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The whole truth

A new book argues that human beings are born to lie: that we cannot live without deceit. Is this true—and does it matter?

By Julian Baggini   May 2011

It is ironic that the same rules on unparliamentary language which ban MPs from calling each other liars also forbid them from describing another member as “drunk.” Members are banned from accusing others of not telling the truth on some occasions—and then forced to conceal the truth themselves on others.

There is nothing more common than inconsistency and confusion over the imperative not to tell a lie. While “liar” is universally a term of opprobrium, almost everyone accepts that the social world would cease turning without a good scattering of white lies, half-truths and evasions.

In his new book Born…

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