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What is a lie?

This is something all the thinkers before me have devoted their valuable time and probably those after me as well. I have been brought with some definite ideas of what is a lie and what is not. I have also been brought up with the notion that lies said for something good is not a lie. Then of course whenever I told a lie I would believe or make myself believe that I had told for a good cause and be happy therefore I had not told a lie.

I remember a mind experiment in Moral Science at school. Father Ascotia, if my memory serves right taught me that subject and the question went something like this. Assume that you wandered in to the game room and found the table tennis corner was occupied with Ram and Shyam and that you desperately wanted to play. So you told Ram – “Hey Ram, the principal wants to see you.”. Ram drops his racquet and runs off to see the principal. So you now play Shyam. It transpires that the principal actually did want to see Ram about the prizes for the sports day. So the question was have you told a lie?

Each one us in the class dutifully said to was a lie and that we would spend a day in Hell for that.

Looking at the world we are in now, I think if I were to answer the same question would my answer change? From the perspective of outcomes, there is no change. I in fact told the truth. I just probably had a boot of ESP and then I told the truth. If Ram believed that I am telling the truth and the principal did want him everything is fine isn’t it?

Unfortunately we are stuck with the eternal book-keeper up there and in his book I have told something with the intention of a lie. It is a bit like the Aswathama story in the Mahabarath.

The entire fabric of Facebook, or for that matter any of the social networking sites allows you to have an avatar or a façade that is you as you think you are. Isn’t that a great lie in itself?



3 thoughts on “What is a lie?

  1. Hmm.. Interesting..

    Posted by Alby Antony | September 4, 2012, 12:14 pm
  2. Outstanding piece … many a time lie has been used under the cover in our Epics too

    Posted by Asheesh | September 4, 2012, 9:13 pm
  3. You may be surprised that your eyes lie to you all the time. No, _really_, they do – physiologically speaking and _not_ just philosophically speaking!

    If memory serves me right, this is what I remember as the gist of the Photography 101 book that I read sometime back – the human brain has to “stitch together” the enormous amounts of data being sent to it via the eyes/retina. In doing so, it liberally discards several million(thousand?) frames per second and only picks those “it considers” significant. So depending upon the mood your mind is in, who knows if what you saw was something you actually physically saw?

    Your story about table-tennis – I do agree that it was a very clear lie. Nothing philosophical about it. 🙂 But then again it reminds me of Moral-Hazard in the context of Insurance.

    Conclusion: Honesty is probably a mite overrated, subjective and completely open to interpretation / point-of-view / frame-of-reference.

    Posted by Sandeep | September 10, 2012, 8:35 pm

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