الرئيسية The Truth About Lying: With Some Differences Between Men and Women
The Truth About Lying: With Some Differences Between Men and WomenStephen J. Costello
A forthright and fascinating study that takes us on a profound journey into the intricate and intriguing nature of the dynamics of lying. Provocative while amusing, this is a pithy primer on the act and art of lying.
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Acknowledgements I mention only those who have directly contributed to the writing of this book by way of reading earlier drafts, advising, suggesting titles or commenting constructively. To this end, I extend my heartfelt thanks to my very patient friends: Fionnuala MacAodha, Shay Ward, Oisín Breathnach, the Kearney brothers, Aedamar Kirrane, Cathal O’Keeffe, Michael Fitzpatrick, Bob Haugh, Helen Sheehan, William Corrigan, and John Rice, in memoriam. This list includes my parents too, so special thanks to Val and Johnny Costello, who have always been there for me. For providing such a gratifying paragraph of praise and for the equally ambrosial Foreword I extend my inestimable appreciation to Professors Richard Kearney and Ivor Browne, who have done me some service, merited or not. I am deeply honoured. Finally, a profuse and profound debt of gratitude goes to my closest friend, Darren Cleary, to whom I dedicate this book. You inspire and ennoble me, enhance and enrich my life in more ways than you will ever know, for which I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are a stalwart pillar of support and this book is all the better for your perusal. Index 18 Reasons Why Mothers Hate Their Babies, 1 1984, 1 Achilles, 1 Adler, Alfred, 1 Adorno, Theodor, 1 Adventures of Pinocchio, The, 1 Allen Woody, 1, 2 All’s Well that Ends Well, 1 Annie Hall, 1 Antichrist, The, 1 Aquinas, St. Thomas, 1,2, 3 Aristotle, 1, 2, 3 Athene, 1 Autism, 1 Barnes, Julian, 1 Bede, Adam, 1 Being and Nothingness, 1 Bergman, Ingmar, 1 Bible, 1, 2, 3 Brilliant, Ashley, 1 Bulgakov, Mikhail, 1 Butler, Samuel, 1 Catcher in the Rye, The, 1 City of God, 1 Collodi, Carlo, 1 Confucius, 1 Contra Mendacio, 1 Culture and Value, 1 Darwin, Charles, 1 de la Barca, Pedro Calderón, 1 De Mendacio, 1 de Montaigne, Michel, 1, 2, 3 De Profundis, 1 de Staël, Madame, 1 ‘Decay of Lying, The’, 1 Demosthenes, 1 Derrida, Jacques, 1 Descartes, René, 1 Dickinson, Emily, 1 Disraeli, Benjamin, 1 Doctor and the Soul, The, 1 Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 1 Douglas, Lord Alfred, 1 Eliot, George, 1 Eliot, T.S., 1 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1 Eminem, 1 Epimenides, 1 Essays, 1 Ethics, 1 Eubulides, 1 Euthydemus, 1 Falret, Jules, 1 False Memory Syndrome, 1 Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, The, 1 Frankl, Victor, 1 Freud, Sigmund, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 gelotophobia, 1 Gödel, Kurt, 1 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1 Gracian, Balthasar, 1 Greene, Graham, 1 Haig, Alexander, 1 Heraclitus, 1, 2 Hermes, 1 History of the World in 10½ Chapters, A, 1 Hitler, Adolph, 1 Holocaust, 1 Homer, 1 homosexuality, 1 Human, All Too Human, 1 Hume, David, 1, 2, 3 James, Henry, 1 Jefferson, Thomas, 1 Jesus Christ, 1, 2, 3 Kant, Immanuel, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 King Lear, 1 Koko, 1 Kristofferson, Kris, 1 Kundera, Milan, 1 Labyrinth, 1 Lacan, Jacques, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Laughable Loves, 1 ‘Liar, The’, 1 Liar Liar, 1 Liar’s Paradox, 1 Lie to Me, 1 Lolita, 1 Luther, Martin, 1 Machiavelli, Niccolò, 1 Magic Lantern, The, 1 Magritte, René, 1 Marx Groucho, 1, 2 Master and Margarita, The, 1 Maugham, W. Somerset, 1 Maxims and Reflections, 1 Midler, Bette, 1 Mitty, Walter, 1 Mohammed, 1 More, St. Thomas, 1 Murdoch, Iris, 1 mythomania, 1 Nabokov, Vladimir, 1 ‘Negation’, 1 Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), 1 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 Odysseus, 1, 2 ‘On Giving the Lie’, 1 ‘On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives’, 1 ‘On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense, 1 Orwell, George, 1 Othello, 1 Painted Veil, The, 1 Parker, Dorothy, 1 Parkinson’s disease, 1 Pascal, Blaise, 1 Picasso, Pablo, 1 Pilate, Pontius, 1 Pindar, 1 ‘Pinocchio Effect’, 1 ‘Pinocchio Paradox’, 1 ‘Pinocchio Syndrome’, 1 Plato, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Popper, Karl, 1 ‘Portrait of Mr. W.H., The’, 1 Protagoras, 1 Proust, Marcel, 1 Psychopathology of Everyday Life, The, 1 pseudologia fantastica, 1 Quintilian, 1 Radical Honesty Movement, 1 Remembrance of Things Past, 1 Republic, 1, 2, 3 Reveries, 1 Rock, Chris, 1 Rorty, Richard, 1 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 1 Rowland, Helen, 1 Salinger, J.D., 1 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 1 ‘Science of Honesty, 1 Scruton, Roger, 1 Sex, Lies and Videotape, 1 Shakespeare, William, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Shaw, George Bernard, 1 Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions, 1 Socrates, 1, 2 Soderbergh, Steven, 1 Solzhenitsyn, Alexander, 1 Sophist, The, 1 sophistry, 1, 2 Sophists, 1 Sophocles, 1 Spinoza, Baruch, 1 St. Augustine, 1, 2 Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1 Sydney, Algernon, 1 Tarski, Alfred, 1 Thatcher, Margaret, 1 ‘Truth of Masks, The’, 1 Tudal, Antoine, 1 Twain, Mark, 1, 2 ‘Two Lies Told by Children’, 1 Voltaire, 1 Wilde, Oscar, 1, 2, 3 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 1, 2 Wizards Project, 1 Xenophon, 1 Žižek, Slavoj, 1 Zohar, The, 1 Zweig, Arnold, 1 The Unconscious Throughout this book I have frequently mentioned ‘the unconscious’. However, in a sense ‘the unconscious’ doesn’t exist. Rather, to be more precise, there are unconscious mental processes. ‘The unconscious’ is best considered in terms of an event rather than an entity, as an adjective rather than a substantive noun. I want to end this book just as I began it, with a definition, perhaps more of a description, of ‘the unconscious’, by distinguishing four terms. These are: 1: Known knowns (things we know that we know) 2: Known unknowns (things we know we don’t know) 3: Unknown unknowns (things we don’t know we don’t know) 4: Unknown knowns (things we don’t know we know). This fourth one is the (Freudian) unconscious. It is best brought out by way of a story concerning a worker (in some versions he is a prisoner) who was suspected of stealing. Every evening, when he was leaving the factory, the wheelbarrow which he was pushing in front of him was carefully inspected but was always found to be empty until, finally, the guards realised that the worker was stealing the wheelbarrows themselves! Now the unconscious is not what’s in the wheelbarrow; it’s the wheelbarrow itself. The unconscious is an unknown knowledge. That’s the truth of it. The unconscious never lies. THE TRUTH ABOUT LYING With Some Differences Between Men and Women Stephen J. Costello The Liffey Press The Lies We Tell There are countless different lies: we lie through our teeth, to use one expression (lying really well, or perhaps just forcibly); misleading; dissembling (here one presents the facts in a way that is literally true but intentionally misleading); big lies; bad faith; barefaced or bald-faced lies; brazen lies; white lies; scarlet lies; noble lies; bluffing; bullshitting; Butler lies (small lies usually sent electronically, which are used to terminate conversations or to save face); poker faces; contextual lies; being economical with the truth; strategic or emergency lies; irony; teasing; exaggerating; embellishing; sarcasm; tall tales; jocose lies (meant just in jest); stretching the truth; fabrication (for example, giving directions to a tourist when the person doesn’t actually know the directions); fibbing; false compliments and reassurances (‘That looks very nice on you’ or ‘Everything’s going to be alright’); perjury; puffery; a pack of lies, porky pies, and so on. These are the lies we tell; we tell them to others and sometimes we even lie to ourselves either knowingly (‘no, our relationship will be fine; there’s no cause to worry’ as we blithely go about our business ignoring the problems lurking there) or unconsciously, in that, in this case, the lie has become so powerful and prevalent that we are convinced that it’s the truth. Here, the illusion comes near to being a delusion. I guess what separates the ‘normal’ neurotic (most of us) from the psychotic (madman) is one of degrees in that the former usually know when they’re lying whereas the latter lives the lie so it becomes their truth. For example, when we say ‘I’m God’ we are usually joking (hopefully); when the psychotic says it he believes it; he is suffering from delusions; we, by contrast, are engaging in wish-fulfilments. Either way, we are not going to be hauled off in a straight-jacket. This raises the interesting question about the relationship between lies and mental illness. The question is: Can a psychotic person lie? ‘In this treacherous world Nothing is the truth nor a lie. Everything depends on the color Of the crystal through which one sees it.’ – Pedro Calderón de la Barca Lying With Woody Allen In his film Annie Hall, Woody Allen has a conversation with Ms. Hall. As they are talking to each other, each of them is thinking something that they are not saying (lies of silence/sins of omission). They may not be literally lying but they are not telling the truth. The conversation goes like this: Allen: ‘So did you do those photographs in there or what?’ Hall: ‘I sort of dabble round’. (She thinks: ‘I dabble? Listen to me – what a jerk’.) Allen: ‘They’re wonderful; they have a quality’. (He thinks: ‘You’re a great-looking girl.’) Hall: ‘I would like to take a serious photography course’. (She thinks: ‘He probably thinks I’m a yo-yo.’) Allen: ‘Photography’s interesting – it’s a new art form, and a set of aesthetic criteria has not emerged yet’. (He thinks: ‘I wonder what she looks like naked?’) Hall: ‘Aesthetic criteria? You mean whether it’s a good fake or not?’ (She thinks: ‘I’m not smart enough for him. Hang in there.’) Allen: ‘The medium enters in as a condition of the art form itself.’ (He thinks: ‘I don’t know what I’m saying – she senses I’m shallow.’) Hall: ‘Well, to me, I mean, it’s all instinctive. I mean I just try to feel it, try to get a sense of it, not think about it so much.’ (She thinks: ‘God, I hope he doesn’t turn out to be a shmuck like the others.’) Allen: ‘Still, you need a set of aesthetic guidelines to put it in social perspective.’ (He thinks: ‘Christ, I sound like FM radio. Relax.’) This is typical of friends and lovers (in the above, Allen and Hall lie out of anxiety) and is illustrative of at least two things: 1) the missed encounter between two people, who 2) don’t say what they really mean. It is typical of communication, which operates by way of miscommunication. Don’t we speak in order not to be understood? If we were so completely understood by each other there would be no need to speak. Ethical lying: to save some good. Golden silence: born of fear. Later, Annie Hall asks Woody Allen does he love her. He says love is too weak a word and jokingly elongates the word: ‘I loove you’, etc. In other words, he doesn’t answer. So quite obviously he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings for him. But he doesn’t say this. He realises the truth is hard to hear and handle so he fudges the issue and avoids the answer. He commits an act of ‘bad faith’, as Sartre would have it. Bad faith or good intentions? Don’t all lovers lie? And commit acts of bad faith? Let’s see what Sartre says on the subject. I warn you, dear reader, this section requires some concentration as it is a bit convoluted. It’s not for the faint-hearted. So pour yourself a stiff drink and take a deep breath. Another one. Ok, let’s continue. Or you may want to skip this Sartrean section. I won’t mind. Seriously. ‘Lying is a language game that needs to be learned like any other.’ – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Austrian philosopher ‘There is no truth that, in passing through awareness, does not lie.’ – Jacques Lacan, French psychoanalyst ‘Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses.’ – Plato, Greek philosopher ‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave When first we practice to deceive.’ – Sir Walter Scott, Scottish novelist and poet ‘When my love swears that she is made of truth, I do believe her, though I know she lies … Therefore I lie with her and she with me, And in our faults by lies we flatter’d be.’ – William Shakespeare, English playwright The Lies of Children So the question is: when does lying in the human animal first begin? Children used to chant ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’. Remember that one? Children lie from three years of age onwards and lying develops rapidly after that. At four and a half years they begin to lie convincingly. By age seven, children are pretty proficient at lying, showing a Machiavellian intelligence. Now, where do they get that from, Mummy or Daddy? But the question is: left to their own devices would children lie at all or, rather, are their lies responses to the lies of adults? Frequently they are. All adults lie to children and all children want is the truth. Lucky for them they don’t get it. Goethe wryly observed, ‘Children are a real touchstone of what is falsehood and what is truth. They have far less need for self-deception than do old people.’ Indeed. In ‘Two Lies Told by Children’ (1913), Freud opines that children tell lies when they are imitating the lies told by adults. But children can tell lies under the influence of excessive feelings of love, and Freud gives two such examples. I warn you, they are a bit intricate – psychoanalysis always is. The first case concerns a girl of seven, in her second year at school, who asked her father for some money in order to buy colours to paint some Easter eggs. Her father refused, saying he had no money to spare. Later, she asked him for money for a wreath for the funeral of their reigning princess who had just died and to which each of the schoolchildren were contributing sixpence. Her father gave her ten marks (ten shillings, in the old money, we are helpfully told): she paid her contribution, put nine marks on her father’s writing-table and with the remaining money bought paints which she hid in her toy cupboard. At dinner her father asked her what she did with the missing money and whether she had, in fact, bought paints with it. She lied; she denied it altogether but her older brother, who was nine years old, betrayed her and the paints were found. The angry father gave her over to her mother who punished her severely, we are told. After this, the girl fell into despair, which shook up her mother. The mother tried everything to console the girl but this once self-confident and wild child had become shy and timid. She herself described this event in her life as a ‘turning-point’. Years later, when she was engaged to be married and her mother purchased her furniture for her she flew into a rage, which at the time she didn’t understand. She had feelings that it was her money and no one else ought to buy anything with it. As a wife she was reluctant to ask her husband for any money for herself and made an unnecessary distinction between his money and hers. During the course of her psychoanalysis, her husband’s money was delayed in reaching her and as a consequence she was left without resources in a foreign city. Freud made her promise him that if this happened again she would borrow from him (can’t see any analyst I know doing this). She promised to do so but when she was again in a state of ‘financial embarrassment’ she pawned her jewellery instead. She said she couldn’t take money from Freud. Her analysis progressed and revealed some interesting facts. Sometime before she went to school she played a similar prank with money. A neighbour had sent the girl out with some money in the company of her own boy, who was younger, to buy something in the shops. She was bringing the change back home but when she met the neighbour’s servant in the street she flung the money on the pavement. When, in analysis, she recalled this, the thought of Judas occurred to her, who threw down thirty pieces of silver, which he had been given for betraying Christ. But how did she identify with Judas? When she was a little over three years of age she had a nursemaid of whom she was exceedingly fond. This girl had become involved in an affair with a doctor whose surgery she visited with the child. The child had witnessed various sexual proceedings. It wasn’t certain if she saw the doctor give the girl – the nursemaid – money but it was certain that the girl gave the child some money in order to buy her silence. It is possible that the doctor also gave the child money. However, the child betrayed the nursemaid to her mother out of jealousy, we are told. She played with the coins in such an obvious and ostentatious manner that the mother became curious and enquired about the coins and the nursemaid was dismissed. So, to take money from anybody meant, for her, an erotic relation and to take money from her father was equivalent to a declaration of love, Freud contended. The phantasy that her father was her lover was so seductive that her wish for paints for her Easter eggs put itself into effect despite the parental prohibition. She disavowed the fact that she had appropriated the money because her motive (unconscious) for the deed could not be admitted. Her father’s punishment was a rejection of her love, a humiliation that ‘broke her spirit’. Freud tells us that during the treatment a period of severe depression occurred when on one occasion Freud was obliged to reproduce the humiliation by requesting that she not bring him any more flowers. The second case involved a woman who was very ill because of a ‘frustration’ in life. We are told that she was truth-loving, serious and virtuous in her earlier years and became an affectionate wife (interestingly, Freud had inserted ‘and happy’ at this point but then had taken it out). Earlier still, in the first years of her life, she had been a wilful and discontented child and though she had changed into a good girl, there were occurrences in her schooldays that caused her guilt. Her memory told her that in those days she had often boasted and lied. Once she told a classmate that they had ‘ice’ at dinner, ice, in fact, every day. In reality she didn’t know what ice at dinner meant. She only knew ice from the long blocks in which it was carted but assumed there was something ‘grand’ in having it for dinner. When she was ten years old she had to do a free drawing of a circle in one of her drawing lessons but she used a pair of compasses instead and produced a perfect circle and boasted to everyone about it. This incurred the questioning of the girl by the teacher but she ‘stubbornly’ denied what she had done and took refuge in ‘sullen silence’. No further steps were taken in the matter. Both the above lies were instigated by the same complex. As the eldest of five children the girl had developed a strong attachment to her father ‘which was destined when she was grown up to wreck her happiness in life’. She couldn’t escape the discovery though that her beloved father was not such a great person as he was inclined to think. He had to struggle with money difficulties and he wasn’t so powerful or distinguished as he imagined. But she could not tolerate this departure from her ideal. ‘Since as women do, she based all her ambition on the man she loved, she became too strongly dominated by the motive of supporting her father against the world. So she boasted to her schoolfellows, in order not to have to belittle her father. When, later on, she learned to translate ice for dinner by “glace”, her self-reproaches about this reminiscence led her by an easy path into a pathological dread of pieces or splinters of glass.’ (The German glas, like ‘glass’ in English, has a similar sound to the French for ‘ice’ – glace). Her father was an excellent draughtsman and had excited the admiration of the children with exhibitions of his skill. It was an identification of herself with her father that she had drawn the circle at school. It was as though she wanted to boast, ‘look at what my father can do’. The sense of guilt that was attached to her excessive fondness for her father found its expression in connection with her attempted deception; an admission that was impossible for the same reason that was given in the first example – it would have been ‘an admission of her hidden incestuous love’. Despite the psychoanalytical intricacies of these case histories, Freud showed the importance of the unconscious in the life of the human person and that the truth can come out in our lies, slips, symptoms, bungled actions, jokes and dreams at night. The unconscious betrays us daily. Yes, we lie all the time. But the truth can be rediscovered in these formations of the unconscious. The neurotic (that’s us by the way, well, most of us) represses the truth, which can be all too ugly, altogether too grotesque. In psychoanalysis, the patient promises to tell the truth, however, even as he lies on the couch but the full truth can’t be spoken. The unconscious bars such knowledge. We forget, fail to recall correctly, omit. Nobody can promise to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Let us hope, therefore, that we are not taken to court. Of course, law is not justice. Even when we are lying we are operating in the domain and dimension of the truth. Truth and lying are two sides of the same coin, of a ‘Moebius strip’. In an early work by Freud, entitled The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901), Freud said this: ‘It may, in general, seem astonishing that the urge to tell the truth is so much stronger than is usually supposed. Perhaps, however, my being scarcely able to tell lies any more is a consequence of my occupation with psychoanalysis.’ Perhaps the consistency of lies changes during the course (curse?) of an analysis? Maybe they become lighter to bear. Perhaps the lie (as if there were just the one) permits the patient to avoid or evade suffering pain? There are different faces of lies: little lies and large lies, to begin with. We need to distinguish between them. Foreword This is an absolutely fascinating book, and perhaps what is more important, a most enjoyable one to read. Stephen Costello is a serious philosopher and highly trained psychotherapist with enormous erudition. One would hardly need to refer to Google if you could call on his personal services. He has, at his fingertips, an extraordinary range of literary and philosophical sources and he can call on these apparently without effort. At the same time he draws the reader into a personal dialogue in a simple and intimate way, and there is a subtle thread of humour running through the whole book that makes reading it all the more attractive and makes some of the more difficult passages, like the section on the philosophical views of Sartre – that, in his opinion, truth is virtually impossible to discern – more accessible to the ordinary reader like myself. On first reading the title and opening the book, my feeling was, ‘Of course I know the difference between “truth” and “lies”,’ but as one reads on, you realise how wrong you are, and that it is virtually impossible to discern intellectually when one is being really truthful, or engaging, as we all do, in distortions and lies of many kinds. Then when I came to the section ‘Do animals lie?’ I thought, ‘At least here, it’s quite clear that animals are incapable of lying.’ But, once again, as you continue, you realise that nature is full of deceit, and that creatures of all kinds make themselves appear bigger, stronger and quite fierce looking in order to ward off predators, and so on. Central to the whole book is the section towards the end on ‘Some Differences between Men and Women’; and this leads on to the description of ‘How Men and Women Lie in Different Ways’. Here Stephen brings to bear on his subject a quite extraordinary range of information, and I can’t think, for the life of me, from where he derived all of these insights. As I said at the beginning, this is a truly fascinating book, which I feel should be mandatory reading for all of us. I can only encourage everyone to read it and thoroughly enjoy it as I did. Professor Ivor Browne Consultant Psychiatrist September 2013 Lying versus Deceiving Lying is an action but lying can never describe the whole situation or scenario. Deception, by contrast, pertains to the dynamics of lying. In deception there is the liar and the lied to but more than this. Lying is commonly regarded as binary, but the presence of the unconscious complicates matters; deception is more general – there is more going on. A lie is something you tell – it covers up, camouflages. A deception is something you perform, in which you participate. Deception is bigger than the individuals involved. You can deceive someone without there being a truth to deceive about. The mechanics of the déjà vu phenomenon bring out the differences well. A déjà vu experience is one of a glitch in perception; it’s a trick being played out, enacted. I see a glass once; the mind, however, tricks me into thinking that I have seen it twice. That is deception, a ‘lie’, if you like, without a liar. But the mind hasn’t lied to you –that’s the thing; the ‘reality’ is that you have seen it twice. Deception uses the truth but not in the way a lie does. Deception is indebted to the truth whereas (in traditional terms) a lie uses truth only to support itself as a negation. Deception certainly doesn’t necessitate the presence of a (guilty) person/party. So if we say something like ‘men lie, women deceive’, we mean ‘deceive’ colloquially (as I do in this book), suggesting a certain sneakiness absent in ‘straight’-forward male lying because women are more complex creatures than men. With women’s lies there is always more happening. It is this ‘more’ (the plus factor) that is absent in the lying ways of (mere) men. Truth is intimately tied up with deception, as I have said, as is hypocrisy, which always includes deception. A hypocrite is a liar who doesn’t know he’s a liar. Deception and lies are not the opposite of truth; on the contrary, they are inscribed in the text of truth. Putting it another way, there is truth in deception. My writing here in this study, in search of truth, is ‘error taking flight in deception and recaptured by mistake’ (Lacan). If the unconscious is structured like a language (contested by non-Lacanians), truth is structured like a fiction. Now, before we see how exactly it is that men and women lie differently, we need to establish the differences, in general, between the sexes, and so I go, more tentatively than tenaciously, where angels fear to tread. The Best Liar In a sentence: the best liar is the one who has nothing to lose. ‘No one lies so boldly as the man who is indifferent’ (Nietzsche). On one interpretation, freedom is just another word for having nothing left to lose – at least that’s what Kris Kristofferson tells us. ‘I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible.’ ― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye Lies with Truth Every truth is partial; truth is a perspective (this according to Nietzsche). If this is true then is every lie a partial truth? ‘Why are you saying you’re glad to see me, when you’re really glad to see me?’ One can be too suspicious. Sometimes we do mean what we say. Imagine. ‘Say what you mean.’ If only! Protect me from what I want. I just might get it. If someone says (consciously), ‘Don’t lie to me’, they may very well mean (unconsciously), ‘Please lie to me’. It’s like the proverbial patient who came to Freud, who questioned him about his dream, and said, ‘I can tell you one thing for definite – it’s not about my mother.’ Guess what? It’s about his mother! In 1873 Nietzsche wrote, ‘On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense’, in which he offers a number of subtle reflections on the psychology of lying, ones that were to influence Freud and his creation of psychoanalysis. According to Nietzsche, the art of dissimulation reaches its peak in man: ‘Deception, flattering, lying, deluding, talking behind the back, putting up a false front, living in borrowed splendour, wearing a mask, hiding behind convention, playing a role for others and for oneself, … is so much the rule and law among men that there is almost nothing which is less comprehensible than how an honest and pure drive for truth could have arisen among them. They are deeply immersed in illusions and in dream images; … man permits himself to be deceived in his dreams every night of his life.’ So even dreams deceive; they lie themselves. Freud held this too – that every dream is a disguise, a distortion, a deception intent on leading us astray. The unconscious itself can’t lie, but a dream is not the same as the unconscious. For psychoanalysts, consciousness is deceptive. What then is truth? In a famous passage, Nietzsche describes truth as a ‘movable host of metaphors, metonymies, … Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions – they are metaphors that have become worn out’. And in his book, Human, All Too Human, Nietzsche wonders whether convictions are even more dangerous enemies to truth than lies. There is one fundamental difference between the ‘normal’ neurotic (as I am calling most of us) and the psychotic in this regard: we doubt things whereas the psychotic is certain. He just knows. Convictions can be very stubborn and extremely hard to shift even in the face of incontrovertible truth to the contrary. In The Antichrist, Nietzsche puts the question more definitively and we are not left wondering as to his answer: ‘Is there any actual difference between a lie and a conviction?’ What a lie is in the father can become a conviction in the son. Lying is thus akin to a conviction: ‘I call it lying to refuse to see what one sees, or to refuse to see it as it is: …. The most common sort of lie is that by which a man deceives himself.’ Nietzsche felt that lying is more natural than truthtelling. Goethe, the German playwright, had likewise opined that, ‘Truth is contrary to our nature’ in his Maxims and Reflections. In his 1873 thesis, Nietzsche had gone as far as to say that truth cannot even be recognised. For him, the pleasure of lying is artistic and artistic pleasure ‘speaks the truth quite generally in the form of lies’. Interestingly, for Richard Rorty, the American philosopher, truth is opposed not to falsehood but to pleasure. Later, Oscar Wilde would scandalise Victorian society with his Nietzschean aphorisms and epigrams (and we shall read his reflections on the subject later on as well). For Nietzsche, truth can be a cloak to disguise different drives and desires. Truth can be selfish, sinister, a smoke screen for subversive and submerged intentions. Freud, a sometime follower of Nietzsche, wrote in a letter to Arnold Zweig (31 May 1936) that ‘truth is unobtainable; humanity does not deserve it’. The minute someone says, ‘Truth is here’, if it is proclaimed by Confucius or Mohammed or the Christian Church, ‘the priest lies’, as no one has ‘the Truth’. All we have are truths – lower case and pluralised; Nietzsche calls it the ‘holy lie’ and to believe in God is the ultimate, the ‘longest lie’ (for both Nietzsche and Sartre). If, to believe in God is to lie to ourselves, for these atheists the question becomes for René Descartes, the French philosopher and believer: does God deceive us? Let’s see what he has to say on the subject. Some might say that Descartes put ‘the cart before the horse’. I know, dreadful joke. Lying in Bed Men and women both lie in bed and, as I have said in another book, there’s always at least four lovers/liars in every bed, four-poster or otherwise. ‘I love you. I can’t live without you. You are my everything.’ We lie in the arms of our lovers. The opposite of a lie? Saying what you like. Is lying a defence against desire? What is the lie of the land? Julian Barnes, the English novelist, in his A History of the World in 10½ Chapters, has this to say about lovers lying in bed: ‘Have you ever told so much truth as when you were first in love? Have you ever seen the world so clearly? Love makes us see the truth, makes it our duty to tell the truth. Lying in bed: listen to the undertow of warning in that phrase. Lying in bed, we tell the truth: it sounds like a paradoxical sentence from a first-year philosophy primer. But it’s more (and less) than that: a description of moral duty.’ And Dorothy Parker, the American poet and satirist, writes: ‘By the time you say you’re his, Shivering and sighing And he vows his passion is Infinite, undying – Lady, make note of this: One of you is lying.’ Contents Title Page Dedication Epigraph Acknowledgements Foreword, by Ivor Browne Preface What’s in a Name, Pinocchio? Definitions Such Sophistry: Philosophical Beginnings The Lies We Tell The Lies of Madmen Lies with Truth Does God Deceive Us? The Lies of Animals The Politics of Lying The Lies of Children Big Lies and Little Lies Lying With Woody Allen Self-Deception Love, Lies and Letters Lying Eyes Wilde Lies Eyes for Lies Leading Questions, Lying Answers Anxiety Doesn’t Lie Lying Cretans A Tale of Three Against Lying The Truth in the Lie The Right to Lie? The Successful Lie Needing Lies Enjoying Lying Lies, Drink and Guilt The Best Liar Lying in Bed Lying versus Deceiving Some Differences between Men and Women How Men and Women Lie in Different Ways Cultural Lies The Unconscious Postscript Select Bibliography Index About the Author Copyright Self-Deception According to Demosthenes, ‘Nothing is easier than self-deceit’. Dostoyevsky says: ‘Lying to ourselves is more deeply engrained than lying to others … The important thing is to stop lying to ourselves.’ Yes, but how? Frequently Sartre’s idea of mauvaise foi or ‘bad faith’ – sometimes translated as ‘self-deception’, as I have said said – is identified with falsehood. We say that a person ‘shows signs of bad faith or that he lies to himself’, as Sartre says in the section on ‘bad faith’ in his magnum opus, Being and Nothingness. Bad faith is a lie one tells to oneself. There is a difference, though, between lying to oneself and lying in general. For Sartre, ‘lying is a negative attitude’. He explains: ‘The essence of the lie implies in fact that the liar actually is in complete possession of the truth which he is hiding. A man does not lie about what he is ignorant of; he does not lie when he spreads an error of which he himself is the dupe; he does not lie when he is mistaken. The ideal description of the liar would be a cynical consciousness, affirming truth within himself, denying it in his words, and denying that negation as such…. The liar intends to deceive and he does not seek to hide this intention from himself.’ This is the ideal lie but often the liar is the victim of his lie – ‘he half persuades himself of it’. The lie is a normal phenomenon, an inevitable product of our ‘being-with-others’ (as existentialist philosophers are wont to say) in the world. In other words, the lie presupposes the existence of the Other (person). The lie, so, is stitched into the very fabric of social life. All lies are societal, to some extent at least. In bad faith the one to whom the lie is told and the one who lies are the same person. This means that I am aware, as deceiver, of the truth which is hidden from me in my capacity as the one deceived. I know the truth very well in order to conceal it so carefully. But there is a problematic present. I know I am committing bad faith. I am conscious of my being in bad faith. So I must be in good faith to the extent that I am conscious of my bad faith. Get it? Sartre gives many examples of people who are in bad faith. A girl goes to the doctor and cries, not because there is anything wrong but so that nothing may be wrong, in order not to have to talk to him (see Sartre’s Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions). Many attempts are made to escape from (the embarrassment of) bad faith: one is psychoanalysis, the other is religion, according to Sartre (who believed neither in God nor in unconscious mental processes). In psychoanalysis one has recourse to ‘the unconscious’ to escape and avoid responsibility, according to Sartre. Psychoanalysis would have us believe that the human subject deceives himself about everything. For example, an act of stealing is seen no longer as a simple act of stealing but as evidence of an unconscious act of self-punishment, for example. In psychoanalysis, so, there is no bad faith; what we now have, according to Sartre, is the idea of a lie without a liar. I can, therefore, understand or appreciate how I can be lied to without lying to myself. Psychoanalysis puts no person in possession of himself. My ‘superego’ (Sartre said he didn’t have one) or conscience censors the truth about myself but the censor must know what it is repressing for repression to take place, Sartre maintains. The censor must choose and must, so, be aware. It (consciously) comprehends the drives that are to be repressed (unconsciously). One knows and knows that one knows, says Sartre. ‘All knowing is consciousness of knowing.’ So the censor is conscious of itself when it is ‘doing’ the (unconscious) repressing. It involves consciousness of being conscious of the drive to be repressed in order not to be conscious of it. This means, Sartre concludes, that the censor is in bad faith. Id, ego and superego become ‘mere verbal terminologies’. Ultimately, bad faith is, for Sartre, what the unconscious and the censor are for Freud. Next, Sartre enquires: ‘What must be the being of man if he is to be capable of bad faith?’ He gives an example by way of illustration. A man invites a woman out to dine. They are in the restaurant. She knows his intentions; she also knows that she is going to have to choose one way or the other. She doesn’t know what she wants and treats his word and sentences, for example, ‘I find you attractive’, as mere words and mere sentences; she disarms them of their sexual connotations and background. She is aware of the desire she inspires, excites, ignites. She wants, though, to be recognised and appreciated in her full freedom, that is to say, in her complete subjectivity. Now suppose he grasps her hand. This risks changing the situation since something has happened and it requires, necessitates, an immediate decision on her behalf. To leave the hand there is to consent to flirt; to withdraw it is to break the charm and harmony of the hour. Her aim: to postpone the moment of deciding for as long as is possible. What happens next? She leaves her hand there but isn’t aware she is leaving it there. At that moment ‘she is all intellect’. Sartre unravels it thus: ‘She draws her companion up to the most lofty regions of sentimental speculation; she speaks of life, of her life; she shows herself in her essential aspect – a personality, a consciousness. And during this time the divorce of the body from the soul is accomplished; the hand rests inert between the warm hands of her companion – neither consenting nor resisting – a thing’ – a thing resting. This woman is in bad faith. She uses various devices to maintain this bad faith. So, is sincerity the opposite of bad faith? Sincerity seems to be the antithesis of bad faith. In sincerity, a man is for himself only what he is. If man is what he is, bad faith becomes impossible and ‘candour ceases to be his ideal and becomes instead his being’. But is man what he is? Well, for Sartre, we must make ourselves what we are. But then what are we if we have to keep making ourselves what we are? He gives an example of a waiter in a café. The waiter is in his café and his movements are quick but they are a little too rapid; he walks to his customers a little too quickly, bends forward a little too eagerly and his eyes express interest a little too solicitously. He walks imitating in his upright stiffness an automaton as he carries his tray with the recklessness of a tight-rope walker. His behaviour is like a game. He is playing but playing (at) what? He is playing at being a waiter in a café, according to Sartre. It is a ceremony, a ritual, a lie. And this is what the public demands. There is the dance of the grocer, the tailor, the auctioneer, ‘by which they endeavour to persuade their clientele that they are nothing but a grocer, an auctioneer, a tailor. A grocer who dreams is offensive to the buyer, because such a grocer is not wholly a grocer. Society demands that he limit himself to his function as a grocer.’ There are many precautions we take to imprison a person in what he is. We live in perpetual fear he just might escape from it, break away and elude his condition, Sartre contends. But the waiter in the café cannot be a café waiter in the sense that an inkwell is an inkwell or a glass is a glass. Sincerity, so, is really a task that is impossible to achieve. The waiter is always more than a waiter. The very meaning of sincerity is a contradiction. To be sincere is to be what one is and that presupposes I am not (originally) what I am. I can become sincere but not being what one is renders being what one is impossible. The attentive student is attempting to be attentive. Sincerity is, thus, impossible. How can we even attempt to be sincere in conversation or confession? The effort is ‘doomed to failure’. I try to be what I am, decide or resolve to be my ‘true self’; this means setting about and searching for ways to change myself, to not be me. If I am now the person I am, then in the past I wasn’t. And that won’t do at all. We are upset, says Sartre, when the penalties of the court ‘affect a man who in his new freedom is no longer the guilty person he was. But at the same time we require of the man that he recognize himself as being this guilty one’. Sartre concludes: sincerity itself is a phenomenon of bad faith. Another example is given. A homosexual has intolerable guilt and his whole existence is determined in relation to it. He is in bad faith. He has a certain conception of the beautiful that women will not satisfy. His friend, who is his critic too, is irritated with his ‘duplicity’, with is inability and refusal to consider himself ‘a homosexual’ even though he recognises his inclination and engages in homosexual acts. The critic wants him to declare himself. Who, Sartre asks, is in bad faith? ‘The homosexual or the champion of sincerity?’ The homosexual recognises himself but doesn’t want to be considered as a thing. He has the impression that a homosexual is not a homosexual as the table is a table or as the red-haired man is red-haired. He must put himself beyond, must escape to live, to avoid judgement. Yes, he is not what he is. Human reality can’t be completely or finally defined by patterns of conduct. Fine, but he lays claim to not being homosexual in the sense in which the table is not an inkwell and to that extent he is in bad faith. The champion of sincerity requires that he acknowledge himself in the name of freedom and sincerity, as a homosexual. Such a ‘confession’ will win indulgence, he says to him. This means, though, that the man who will acknowledge himself as a homosexual will no longer be the same as the homosexual whom he acknowledges being. The critic demands of him to be what he is in no longer being what he is. The critic demands that he constitute himself as a thing in order no longer to treat him as a thing. This ‘contradiction is constitutive of the demand of sincerity’. We now see how offensive to the Other and how reassuring for me is the statement – ‘he is just a homosexual’; this constitutes all the acts of the Other as consequences following on from his essence. The critic (a false friend) ‘is demanding of his victim – that he constitute himself as a thing, that he should entrust his freedom to his friend as a fief’. The champion of sincerity is in bad faith. The constant effort to adhere to oneself and be sincere is actually to dissociate oneself from oneself. It is to escape from oneself and the person who seeks to escape from himself commits bad faith. So the goal of sincerity and of bad faith isn’t so different. I try to be sincere and don’t succeed, therefore. Sincerity always misses its mark. In order not to be cowardly I must be a little cowardly. It means being and not being a coward. Bad faith involves denying qualities that I possess but that’s not all. It is not seeing the being I am but it also involves me in attempting to constitute myself as being what I am not. ‘Thus in order for bad faith to be possible, sincerity itself must be in bad faith.’ We are what we are not and not what we are. That is the paradox at the heart of contradictory and confused humanity. Sartre says that his friend Pierre feels friendship for him and he believes this in good faith. He believes and trusts (in) it. He conducts himself as if he were certain of it. Such a faith is simple. To believe is to know one believes but to know one believes is no longer to believe. Believing is destructive of belief. ‘To believe is not-to-believe.’ Belief becomes non-belief. Just as the absolute becomes relative and the relative absolute. ‘Every belief is a belief that falls short; one never wholly believes what one believes …. If every belief in good faith is an impossible belief, then there is a place for every impossible belief.’ I believe I believe. Bad faith is the basis of all and every faith. ‘At the moment when I wish to believe myself courageous I know that I am a coward.’ It is the acceptance of not believing what it believes that it is bad faith. Good faith flees this ‘not-believing-what-one-believes’. ‘In bad faith there is no cynical lie nor knowing preparation for deceitful concepts. But the very first act of bad faith is to flee what it can not flee, to flee what it is.’ Bad faith denies itself as bad faith. Bad faith is a threat – permanent and possible – to every project of the human being. And the origin of this risk, according to Sartre, is the fact that it is the nature of consciousness to be what it is not and not to be what it is – a case, then, of being and nothingness. Authenticity would be self-recovery. Just as I try to flee and free myself from the Other, he is trying to flee and free himself from me. While I seek to enslave him, the Other seeks to enslave me. There is no escape from this Other, from any and every Other. We live with Others in the world and this produces conflict, a Master-Slave struggle to the death. ‘Conflict,’ Sartre says, ‘is the original meaning of being-for-others.’ Therefore, ‘love is a conflict’ too. Conflict everywhere, so, in love and lies, of a love that lies. Speaking of love and lying lovers, let’s consider this subject next, as we take leave of Sartre (‘phew’, I hear you say). Adieu Jean-Paul. Select Bibliography Augustine, St. ‘De Mendacio (Lying) and Contra Mendacio (Against Lying)’ in R. J. Deferrari, ed., Treatises on Various Subjects. Catholic University of America Press: New York, 1952. Bacon, Francis. ‘Of Truth’, Essays. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature: Hertfordshire, 1997. Barnes, Julian. A History of the World in 10½ Chapters. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1996. Campbell, Jeremy. The Liar’s Tale. W.W. Norton and Company: New York and London, 2001. Forrester, John. Truth Games: Lies, Money, and Psychoanalysis. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, 1997. Frankl, Viktor. The Doctor and the Soul. Souvenir Press: London, 2009 (1969). Freud, Sigmund. ‘Two Lies Told by Children’. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, 1913, vol. 12. Freud, Sigmund. ‘The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman’. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, 1920, vol. 18. Freud, Sigmund. ‘The Future of an Illusion’. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, 1927, vol. 21. Freud, Sigmund. ‘Jokes and Their Relation to an Unconscious’. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, 1905, vol. 8. Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1975. Kant, Immanuel. ‘On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives’ (1797), Critique of Practical Reason and Other Writings in Moral Philosophy. Ed., Lewis White Beck. Chicago University Press: Chicago, 1949. Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis. Penguin Books: London, 1977. Montaigne, Michel de. ‘On Giving the Lie’, The Complete Essays. Penguin Books: London, 1991. Nietzsche, Friedrich. ‘Knowledge: Theoretical Introduction on Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense and On Truth and Lies’, in Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the Early 1870’s. Ed., Daniel Breazeale. Humanities: New York, 1979. Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology. (1943). Philosophical Library: New York, 1956. Sartre, Jean-Paul. A Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions. Routledge: London and New York, 1994. Wilde, Oscar. ‘The Decay of Lying’, The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Hamlyn: London-New York-Sydney-Toronto, 1986 (1963). Wilde, Oscar. ‘The Truth of Masks’, The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Hamlyn: London-New York-Sydney-Toronto, 1986 (1963). Wilde, Oscar. ‘De Profundis’, The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde. Hamlyn: London-New York-Sydney-Toronto, 1986 (1963). Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Culture and Value. Blackwell Publishing: London, 2002 (1977). Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. Blackwell: London, 1978. Žižek, Slavoj. The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. The MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, 2003. Žižek, Slavoj. The Fragile Absolute. Verso: London and New York, 2000. The Politics of Lying Lying is universal. Should we always doubt what is being said to us? No, but we probably should take a lot of what we hear with a pinch of salt seeing how ubiquitous ‘the lie’ is. Telling the truth, after all, put Socrates, Jesus Christ and St. Thomas More, to cite but three examples, to death. In George Orwell’s 1984, a person who dared to speak the truth was liquidated by the State. There is, so, a politics of lying and of truth-telling. Politics is, after all, the art of the possible. And, at times, it is very difficult to distinguish between them. Life is lies, half-truth and evasion. We live in an age when trust is hard currency. We are lied to every day by the media, advertisers, lovers, friends and politicians (surely not?). As one unknown source says: ‘How can you tell if a politician is lying? When his lips are moving.’ Margaret Thatcher ruled out deliberate lies (she says) but ruled in the necessity of being evasive (she would). Alexander Haig, former General and US Secretary of State, defended this thus: ‘That’s not a lie; it’s a terminological inexactitude. Also, a tactical misrepresentation.’ Wow! Spin doctors, politicians, estate agents and advertising executives spin webs of deceit and like flies to spiders’ webs we become entangled in their lies (mainly because we want to believe them ourselves). There is sham, sly evasions, artifice, cunning, chicanery, duplicity, dissimulation, disambiguation, bluff, guile, trickery, imposture, subterfuge, mystification and manipulativeness everywhere. Eve’s serpent continues to tempt. But lies can convey truth; a pinch of lies can make the truth more palatable. Freud took what his patients said with a pinch of salt realising that lies are sometimes more informative than the literal truth. There can also be a blurred line between fact and fantasy or fiction. Imagine that there are two doors with two guards standing outside. One door leads to Hell, the other to Paradise. One guard always lies and the other always tells the truth. (In some versions of this story, one door leads to the castle and the other door leads to certain death.) You have to find out which door leads to eternal happiness by asking one of the guards one question only. What question do you ask? In the 1986 fantasy film, Labyrinth, Sarah, the protagonist, asks: ‘Would the other guard tell me that this door leads to the castle?’ Clever. Unfortunately, in life we must contend with lying and truth-telling in the same person; and sometimes these two are uttered simultaneously. Sometimes, too, somebody is suffering from False Memory Syndrome. Here is the answer. Ask one guard: ‘If I were to ask the other guard which door I should take to go to Paradise, which one would he tell me?’ One then takes the other door from the one indicated. Leading Questions, Lying Answers And what comes out of our mouths? Within any scenario or situation where dualistic answers such as ‘yes/no’, ‘black/white’, are always given, a person whom we know is consistently lying would paradoxically be a source of truth. This is the paradox of lying. Some questions are more likely to elicit the truth than others. ‘When was the last time you smoked some hash?’ (a leading question) is more likely to get a truthful answer than, ‘Do you smoke hash?’ There is no such thing, thank God, as a truth serum. That doesn’t mean we don’t get anxious when we lie and give ourselves away. ‘One may sometimes tell a lie, but the grimace that accompanies it tells the truth’ (Nietzsche). We want to get caught out, unconsciously. In relation to biology, the brain may be a perjurer but the body gives the brain away. Think of the technology of the lie detector test, of the polygraph and galvanic skin response. The polygraph shows up the lie in the outpourings of the neuro-hormones. To lie well requires that we don’t care too much about getting caught out. In conversations there is a widespread belief that we can catch people out by closely observing which direction they tilt their heads and look with their eyes. However, according to the most recent scientific experiments, there is no validity to the assertion made by many proponents of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) that certain eye movements (facial clues or ‘tells’) are reliable indicators of lying, according to which, a person who looks up to their right is lying, while someone looking up to their left is telling the truth. Studies seem not to support this claim. Liars do not exhibit a particular pattern of eye movement. There is no correlation between eye movement and modality of thought. It is true, though, that liars use fewer and more tentative words, such as ‘if’, ‘perhaps’, and ‘maybe’, and blink more. The four most common lies you will hear: ‘I’m fine’, ‘I love you’, ‘We will be together forever’ and ‘You will use Algebra in real life’. If it’s true that the average person (whoever that may be) tells four lies a day (according to one account) then we tell 1,460 lies a year, which amounts to a total of 67,600 by the time we reach the age of 60 (doesn’t that depend on when we start?). Moreover, our use of electronic forms of communication facilitates the lie and issues in an increasingly dishonest future. It’s much easier to lie in emails, Facebook posts, Twitter comments and mobile texts, etc. because it’s quicker, takes less thought and is intended for the public (even if ‘friends’, which we’ve never even met, are ‘poked’) about whom we care very little. The ‘Science of Honesty’ study established a link between lying less and improved mental health, as well as more positive results in participants’ personal relationships. And according to the Radical Honesty Movement, everyone would be happier if we told the truth more of the time. Lying, they contend, is the primary source of stress, depression and anxiety. The Truth in the Lie But those of us who are not saints, German philosophers, or American presidents tend both to lie and tell the truth as the situation dictates, distinguishing between little and big lies, noble and ignoble ones. Isn’t wisdom precisely the capacity to do so? Only the ‘pervert’ (understood not as a stigma but as a clinical category) separates Truth from Lies. What, though, does he miss in thus separating the two? The truth of the lie itself – the truth that is contained and delivered in the very act of lying. The truth resonates in the lie. Shakespeare’s play, All’s Well that Ends Well, is all about the entanglements of truth and lies. The lie can reveal the truth about the person. In his book, The Doctor and the Soul, Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist, concentration camp survivor and founder of logotherapy, opines that honesty is paradoxical, that ‘one can lie with truth and, on the other hand, tell the truth with a lie – even make something true by a lie’. He gives the example of a doctor who takes the patient’s blood pressure and finds it high. The patient asks him to tell him the reading. But if the doctor does so the patient will be so alarmed and agitated that his blood pressure will rise even higher than it already is. If the doctor does not tell him the truth but gives him a false reading in order to reassure him his blood pressure may drop so that in the end the sham lie will be an exact statement. Knowledge is factual; it is objective. Truth, though, is subjective. One can lie in the guise of truth. This is what men are doing when, in statements that are factually entirely accurate they conceal or deny their real desire. One can also tell the truth in the guise of a lie. This is what women do; their slips of the tongue betray their true desire. We need to spell this out in some detail. But before we do, let me ask the question: is there such a thing as the ‘Right to Lie’? A Tale of Three Here’s another brain teaser: three goddesses were sitting in an old Indian temple. Their names are Truth (who always tells the truth), Lie (who always lies) and Wisdom (who sometimes lies). A visitor asks the one on the left, ‘Who is sitting next to you?’ ‘Truth,’ she answered. Then he asks the one in the middle, ‘Who are you?’ ‘Wisdom,’ is the response. Lastly, he asks the one on the right, ‘Who is your neighbour?’ ‘Lie,’ she replies. And then it became clear who is who. Can you work it out? Write down all the combinations of orientation and rule them out one by one. Let T = Truth, W = Wisdom and L = Lie. Thus: TWL: Truth would not lie about Wisdom’s position TLW: Truth would not lie about Lie’s position LTW: Lie would lie about Truth’s position LWT: Truth would not lie about Wisdom’s position WTL: Truth would not lie about her own position. So, it must be: WLT: Wisdom, Lie, Truth, in that order. To put it another way, Truth is neither the one on the left nor the middle since she won’t lie about who is beside her or who she is. Therefore, she is on the right side and she was telling the truth that Lie was sitting beside her in the middle, which leaves Wisdom on the left. Above, Wisdom sometimes lies, we are told. So does this mean that wisdom dictates that we sometimes lie and sometimes tell the truth? It would seem logical that this is true but four thinkers stand out in the history of Western thought for their strict condemnations of all forms of lying. They are St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Michel de Montaigne and Immanuel Kant. Despite their different philosophies, they had that in common – their detestation of all forms of lying. They held that there are no circumstances whatsoever in which one may lie. One must be murdered or tortured rather than lie. Lying, they thought, is a perversion, one that undermines trust in society. (Some might say that their twisted logic, on this subject at any rate, is a perversion.) Anyway, let’s see what they have to say on the subject. Anxiety Doesn’t Lie The question is: does anxiety lie? Anxiety is the price we pay for the absence of guilt. Anxiety doesn’t lie, according to the philosophers and psychoanalysts who have written on this subject. It’s the only affect that doesn’t deceive. All other emotions, from sorrow to love, are based ultimately on deceit. You can trust your anxiety, however, even if you don’t like it. That’s the good news. We certainly get anxious attempting to recall our lies; that’s why Algernon Sydney, the seventeenth-century English political theorist, famously said, ‘Liars need to have good memories’. Conversely, as Mark Twain recognised: ‘If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.’ Just so. But who can tell the truth? We have answered that earlier: the psychotic, but at the price of his sanity. Men spend most of their time lying to themselves while women spend their time lying to the Other – with the hope of being caught out. But women have the better memory. And both sexes lie on their Curriculum Vitaes. CVs read like the fairytales of the world – does anyone really not lie on their résumés? When given an unwelcome gift, I think both men and women find it particularly difficult to lie. One can say, though, and mean it: ‘I can’t begin to tell you what I think of it!’ Women are more likely to ‘self-gift’ than men. The Lies of Madmen We can’t cure a madman with our truth; they won’t believe us – there is just no convincing them – probably just as well. To take an example that Slavok Žižek, the contemporary Slovenian philosopher, cites: a man who believes himself to be a grain of seed (the lie: he’s not, he’s a man but clearly he doesn’t know he’s lying) is taken to a mental hospital where the doctor does his best to tell him the truth – that he is not a seed but a man. When he is ‘cured’ and convinced that he is a man and allowed to leave the institution, he immediately comes back inside shaking. There is a chicken outside the door and he’s afraid it will eat him. The doctor says, ‘My good man, you know very well that you’re a man and not a grain of seed’. The man replies, ‘Of course I know that, but does the chicken know it?’ The unconscious itself (in this case, the psychotic’s unconscious) must be brought to assume the truth; it is not enough to convince others about their unconscious truth. The question is: how to do it? How do you go about convincing others that their visual or auditory hallucinations are precisely that: hallucinations? So the psychotic lies from our perspective but from his perspective he is telling the truth. Sometimes a literal telling of truth is a sign or symptom of psychopathology, of mental abnormality. Autistic children are unable to lie; they cannot pretend or conceal. Similarly, the psychotic has repressed nothing and so has no secrets he keeps from himself. Those with Parkinson’s disease show difficulties too in deceiving others. There is a term for compulsive lying: pseudologia fantastica. Mythomania is the term used to designate and describe an excessive propensity for lying. And did you know that speech is shorter when lying than when telling the truth? Lies tend to be tight, just as truth is tangential. The above discussion touches on an interesting topic raised by Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, whom we quoted in the Preface, and it is this: is all truth fiction? Is all fiction interpretation? Is truth merely a perspective? (We considered above the case of the psychotic whose ‘truth’ is our lie; does this mean that our lies are his truths?) If I don’t see twelve pink elephants running around the room and he does I would say I am sane and he is insane but we have to distinguish between material (physical) and mental (psychical) reality, so what ‘reality’ are we talking about? Perhaps we see the same world but see it differently to each other? Partial truths and truthful lies, so. Let’s go into the matter in a little bit more detail. The Right to Lie? Rights at their core are ‘Rights to Violate’, … just as law is the cause of crime (I’m being a bit facetious). Freedom of religious belief is the right to worship false gods. The right to possess private property is the right to steal. And Freedom of the Press and the Free Expression of Opinion is the right to lie. So it would seem that men and women possess the right to lie; the question is, who does so more successfully? Much will depend on whether we want to get caught out, consciously or unconsciously. Big Lies and Little Lies Let us designate little lies as ‘lies’ and large lies as ‘Lies’. The former are understandable, permissible and I would say creative – there is great originality in lying after all. Big lies are problematic and can be dangerous; the lie can become the truth in society. We saw in the last century how this led to Nazism and the horrors of the Holocaust. We were told that Jews were not people; on the contrary, they were vermin who had to be exterminated. This was the ultimate lie spoken in those dark and dreadful days. The Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who experienced the inside of a Gulag, understandably exhorted ‘live not by lies!’ But this was the big Lie that became a society’s truth. It was pernicious propaganda that spread throughout the derailed and distorted society that was Hitler’s Germany. But it was a lie believed by a large portion of the people – for a while, at least (they wanted to hear the lie). Truth, though, won out in the end because whatever about lying to others we can’t continue to lie to ourselves; at some point we must face the fact that the lie we created, that is, the Jew as less than human, is an act of collective scapegoating and psychological projection. Isn’t a falsity the lack of truth, of authentication, the lack of harmony between words, ideas and things? In logic, truth is the correct fit between a thought and a reality; falsity is its unsuitability. To lie is to induce a falsity, to make something look like something else. (Jews portrayed or depicted as less than human). Jeering Pilate asked Jesus Christ, ‘what is Truth?’, but didn’t wait but for an answer. Some people just don’t want to hear the truth. (And there Truth was, standing before Pontius Pilate Himself: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’.) Truth, in logic, is the correspondence of a statement and that to which the statement refers, to the reality it names. Isn’t the Truth unknowable? If it is, any formulation of this truth made by a human being would thus be a falsity. A falsity would, therefore, be the only possibility the human mind has of stating and communicating the truth. The lie transforms the truth. In order to lie, one first must have been in touch with the truth. The lie would seem to be a normal part of our mental functioning. Perhaps lying is a way of preventing us from becoming mad. And who hasn’t lied? Babies who haven’t yet learnt language. Speaking of silence, of lying silence, imagine this. Your friend or lover goes to hug you and you say: ‘I really love you,’ and they say … nothing. Isn’t this the ‘sin of omission’? ‘According to Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish novelist: ‘The cruelest lies are often told in silence. A man may have sat in a room for hours and not opened his mouth, and yet come out of that room a disloyal friend or a vile calumniator.’ Below is an example from Woody Allen of all the things we keep concealed but think about, even as we speak. Lies, Drink and Guilt We tell less lies with drink on us. But lying, as Steven Soderbergh, the screenwriter of Sex, Lies and Videotape, tells us, ‘is like alcoholism – you are always recovering’. I am a recovering liar. Jokes, like alcohol, excuse and encourage the lie and mitigate the guilt so the unsaid may be spoken. Lying brings about its own punishment – the punishment of guilt. ‘Conscience doth make cowards of us all’ (Shakespeare). Also this: ‘The liar’s punishment is that they cannot believe anybody else.’ – George Bernard Shaw His punishment perhaps, but also his pleasure. (Some people will only commit a crime provided they get punished.) But between men and women, who lies best? Enjoying Lying We enjoy exaggerating stories, embellishing events, as we engage in hysterical hyperbole. ‘A mixture of a lie doth ever add pleasure’ (Montaigne). Too true. Remember the last time you exaggerated a story for the pleasure of your friends? ‘You should have been there! There were ten of them and I got the biggest one down and the rest ran away’ or ‘It was the largest spider I have ever seen in the shower’. The story grows wings. There is a thin line between exaggeration and lying, between lying to ourselves and being deluded. Henry James, the novelist brother of the philosopher William James, in a short story, ‘The Liar’, written after meeting a man who told tall tales at a dinner party recounts a story about compulsive but well-intentioned social liars. The narrator becomes aware that his dinner companion is caught in a compulsion to lie; referring to this lying Colonel Capadose, Sir David Ashmore, the master of the house, says: ‘He’ll lie about the time of day, about the name of his hatter.’ There is no harm in the hapless Colonel, however. ‘He doesn’t steal or cheat nor gamble nor drink; he’s very kind – he sticks to his wife, is fond of his children. He simply can’t give you a straight answer.’ We speak the words we think the other wants to hear. But people hear what they want to hear. You lie because you don’t want to tell them what they need to hear. With drink, we relish the truth more. ‘Carlyle said “a lie cannot live”. It shows that he did not know how to tell them.’ – Mark Twain Against Lying St. Augustine St. Augustine, who condemned all lying (even the ‘well meant lie’) except jocose lies (not a real lie since there is lack of intention to deceive), outlined a taxonomy of lies in two books: De Mendacio (On Lying) and Contra Mendacio (Against Lying). In Chapter Fourteen of the former work he divides lies into eight categories: 1. Lies told in religious teaching (these are deadly lies and must be shunned) 2. Lies that harm or injure others unjustly 3. Lies that are beneficial to one person but harm another 4. Lies told solely for the pleasure of lying (the ‘real lie’) 5 Lies told from a desire to ‘please others in smooth discourse’ 6. Lies that harm no one but benefit some person 7. Lies that harm no one and that save someone’s life 8. Lies that harm no one and that save someone’s ‘purity’. According to Augustine, it is better to err by an excessive regard for the truth and by an equally emphatic rejection of falsehood. A lie is pernicious since it has as its objective the deliberate desire to deceive. It’s a kind of false faith. Some people tell what is false without the intention of deceiving, while others tell what is true in order to deceive. A lie is a false statement and Augustine does not condone or sanction any form of lying, even if it secures the salvation of another, for ‘the good never lie’. He goes so far as to say that one’s ‘eternal life is lost by lying’. Telling lies harms those who tell them. So, we should not only not lie but not even want to lie. Lying is never morally justified is the verdict of this stern Bishop of Hippo. Lying is a sin and the motive of the liar determines the gravity of the lie (it makes a difference, he contends, for what reason, to what end and with what intention lying is performed). However, all lies are to be detested ‘uniformly’. To those who say that some lies are just or justifiable, Augustine replies then we would have to say that there are some just sins and that, consequently, some things that are unjust are just. Ultimately, lies should be either avoided altogether or be confessed in penitence. St. Thomas Aquinas Following Saints Augustine and Aquinas, Catholic moral theologians tend to distinguish between 1) injurious (hurtful) lies, 2) officious lies, and 3) jocose lies. Jocose lies are told for the purpose of amusement – they are said merely in joke and so cannot be considered lies. An officious lie is a white lie, such that it does nobody any injury – it’s a lie of excuse. An injurious lies does harm. Two schools of thought on this vexed moral question have arisen as regards ethical considerations: Aristotle (and following him Augustine, Aquinas and Kant) in his Ethics seems to hold that it is never permissible to tell a lie, while Plato, in his Republic, is more lenient about lying – he allows doctors and statesmen to lie for the good of their patients and citizens. Thus, the lawfulness of the lie of necessity. But some Catholic theologians would insist that white lies are apt to prepare the way for others of a darker hue: white leading to scarlet, so. Church Fathers such as Origen, St. John Chrysostom and Cassian followed Plato’s lead on lies. The Western Church has, in the main, adopted the Augustinian position that it is never lawful to lie. Innocent III interpreted Scripture as forbidding us to lie even to save a person’s life. For Thomas Aquinas, lying is opposed to the virtue of veracity. Truth consists in a correspondence between the thing signified and the signification of it. The essence of a lie is the want of right moral order (hence the employment of the word ‘disorder’). According to Aquinas, the lie has harmful consequences for society. They can affect the rights and reputations of others; friendship can even suffer from jocose lying. Promiscuous lying leads to mistrust, suspicion and loss of confidence. Moreover, when a habit for telling lies has been formed it is practically impossible to undo. For Thomas, we are never justified in telling a lie because the end never justifies the means (we may not do evil so that good may come). So (to take an example from Augustine) if silence would be equivalent to giving