Oh, yes you were, don't lie to me! I know you tell fibs porkies whoppers, oh, alright then, terminological inexactitudes, if you want to be posh about it! I know you do it because we all do it! And we've all done it since language evolved. Lying is part and parcel of being human. I am provoked to these obscure thoughts by The Penguin Book of Lies written, or rather, compiled by, Philip Kerr. This is a fairly hefty book, as you would expect given its title, and so it is odd that I haven't the remotest idea how I came by it. In his introduction, Mr. Kerr reminds us that in actuality, lying is often much more entertaining than tedious truth-telling. He asks us to imagine two dinner tables, the first occupied by Augustine, Knox, Wesley, Kant, Hume and Bentham, and the other by such 'born-again liars' as Machiavelli, Casanova, Rousseau, Napoleon, Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway. I know which one I would wish to be seated at. He also reminds us of the way opinion, especially Christian opinion, has shifted in its attitude to lying:
Over the twenty-five centuries or so that this book spans, opinions on lying have necessarily changed. For example, the question of whether every lie is a mortal sin. Augustine, writing towards the end of the fourth century after Christ, thought every lies was a mortal sin; Aquinas, writing some eight centuries later, though tthat only malicious lies were mortal sins, and that pious frauds - or white lies as we call them now - were not; and five hundred years after Aquinas, opinion changed again, with John Wesley holding that all lies were 'an abomination to the God of Truth'.
I, of course, as an ex-member of the second-hand car trade, am in no position to offer moral advice on the pros and cons of lying but I can, from my vast experience of the ways of the world, offer you some practical advice - when your wife asks if 'her bum looks big in this' - lie, lie again and keep lying - if you know what's good for you!