Join 3,552 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"We are already experts at lying to ourselves"
January 4, 2011 11:13 AM   Subscribe

Clancy Martin is the chair of the philosophy department at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He's also an unabashed liar, a recovering alcoholic, and was once suicidal. He's surprisingly honest, and has written extensively about all three of these things. Prior to becoming a professor, he dropped out of grad school, made a small fortune in the murky world of luxury jewelry sales, and nearly became the world's leading dealer of counterfeit Fabergé eggs along the way. He occasionally writes an advice column about lying, and even wrote a few books about it.

(via) (previously)
posted by schmod (29 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
Never trust an honest liar.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:17 AM on January 4, 2011


Maybe there's hope for me in academia after all.
posted by Bromius at 11:32 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's also an unabashed liar...He's surprisingly honest

ಠ_ಠ
posted by empath at 11:42 AM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's also an unabashed liar...He's surprisingly honest
ಠ_ಠ


Hmm. When writing the post I hadn't considered that he could be lying about lying. WE HAVE TO GO DEEPER.
posted by schmod at 11:45 AM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is good. I have run across his work before, thanks for this post. His work, it's painful for me to read it - to bear it, I should say- but it's good.
posted by Xoebe at 11:47 AM on January 4, 2011


Great post.
posted by exogenous at 11:51 AM on January 4, 2011


There's something really off-putting about the Chronicle article. I'm sure the story is much deeper (or maybe it's not, and he's just lying to himself about his own motivations), but going from selling jewelry to cocaine addiction to holding a gun in your mouth would seem to require more to the story than feeling bad because you hyped the price of stuff.
posted by xingcat at 12:01 PM on January 4, 2011


He's surprisingly honest

I think the word you want is "revealing".
posted by subdee at 12:01 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Agree - this is a great post. Martin writes beautifully too. (I actually now want to see if I can nudge my local library into getting The Philosophy of Deception - which he edited. It looks remarkable.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:03 PM on January 4, 2011


...but going from selling jewelry to cocaine addiction to holding a gun in your mouth would seem to require more to the story than feeling bad because you hyped the price of stuff.

For what it's worth, I totally agree with you xingcat.

I thought that was an oddly hinky detail - or maybe just expressed poorly.
(But looking at some of his other writing, he seems to be generally much, much better than that fumble might indicate)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:10 PM on January 4, 2011


The gun part does stick out like a sore thumb. Perhaps as a result of editing?
posted by eeeeeez at 12:14 PM on January 4, 2011


He's also got the cover article in this month's Harper's: The drunk's club: A.A., the cult that cures. A good read.

I think he wrote about selling jewelry there too ... yep.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:29 PM on January 4, 2011


I really liked his novel HOW TO SELL.
posted by Charnieia at 12:31 PM on January 4, 2011


The jewelry article from Harper's was really fascinating. He's a good writer.

I have a real weakness for the memoirs of con artists--The Blue Suit, for instance, is a favorite of mine.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:40 PM on January 4, 2011


Must be something about jewlery sales, I worked with the guy who invented the "wish pearl" and he followed a similar trajectory, cept he stalled at addict and never made it to college professor. Or maybe drugs, alcohol and high pressure sales just all hit the same trigger in the brain.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:42 PM on January 4, 2011


Is the Jewelry article from Harpers available anywhere without a subscription? Was going to add it to the post, but couldn't find a link.
posted by schmod at 1:00 PM on January 4, 2011


I couldn't find it with Google. There is a very short excerpt at Consumerist.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:19 PM on January 4, 2011


"I'd...do a few lines of coke, and then put my Glock in my mouth and stare at myself in the mirror."

I can hear the Nietzsche-obsessed 18 year-olds in my intro course nodding and saying Mmmm.
posted by Beardman at 1:26 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or maybe drugs, alcohol and high pressure sales just all hit the same trigger in the brain.

