I lie sometimes

There’s something funny and absurd I have noticed about myself.

It’s something about which I feel shame; so I’m going to shove it in your faces just to spite my ego.

I lie; for the stupidest reason: to look good in front of others.

For instance I recently met up with a friend in a coffee shop who had gone to university and got a degree.

He now runs stand-up workshops tailored to academics so that they can express the complex ideas they produce to a wider audience through humour.

Recently he said that he had referred my blog to someone who was setting up a magazine that wants to publish humorous and engaging articles on philosophy.

So far all that is true; but here comes the lie.

I told my family and friends; the people whose opinion I care about, that he got his degree from Cambridge university.

He didn’t actually tell me what university he went to because I forgot to ask. So it might be true.

But that’s not the point is it?

Here am I writing about how pride is silly and a bad thing lying because of pride; because I want my family to be proud of me.

What a silly billy I am!

Now I don’t think lying is bad or good. It depends on the context: if a lie leads someone to act against their best interests then you could say that lie was bad; if a lie leads someone to act for their best interests you could say that lie was good.

A verse from the bible springs to mind “…be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves” Matt 10:16

That lie caused nobody any harm.

I’m not obliged to tell the truth (I refer you to the contract paradox: I promise not to lie; I promise to keep my promises and I promise to keep the promise I just made to keep my promises and so ad infinitum).

But I know that trying to big yourself up is a silly thing to do; but yet I do it!

That’s the thing with us humans: it’s not that we don’t know what to do; it’s that we don’t do what we know we ought to do.

Ha ha ha what a bunch of silly billies we all are!


8 thoughts on “I lie sometimes

  1. Interesting post!

    Something came to mind when reading it. Apologies that it is slightly off topic, although it is tenuously relevant.

    Recent evidence from neuroscience experiments indicates that we confabulate reasons for acting. Although this is not the same as consciously lying per se, and we are unaware when we confabulate these reasons (and also these confabulations are not for all actions, that would be absurd), we really have no insight into why we act some of the time. And its not until after we’ve produced an supposedly irrational action that we give a post-hoc explanation of why we acted in such a manner. I remember on countless occasions on when I produced similar white lies as yourself for no real reason except for an overwhelming emotional desire to do so. I then, on reflection, rationalised that it was to “big myself up” or “to protect my ego” which figured as probably the best explanations, although I could never be completely sure. I guess confabulation, aside from these examples of consciously lying, would be examples of unconsciously lying to oneself

    * I spoke to Prof. Maureen Sie (who researches in confabulation) at a conference and asked her “how often do we confabulate reasons for acting” and she turned to me and said in a serious and deadpan manner, “more than you think”. I left that conversation in a daze.

    • I swear I wrote an article on anxiety that supposed the same thing… hang on a second I’ll go and get the link:

      I think I was at least getting close to this.

      On the possible cause of why I lie in such a manner what reason could there be? I mean when I analyse it phenomenally I see that I didn’t actually make a choice to lie it just popped out of my mouth so to speak.
      And yeah you’re absolutely right. But what other reasons/stories can explain such actions

  2. Just read the “Anxiety” post and those reasons for anxiety were, it would appear, confabulated reasons: you certainty did come to the same conclusion via your own experiential phenomenology rather than data from a laboratory, which is extremely impressive! It suggests that you are very self-aware to be able to notice that aspects of, dare I say it, the human condition.

    This explanation is a little ju-jitsu get out clause, but no explanation is correct when we confabulate our reasons for acting, since they were confabulated. Sometimes our reasons for acting and those actions match-up, but in that case they were not confabulated. The hypothetical theory goes that when we act for confabulated reasons we acted due to overwhelming unconscious emotional impulses which we rationalise to ourselves afterwards to make the action understandable. Our problem is that we, typically, do not know which reasons are confabulated or not. Although one type of investigation was suggested by yourself is to notice when those explanations for a general type of behaviour, for example, anxiety, seem to arbitrarily shift. I hadn’t thought about this investigation until I read your post.

  3. There are many paths to the same place. I think that getting to the same conclusion via different methods is strong evidence for the truth of that conclusion.

    Can you point me to any books or literature on this confabulation theory?

  4. Two classic papers on confabulation are – although there are many more:
    – Haidt: The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail (2001) (although this is focused on the nature of moral judgements)
    – Nisbett and Wilson: Telling more than we can know: verbal reports and mental processes (1977)

    I don’t know what access you have to these papers, but I can send them to you if you like, if you give me your email address. Send the address to my blog, and I’ll just trash and permanently delete the comment.

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