can have broader, societal implications such as undermining trust in public institutions.

For the criminal practitioner, Harris's essay contains a wealth of valuable insights into the psychology of dishonesty. Such information may be useful for exposing a less than truthful witness during cross-examination. The spectre of a wrongful conviction looms whenever a witness for the prosecution adopts a cavalier attitude to the legal obligation to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.

Harris’s essay is also an example of how ethical philosophy may contain practical life lessons.

The truth is out there. And the truth still matters.

Other considerations:

Harris also touches upon the thought-provoking topic of self-deception in the supplemental materials in his conversation with Ronald A. Howard.

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