35 aphorisms on liars and lying

Yesterday I tried to get some clarity on what constitutes lying. I came up with this inelegant definition:

What qualifies something as a lie is not its truth or falsity, but the conscious (or unconscious) attempt to deceive (or be deceived by) others (and/or oneself).

How to lie
1. Dr. Johnson:
“We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know because they have never deceived us.

2. Marquess of Halifax:
“Malice must go under the disguise of plainness, or else it is exposed.”

3. Mark Twain:
“One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat only has nine lives.”

4. Samuel Butler:
“The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount of lying go the longest way.”

5. Vauvenargues:
“A liar is a man who does not know how to deceive, a flatterer one who deceives fools; he alone can pride himself on his cleverness who knows how to make skilful use of the truth.”

6. Marquess of Halifax:
“There is so much wit necessary to make a skilful hypocrite that the faculty is fallen among bunglers, who make it ridiculous.”

We’re all liars
7. Don Marquis:
“A hypocrite is a person who – but who isn’t?”

8. Vauvenargues:
“Everyone is born sincere and die deceivers.”

9. Hazlitt:
“Some degree of affectation is as necessary to the mind as dress is to the body; we must overact our part in some measure, in order to produce any effect at all.”

10. Nietzsche:
“Nothing seems to me to be rarer today than genuine hypocrisy.”

11. Mr Justice Darling:
“Much truth is spoken, that more may be concealed.”

12. Marcel Proust:
“The fact of a man’s having proclaimed…that it is wicked to lie obliges him as a rule to lie more than other people.”

We can’t tell the truth plain
13. Robert Louis Stevenson:
“To tell the truth, rightly understood, is not to state the true facts, but to convey a true impression.”

14. Samuel Butler:
“If we seek real rather than technical truth, it is more true to be considerately untruthful within limits than to be inconsiderately truthful without them.”

15. Marcus Aurelius:
“How hollow and insincere it sounds when someone says, ‘I am determined to be perfectly straightforward with you’.”

16. Anon:
“We are forced to lie (I had almost said) rather than not say somewhat to please.”

Liars lie to themselves first
17. Nietzsche:
“With all great deceivers there is a noteworthy occurrence to which they owe their power. In the actual act of deception they are overcome by belief in themselves: it is this which then speaks so miraculously and compellingly to those who surround them.”

18. J.H. Newman:
“It is not in human nature to deceive others, for any long time, without, in a measure, deceiving ourselves.”

19. G.K. Chesterton:
“We ought to see far enough into a hypocrite to see even his sincerity.”

Not all falseness is lying…and not all lying is falseness
20. Schopenhauer:
“Politeness is a false coin; to be niggardly with it shows a want of intelligence.”

21. Sir Arthur Helps:
“Many are content to wear the mask of foolishness, in order to carry on the vicious schemes.”

22. de Flers and de Croisset:
“How badly a woman lies when you know she is lying!”

23. G.K. Chesterton:
“What is bad in the candid friend is that he is not candid. he is keeping something back – his own gloomy pleasure in saying unpleasant things.”

24. Robert Louis Stevenson:
“The cruellest lies are often told in silence.”

25. Vauvenargues:
“The art of pleasing is the art of deception.”

Ethical lying?
26. Eugene Labiche:
“There are times when lying is the most sacred of duties.”

27. Nietzsche:
“All truths that are kept become poisonous.”

The role of the receiver of the lie
28. Dr. Johnson:
“Cunning has effect from the credulity of others rather than from the abilities of those who are cunning. It requires no extraordinary talents to lie and deceive.”

29. Mark Twain:
“A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.”

30. La Rouchefoucauld:
“Some disguised deceits counterfeit the truth so perfectly that not to be taken in by them would be an error of judgement.”

31. Jean Rostand:
“We find it easy to believe that praise is sincere: why should anyone lie in telling us the truth?”

32. Dr. Johnson:
“A man would rather have a hundred lies told of him, than one truth which he does not wish to be told.”

33. Sir Francis Bacon:
“It is not the difficulty and labour which men take in finding out of truth doth bring lies in favour; but a natural though corrupt love of the lie itself.”

34. Schopenhauer:
“If we suspect that a man is lying, we should pretend to believe him; for then he becomes bold and assured, lies more vigorously, and is unmasked.”

35. Moliere:
“People can be induced to swallow anything, provided it is sufficiently seasoned with praise.”


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