Define "lying".

Yesterday, I learned that my favorite cousin, “HANNAH”, had been admitted to the hospital for a serious condition. I wanted to visit her ASAP, something my worthless eyeballs makes more complicated than it was a few years ago. Not being an idiot, I did not wish to expose her to my three bio kids, all under eight years old and suffering from one version of the sniffles or another. Therefore I arranged for my stepdaughter to sit with them today while I found some other way there.

When I arrived at Hannah’s hospital room, she was happy to see me but wondered how I had gotten there, since I was clearly not with Cinderella the Rhymer. I asked if she wanted the truth or the official story, whereupon she smiled and said that I should just be myself. So I told her a series of tall tales that began with my riding to the hospital mounted on a stolen rhinoceros and culminated with my claiming I had to leave within minutes because I was being pursued by the Justice League for my complicity in the sinking of Núnenor. Hannah appeared to enjoy the ridiculous stories.

Also present while I was visiting with Hannah was another of our cousins, “STEVE”, a Pentecostal minister with whom I do not get along with in any way because we are incompatible species of asshole. (Hannah is not an asshole of any genus.)  at one point during the visit we were both chased out of Hannah’s room by her nurse. During this time, Steve opined to me that I should not have been telling lies to Hannah, as deceit is never justified. I thought about explaining to Steve that there had been no deceit involved, as Hannah had not been intended to believe any of my clearly impossible stories, only amused by them. I realized I was about to engage Steve in one-on-one conversation, something that is definitely my policy to avoid, so I shrugged and said something like “Whatever, dude.”

Which brings us to the thread question. I am not interested in discussing whether my behavior with Hannah was correct, as it clearly was and only a Pentecostal biblical literalist (another term for “asshole”) could think otherwise. Instead I would like to discuss the definition of lying. To wit: is a lie any untruthful statement, regardless of the knowledge and/or intention of the utterer? Is, rather, a lie only a statement that the speaker SHOULD know is untrue, whether or not they actually do, and whether or not they intend to deceive? Or is a lie a statement that the utterer intends to use to deceive, regardless of its truth or falsity?

I would say number three. In that sense, the tall tales I told Hannah to cheer her up we’re not lies because I had no intention of her believing them. It wouldn’t have mattered if she were so credulous as to believe I had actually stolen a rhino or pissed off Namor; only my intent matters. Contrariwise, I could have lied to her by telling her the literal truth about who had driven me by phrasing my response so she would not believe it.

Do the possibilities I listed above include your definition of lying, or do you prefer some alternative I left out?

Lying is speaking (what you believe to be) falsehood. Otherwise you are merely bullshitting. Deception is very general, of course.

ETA a possibly non-deceptive blatant bald-faced lie is, of course, still technically a lie.

Lying is the deliberate act of attempting to convince someone of a falsehood.

What Skald describes in the second paragraph is not lying, because it does not constitute an attempt to convince Hannah of falsehoods; it is understood the stories are meant solely as entertainment. It is no more a lie than when a novelist writes a story.

If the scenario in paragraph five were to arise whereby a person was so weirdly credulous that they believed a story to be true, that is not lying, as it clearly was not the intent of the storyteller to do that and a person’s delusion is hardly the storyteller’s fault.

I agree that no one would brand a novelist a liar; it was a technical point. We must distinguish lying from merely “uttering a false statement” without regard to context, otherwise the result is absurd (I would be a liar for trying to explain certain syllogisms, for example). So I take my comment back. Note that Kant, Aristotle, et al. proposed that one cannot ethically lie, so that should give some hint of what it means.

For a statement to be a lie two conditions must be satisfied; the statement must be objectively false, and the person making the statement must intend to deceive the person to whom it is made.

It’s possible that I might intend to deceive someone (and might actually deceive someone) by making carefully selected true statements. Usually this involves omitting other equally true statements so as to create a misleading impression. For example, I might tell you that the UK and France declared war on Germany in 1939 (true) while refraining from making other true statements that I could have made about the events leading up to that, with the aim of leading you to think (falsely) that German was the victim of agression in that war. In that example I would not have told a lie, though I would be guilty of an attempt to deceive you.

There’s a grey area where I make a statement that I can plausibly defend as objectively true, but which I hope you will understand in a way which would make it objectively false. The truth or falsity of “I did not have sex with that woman!” depends on what one thinks having sex involves.

Story telling is not lying.

Steve may be on the autism spectrum. It’s been my experience that people on the high functioning end often still have a great deal of trouble differentiating between telling a lie and telling a good story (or telling a story well). In their world, there is no grey area, all is black or white. And the purpose of communication is to convey information.

I have a friend - one of my all time favorite people - who sees it this way. When she tells a story she repeats the details perfectly as they happened, and when somebody else tells it, she’s a stickler for them being properly noted. She will interrupt constantly and bicker over specifics. If I can’t remember what year something happened, she will pull out her phone and try to find a corresponding news event to nail it down. Details that have no real bearing on the story whatsoever. I got together with her recently and was reminded of just how hard it is to laugh with her, because every story becomes a news report.