I think this is right. Or, put it another way, high pressure sales hits the same trigger as heavy gambling — and drugs and alcohol fit in just as nicely with either one.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:26 PM on January 4, 2011


Practiced liars always fascinate me. He's got a couple of traits I've seen before:

1. Blame the deceived person for being "willing" to be deceived: We believe just what we want to believe. And the customer will help in this process, because she or he wants the diamond—where else can I get such a good deal on such a high-quality stone?—to be of a certain size and quality. At the same time, he or she does not want to pay the price that the actual diamond, were it what you claimed it to be, would cost. The transaction is a collaboration of lies and self-deceptions.

2. Assume everyone else lies a lot too. (His articles really show this belief clearly.)
posted by bearwife at 3:04 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think that "wanting" to be deceived is the same as being "willing" to be deceived. The latter implies intention, the former does not.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:45 PM on January 4, 2011


"2. Assume everyone else lies a lot too. (His articles really show this belief clearly.)"

One of the things that you learn when you teach philosophy is that everyone really DOES lie a lot. (And I don't mean just the disillusionment that sets in when your problem student's 8th grandparent that semester dies.) There's a whole lot in philosophy about truth and the inability to meet that standard, and depending on how you frame it (some philosophers would include all fiction, for example, as lies; others go with a definition of lying qua lying as being untruthful when others have an expectation of truth), lies are as common as air.

I had a colleague who was very much about "categorical" rules and if something was okay in one instance it was okay in all instances, etc. And he refused to distinguish between lies like, "no, your butt looks fine in those pants" and "sleep with me, I don't have HIV." He classed Santa Claus with "Iraq has WMD." And since he believed religion was a lie people told themselves ON PURPOSE and everyone who believed in it KNEW it was a lie, it was clear to him that most people lied CONSTANTLY since most people in our neck of the woods are religious. So he felt no compunction about lying to those around him because they were constantly lying to themselves and to others, trying to sell "imaginary Jesus." If telling children about Santa Claus was okay, that meant that ALL untruths were okay, no matter how horrific and damaging, basically. (He ended up being asked to resign for reasons unrelated to this -- though he did used to lie to students for no particular reason -- except for the fact that it had the similar problem of insisting on a categorical rule where others saw gradations of behavior. If one drink's okay, drinking ALL the drinks is okay, sort of thing.) Anyway, reminds me a little bit of this guy.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:54 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think that "wanting" to be deceived is the same as being "willing" to be deceived. The latter implies intention, the former does not.

I agree, and that's why I chose the term "willing." My experience with people who lie a lot is that they attribute an intention or desire to be deceived to the people to whom they lie.

On the flip side, I find most people I meet are generally quite truthful, and often very committed to being truthful, even when that isn't the easiest path. People like that can be easier to deceive, because they assume others are like them -- trustworthy.
posted by bearwife at 4:40 PM on January 4, 2011


Actually, "candid" would be a better word.
posted by subdee at 6:31 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


His remark about getting six tenure-track interviews with call-backs because he knew how to market/sell himself is spot-on.

Never did learn to convince people I'm indispensable. It's probably the most valuable of skills.
posted by bardic at 7:04 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eyebrows McGee, I think the clinical term for your former colleague is "a gigantic flaming asshole."

Alas, no, the Harper's article isn't online. Sadface.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:22 PM on January 4, 2011


The best way to convince someone you're indispensable is to actually be indispensable. It's kind of like pushing all in with the best cards, only not.
posted by axiom at 10:44 PM on January 4, 2011


"I think the clinical term for your former colleague is "a gigantic flaming asshole.""

Well, that's definitely so. However, he's not the only philosopher I've met who's fallen into that attitude, just the one I knew best. (It's also probably no accident he's thrice-divorced and estranged from the kids he said he wanted, but was lying about wanting. :P)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:29 AM on January 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


"The best way to convince someone you're indispensable is to actually be indispensable."

But the whole point of the academic interview process (or any interview process) is that you're selling yourself on future returns.

It's a skill like any other.
posted by bardic at 5:40 PM on January 5, 2011


« Older Hearing him discuss films one day in the Lake Stre...  |   75 Sensational Examples Of Sc... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments