Cover image for Faking it
Faking it
Miller, William Ian, 1946-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Physical Description:
xi, 290 pages ; 24 cm
Introduction: split in two -- Hypocrisy and Jesus -- Anti-hypocrisy: looking bad in order to be good -- Virtues with natural immunities to hypocrisy -- Naked truth: hey, wanna...? -- In divine services and other ritualized performances -- Say it like you mean it: mandatory faking and apology -- Flattery and praise -- Hoist with his own petard -- The self, the double, and the sense of self -- At the core at last: the primordial Jew -- Passing and wishing you were what you are not -- Authentic moments with the beautiful and sublime? -- The alchemist: role as addiction -- 'I love you': taking a bullet vs. biting one -- Boys crying and girls playing dumb -- Acting our roles: mimicry, makeup, and pills -- False (im)modesty -- Caught in the act.
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BF697 .M525 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this book polymath William Ian Miller probes one of the dirty little secrets of humanity: that we are all faking it much more than anyone would care to admit. He writes with wit and wisdom about the vain anxiety of being exposed as frauds in our professions, cads in our loves, and hypocrites to our creeds. He finds, however, that we are more than mere fools for wanting so badly to look good to ourselves and others. Sometimes, when we are faking it, our vanity leads to virtue, and we actually achieve something worthy of esteem and praise William Ian Miller is the Thomas G. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. He has also taught at Harvard, Yale, Chicago, and the Universities of Bergen and Tel Aviv. His previous books include The Mystery of Courage (Harvard University Press, 2000) and The Anantomy of Disgust (Harvard University Press, 1997).

Author Notes

William Ian Miller is the Thomas G. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

A law professor and literary scholar who plumbed other depths of moral unpleasantness in The Mystery of Courage and The Anatomy of Disgust, Miller here turns in an intelligent, articulate, somewhat convention-bound essay on the inevitable falseness of civilized behavior and the vanity of human nature that it conceals and reflects. With a blend of Jesuitical enthusiasm and Judaic ruefulness, he takes on the familiar demon of keeping up appearances. Starting with hypocrisy, which emulates and contaminates virtue, Miller considers the posturing inherent in such mechanisms of civility as religious ritual, seduction, apology and praise. After a due quota of vice spotting, Miller warms up to his central theme, the self-consciousness that compromises not only action but identity. The emphasis shifts from behavior to emotion: alienation, hatred, shame, anxiety, what Miller aptly calls the "vexations" behind routine fakeries like professionalism and cosmetics and high-stakes games like courtship and passing. The final section examines the processes by which we become the masks we assume. The book's chief philosophical strength is its light but serious treatment of germane texts: moments in the Gospels, passages from Hamlet and Tristram Shandy, a telling joke of Freud's. On the other hand, its most compelling feature is the inexorable pull of its author's Jewish identity, which he ultimately finds "at the core" of just the mode of self-consciousness that he is exploring. The book as a whole makes a fine introduction to that voice, and to the "ancient tradition of moral writing" that integrates serious thinking with everyday contexts. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this refreshing book, Miller (Univ. of Michigan Law Sch.; The Mystery of Courage) considers the human propensity for fraudulence and the correlative fear of being found out. He makes us laugh as he describes trying to wing it in his class on property law or eyeing an attractive woman a few pews up during prayer, and he entertains us with stories of adults who overestimate their sexual prowess and children who find out that saying "please" doesn't buy them what they were told it would. In short, he finds us all engaged in fakery much of the time-knaves who deceive others and fools who deceive themselves. Self-deception implies a foolish self that can be tricked and a knavish self that does the tricking. Miller reads philosophers and knows that this idea is shaky, insisting that "at a minimum" there is a "point of consciousness from which I have thoughts that are felt to be mine and mine alone." But maybe the self is just Hume's "theater of the mind"; what fills it could be a self-construction. We seek recognition on the path Miller sees strewn with banana peels, but perhaps that's how souls are made. If so, this original book is suggesting a hopeful message. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.-Leslie Armour, Univ. of Ottawa (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Miller (Univ. of Michigan Law School) has produced a well-written and extensively annotated book on the practice of deception. He sees fakery everywhere--in the classroom, in business, in church, in friendships, in marriages and families. The book appears to be based largely on projection. Miller describes, for example, his own sense of being a fraud in the classroom, and his own feeling of faking it at prayer. He provides no scientific basis for his interpretation of others' motives. The authors academic background is in English and law (doctoral degrees, Yale), and he uses copious literary references and anecdotal accounts to bolster his rather bleak worldview. But he provides far fewer references to psychological research or any of the social sciences that might have provided some scientific validity for his observations. At a time when civility is on the decline in many human relationships, it seems hardly necessary to exaggerate that part of courtesy that is less than frankly honest. ^BSumming Up: Not recommended for academic collections in psychology. J. P. McKinney emeritus, Michigan State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
1 Introduction: Split in Twop. 1
2 Hypocrisy and Jesusp. 9
Ostentatious Almsp. 11
Motes and Beamsp. 13
Stoning Adulterersp. 14
Hypocrisy and Formalismp. 16
3 Antihypocrisy: Looking Bad in Order to Be Goodp. 20
Of Hairshirtsp. 20
Non-Self-Tormenting Virtue? Et in Arcadia Egop. 24
Putting Vanity to Good Usep. 26
4 Virtues Naturally Immune to Hypocrisyp. 31
Courage and Faking Itp. 31
Politenessp. 35
Self-Command: Sense, Sensibility, and Shallownessp. 42
5 Naked Truth: Hey, Wanna F***?p. 48
6 In Divine Services and Other Ritualized Performancesp. 58
Staying Focused during Prayerp. 61
The Amidahp. 68
Cynical Ceremonyp. 73
7 Say It Like You Mean It: Mandatory Faking and Apologyp. 77
Accidents versus Intentional Wrongsp. 78
Regret versus Remorsep. 81
Making Faking Hurtp. 83
Forgiveness and Punishmentp. 90
8 Flattery and Praisep. 96
Tainted Praisep. 98
In Small Praise of Flatteryp. 104
9 Hoist with His Own Petardp. 109
Talking to Hamletp. 110
Ironistsp. 115
Experience: Becoming What You Pretend to Bep. 118
10 The Self, the Double, and the Sense of Selfp. 121
Stripping Off the Layersp. 128
11 At the Core at Last: The Primordial Jewp. 132
A Bowdlerized Jewish Jokep. 132
The Jew at the Core of Christian Identityp. 135
12 Passing and Wishing You Were What You Are Notp. 141
An American Tragicomedyp. 143
Passingp. 148
13 Authentic Moments with the Beautiful and Sublime?p. 154
Phoniness by the Seap. 154
Anxious Expertsp. 158
Faking It in the Museump. 160
Postcards and Memoriesp. 161
14 The Alchemist: Role as Addictionp. 167
Elster's Alchemiesp. 167
The Canon's Yeomanp. 170
15 "I Love You": Taking a Bullet versus Biting Onep. 178
It's the Word "Love"p. 179
Winding the Clock Once a Monthp. 182
16 Boys Crying and Girls Playing Dumbp. 186
17 Acting Our Roles: Mimicry, Makeup, and Pillsp. 195
Diderot and Actorsp. 195
Pretending versus Faking Itp. 200
Making Up Is Hard to Do, or Masking for Itp. 202
Surgical Masksp. 207
18 False (Im)modestyp. 211
False Modestyp. 214
Self-Mockery and Frank Confessionsp. 216
19 Caught in the Actp. 220
Faking Sleepp. 221
Facing Those Who Know or You Fear Might Knowp. 224
Did You Know How Big You Blew It Back Then?p. 229
Afterwordp. 232
Notesp. 239
Works Citedp. 266
Indexp. 279