a sick man unwelcome news that would kill him, it is better that the body of the sick man should perish rather than the soul of the liar. Or, to take another example, if a man is hiding in your house and his life is sought by murderers and they come and ask you if he is in the house, you may say you know where he is but will not tell; you may not deny that he is there (Kant cites a similar example as we shall see). The lie possesses intrinsic malice. Later, some Schoolmen would endorse ‘mental reservations’ and ‘equivocations’ in speech. So the Thomistic answer to the classification of lies is as follows: hurtful lies are mortal sins; officious and jocose lies are venial sins. Are you a mortal or venial sinner, dear reader? Michel de Montaigne In 1572, Michel de Montaigne penned his ‘assays’ and he has some strict things to say on lying, especially in his essay entitled ‘On Giving the Lie’. ‘The first sign of corrupt morals is the banishing of truth,’ he writes in his famous Essays. Lying corrupts morals. Montaigne would concur with Pindar’s view that being truthful is the beginning of any great virtue. And Plato required this of the Governor in his Republic. Montaigne, himself French, opines that lying has become, not just a vice for the French but a figure of speech. For Montaigne, the lie is the most accursed vice: ‘the ultimate verbal insult to accuse us of lying’. Montaigne feels it is cowardly to deny one’s word, that is to say, to lie. He talks about the horror and vileness and disorderliness of lies and labels it a ‘villein’s vice’. If we lie, society cannot be held together and nor can we. Montaigne opines: ‘When words deceive us, it breaks all intercourse and loosens the bonds of our polity.’ To lie is mentiri in Latin. To tell an untruth is to say something false, which one thinks to be true. This is different, so, from lying. Many people have recognised the intimate connection between memory and lying, in that one has to have a good memory to lie. This was first recognised by Quintilian. And according to Montaigne, one can catch out liars by making them tell the same story several times over. Lies so easily slip out of memory. In a section in his Essays entitled ‘On liars’, Montaigne writes: ‘It is only our words which bind us together and make us human. If we realized the horror and weight of lying we would see that it is more worthy of the stake than other crimes. I find that people normally waste time quite inappropriately punishing children for innocent misdemeanours, tormenting them for thoughtless actions which lead nowhere and leave no trace. It seems to me that the only faults which we should rigorously attack as soon as they arise and start to develop are lying and, a little below that, stubbornness. Those faults grow up with the children. Once let the tongue acquire the habit of lying, and it is astonishing how impossible it is to make it give it up.’ In this respect Montaigne is similar to Augustine who likewise emphasises the damaging and detrimental effects of lying in discourse, as we saw. In his City of God, Augustine says that a dog we do know is better company than a man whose language we don’t know and that the language of lies is less comprehensible than silence even. Immanuel Kant In ‘On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives’, the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant laid it down as a moral principle the duty to speak the truth no matter what. Truth in utterances is the formal duty of everyone even if great disadvantage arises from it. Kant defines a lie as ‘an intentionally false declaration towards another man’; it will always cause injury to another since it vitiates the source of justice. What comes next is Kant’s famous example: if you have, by a lie, stopped a man from planning a murder, you are legally responsible for all the consequences. If, however, you strictly adhered to the truth, public justice will find no fault in you. There will always be, contends Kant, unforeseen consequences. It is possible, he says, that while you honestly answered ‘yes’ to the murderer’s question as to whether his intended victim is in his house, the victim may have gone out unobserved and so not have come into the way of the murderer and the dastardly deed would not have been done; whereas if you lied and said he was not in the house and that he had really gone out (though unknown to you) so that the murderer met him as he went and ‘executed his purpose’ on him, then you might with justice be accused as the cause of his death. Kant says if you had spoken the truth as you knew it, perhaps the murderer while searching for his enemy in the house might have been caught by some neighbours arriving on the scene and the deed would have been prevented. Kant is adamant: ‘Whoever then tells a lie, however good his intentions may be, must answer for the consequences of it, even before the civil tribunal, and must pay the penalty for them, however unforeseen they may have been; because truthfulness is a duty that must be regarded as the basis of all duties founded on contract, the laws of which would be rendered uncertain and useless if even the least exception to them were admitted. To be truthful (honest) in all declarations is therefore a sacred unconditional command of reason, and not to be limited by any expediency.’ So, for this stringent German philosopher (is there any other type?), truth-telling is an unconditional duty. There you have it. So act in accordance with your duty, not your desire. Thomas Jefferson, like Kant, felt that lying was always wrong: ‘He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual.’ The falsehood of the tongue leads to the falsehood of the heart. ‘Lying is hateful and accursed vice. We have no other tie upon one another, but our word.’ – Immanuel Kant ‘A single lie destroys a whole reputation for integrity’ (Balthasar Gracian, Spanish Jesuit), unless of course the lie is motivated by integrity in the first place. As Baruch Spinoza, the Dutch philosopher, tells us: men govern nothing with greater difficulty than their tongues, as we bear false witness. That said, we moderate our desires quicker than our words. Some Differences between Men and Women A caveat to begin with: when I say ‘men are such and such’ or ‘women are this and that’, please, dear reader, insert a mental ‘most’ before such sentences, as in ‘most men’ or ‘most women’, because there are exceptions. I’m speaking in generalities; finesse is for footnotes. Furthermore, sometimes one has to over hit the mark in order to hit the mark. As the French philosopher Jacques Derrida once remarked, in philosophy, truth is hyperbole. What follows below and in the following section are my sometimes tongue-in-cheek observations – please don’t take them too literally – as well as my interpretations of Lacanian theory, on which I freely draw. It is one perspective, a point of view, not facts or the Truth. Feel free to accept or remorselessly reject the reflections offered. With this in mind, let’s just jump into this controversial and sometimes acrimonious debate (please, no hate mail/male). Here, as always, the reader is the jury and must judge on the reasonableness (or otherwise) of my contentions/convictions that have been partially formed by French psychoanalytical insights. ‘Men lie the most, women tell the biggest lies.’ ― Chris Rock Men and women are very different beings. Most men are obsessionals, while most women are hysterics (what is meant by this is conveyed below). Men are more straightforward, more blunt than women, while women are more manipulative than men. Men make friends easier than women, probably because most of them remain more superficial. Men are more loyal, but only because they are less overtly emotionally invested. Women are moodier. Their personalities change more (biologically); they also posses more depth than men (psychologically). Men are more constant, more consistent, more stubborn. Women are more complex creatures and, therefore, less predictable. One generally knows where one stands with a man (if one is a man); with women things aren’t so clear (if one is a man). Women need to be needed. Men are more able to be alone; they’re more independent. Some men are more in touch with their feminine side (the metrosexual with his ‘anima’ and ‘bromances’) than other males of the species, just as some women are more in touch with their masculine sides (their so-called ‘animus’). Women test men a lot of the time; they up the ante by pushing the boundaries just to see how far they can go and how much they can get away with. By so doing, they play a dangerous game. In this way, men may be more mistreated than women. Women can emasculate men while men may, as a result, become hen-pecked or cuckolded or turn into wife-beaters. Women have a higher EQ than men, while men have a higher IQ (though most of these intelligence tests are written and measured by men, it has to be said). Of course, in all what I am saying, one has to take into account age, class, economics, cultural considerations and recent significant shifts in social roles, and these few pages do not admit of such subtleties. I reiterate: I am painting in broad brushstrokes. And, needless to say, parenthood changes nearly everything, even if procreative sex is narcissistic. Men are plagued by thoughts in their mind. Women are plagued by pains in their bodies. Men engage in compulsive rituals, women in somatic symptoms. With regards to sex and sexuality, men react with guilt and aversion, women with disgust and revulsion. Often this is repressed. Unconsciously, neither sex really likes sex. Women seek to discover what the desire of the other person is in order to become that desired object. Women are looking for the Master, that is, someone imbued with knowledge, wealth, status or power. Both sexes ask the philosophical question: ‘What am I?’ However, women’s primary question is: ‘Am I a man or a woman?’ whereas men’s is: ‘Am I dead or alive?’ (to be explained below). ‘Don’t cry, I’m sorry to have deceived you so much, but that’s how life is.’ ― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita Men feel that they are only really alive when they are consciously thinking and should they lapse into fantasy or stop thinking, for example, during orgasm, men lose any conviction of being. Men believe they are Masters of their own fate; as beings who are whole and complete and in need of no Other to fill up their lack, which they deny having in the first place. Men fiercely refuse to