I see what you're getting at, and it is true that modifiers such as very, highly, and extremely can, in fact, serve as a kind of hedge and thus undermine their own intensification.
This is a matter of style and effect, and I believe Steven Pinker explained it well in his book The Sense of Style:
If I'm wondering who pilfered the petty cash, it's more reassuring to hear Not Jones; he's an honest man than Not Jones; he's a very honest man. The reason is that unmodified adjectives and nouns tend to be interpreted categorically: honest means "completely honest," or at least "completely honest in the way that matters here" (just as Jack drank the bottle of beer implies that he chugged down all of it, not just a sip or two). As soon as you add an intensifier, you're turning an all-or-none dichotomy into a graduated scale. True, you're trying to place your subject high on the scale - say, an 8.7 out of 10 - but it would have been better if the reader were not considering his relative degree of honesty in the first place.
So it's not so much that very can actually mean less intense, but it can shift a categorical (0% or 100%, in the language of your question) interpretation to a relative one, thus making (potentially) very honest seem less honest than honest.