Or he may just be lower in IQ. People who are often fooled are sensitive about seeing it happen to others. And imagination, to those who have little or none of it, is an anxiety-producing thing to observe.

Whichever condition he might be in, if he grew up in a Pentecostal home, he was unlikely to have gotten proper help or diagnosis. He has probably always just looked around for easy, clear answers, and latched on to whoever might give them to him. Pentecostal Seminary fits the bill.

I agree with this definition. Fiction is rarely “lying”, as it’s usually told in a way that signals that it’s not true.

Yes, I would call that being disingenuous, or deceitful, but not telling lies.

Namor? Namor isn’t in the Justice League. Just what are you trying to pull, Buster?

If intent to deceive is necessary, then what about the saying “You made a liar out of me!” when one finds out they have been fed bad information?

An author is a liar with a keyboard. A propagandist (AKA lying sack-of-shit) shouts from a platform. A fool convinces themself their lies are real. Your mommy lies to you out of kindness. Over- or under-supplies of truthiness can kill.

IMHO many socio-politico-religious tracts can be filed under Humor, Fiction, or Mental Illness as they transcend lies.

A subject that has fascinated philosophers and religious nuts for millennia, if not longer :slight_smile:

  1. a lie is any untruthful statement, regardless
  2. a lie is a statement that the speaker SHOULD know is untrue
  3. a lie is a statement that the utterer intends to use to deceive

Should have been a survey dude!

I’ll leave out the examples, but:

A) In some theologies, what you do is of more importance than how you get there.
B) In some other theologies, how you get there is more important what the result is.
C) And in some other theologies, where you were aiming is more important, than what path you took or where you ended up.

Christianity as practiced is a mixture of those three, but generally places more emphasis on the aim than some other religious do.

Returning to the original question, missing is

  1. A lie is something that has the result of misinformation, regardless of if it was true or intended to deceive. (My type A lie).

And #2 is an unusual formulation, making a sin out of “should have known”, which, if it is a sin, is still not the sin called lying, unless it also happens to be factually incorrect, and you are using definition (A)

Having got that out of the way, when I listen to politicians talking, I often hear your “type 2” lie. Politicians lying by suggesting and allowing people to believe that they know what they are talking about, when they don’t. The lie is the bit where they pretend that their talking point has some objective reality.

It’s a saying and not literally true. What the speaker means is that, since they spread falsehoods, they will be presumed to have been lying when people find out the falsehoods are untrue. They will be branded a liar, even though they factually aren’t one.

(Obviously my interpretation and how I square that saying with the fact that people generally do not consider a false statement a lie if the person really believed it.)

Sorry. I meant Ulmo.

I also don’t think “should know that it’s untrue” is really part of the definition of lying. It’s more just a way to tell if someone is lying when you can’t be 100% sure.

There is a way to lie by avoiding knowing, though. It’s when you deliberately avoid knowing something you should know so that you can “honestly” claim you didn’t know. But inherent in that scheme is the deliberate intent to deceive. The misleading part is that you know people will expect you to know. If you deliberately try to be misleading, then you are lying.

But that doesn’t mean that you are lying, if you unintentionally didn’t know something everyone believe you should have known. It’s just that it may be much harder to prove, since the default will be that you knew. And, frankly, it may not be all that important to determine if you lied or were negligent. It may be a distinction without a difference.

Don’t be so sure that no one would brand a novelist a liar. When I was young and still being forced to attend Church of God in Christ services, I heard a sermon from a COGIC pastor who said that Christmas pageants were sinful because the children playing Joseph & Mary were lying by doing so.

IMO, people who try to flatten the definition of lying so that it includes: deliberate, malicious deceit, ‘white lies’, folklore, fiction, jokes and banter, are just idiots. That kind of all-or-nothing thinking is simply poisonous to any kind of reasonable discussion.

Lying is deliberate expressing something you know to be untrue for the purposes of deception.
[li]Avoiding the truth is not lying.[/li][li]Fiction for entertainment is not lying.[/li][li]Perpetuating a myth is not lying, though that’s a grey area.[/li][li]Unknowingly relating something that turns out to be untrue is not lying.[/li][/ul]And of course there are degrees of severity. Sometimes we lie to avoid trouble. Sometimes we lie to cause trouble.

A lie is a false statement that the speaker intends for the audience to understand as truthful in some way. There must be an intent to deceive, and usually an attempt to derive benefit from that deception.

Hijacking my own thread:

Are you actually doing what you mentioned in your signature? If I may ask, why? I realize there are languages in which the pronouns do not differentiate by gender and that communication is certainly possible in such a matrix, but I don’t see how replacing our current pronouns as you suggest would accomplish much. Can you explain?

Don’t mention vet feckless pennywhistle Kant to me again. I gaslighted the Dúnedain into getting themselves exterminated by Eru, and I’ll do it again.