Webster’s Dictionary defines a lie as an intentionally false statement. However, defining a simple three-letter word is not as easy as it seems on the surface. Upon reading or hearing the word lie, people are instantly associated with a general feeling of negativity. Lying generally creates feelings of dishonesty, untrustworthiness, deceit, and betrayal. However, lying is one of the oldest human social practices. Erin Bryant explains in her essay “Real Lies, White Lies, and Gray Lies” that even though lying has a derogatory label, it is a very common social behavior used by a majority of people on a daily basis. It has been a subject of scrutiny through the millennia by philosophers such as St. Augustine, Aristotle, and Plato. Can lies also be seen as positive? Don’t lies contribute to maintaining the bedrock of most relationships? In his essay “Lies, Lies, Lies,” Paul Gray answers this question. “Most ‘little white lies’ belong here, well-intentioned deceptions designed to grease the gears of society. In this context people want to be fooled. No one expects and few would welcome, searing honesty at a dinner party”.
There are many examples in history of lying to benefit others: the Underground Railroad, the Holocaust, or any revolution to overthrow unfair rule. Imagine the result of such events without the ability to lie. Picture a plantation owner inquiring as to the whereabouts of his slaves. Upon hearing a truthful response, he tracks down the slaves and all parties attempting to assist in their escape. They would then be made into examples for all, and the Underground Railroad would be rendered ineffective. This same concept can be applied to Nazi Germany, the Japanese Conquests of Eastern Asia, the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), or any escape attempt from a prisoner of war camp.
The essay “Lies, Lies, Lies” makes this key point; “Certainty about lying is suspect because the practice is extraordinarily complex.” This point is further emphasized when using the word lie in relation to beliefs. Gray continues:
“A false statement need not be a lie. ‘The earth is flat,’ coming from a member of the Flat Earth Society, is not a lie but a statement of belief. Furthermore, a true statement can be a lie. Imagine a dishonest agent telling a client, ‘The check is in the mail,’ and then discovering to his horror that his new secretary has actually mailed the check. Even though he intended to lie, his client got paid.”
Imagine literature and movies without fairy tales, fantasies, or fiction. Are these not lies? By its very definition creative writing is a misrepresentation of reality. They are falsified or imagined truths, both synonyms of the word lie. Without the ability to create fictitious stories, not only is the industry of entertainment hindered, but the ideas created by science fiction writers which spark scientific discovery become limited as well. Lying, or deception, can be a retreat from the mundane...