What is a lie?

I’m not sure if this is a GD a GQ or IMHO.

This was bought up a while ago in MPSIMS. Radio Shack has an intrusive policy of demanding your address before they ring you up. The question was whether or not it is O.K. to lie in this instance. The thread broken down when people started accusing other people of lying. How can you figure out when and if it is O.K. to lie if you’re not sure what consitutes a lie?

I contend that insisting my address is 123 Myndyr Beeswax St., Privacy ID is not a lie since this address is not meant to deceive.

Does a lie consist of knowingly making a statement that contradicts facts or must there be an intent to deceive? Can you “lie by omission” by not volunteering information. Are sarcastic people liars by definition?

Quote from

Collegiate Online dictonary
Main Entry: 3lie
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): lied; ly·ing /'lI-i[ng]/
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English lEogan; akin to Old High German liogan to lie, Old Church Slavonic lugati Date: before 12th century intransitive senses
1 : to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive
2 : to create a false or misleading impression

transitive senses : to bring about by telling lies <lied his way out of trouble> synonyms LIE, PREVARICATE, EQUIVOCATE, PALTER, FIB mean to tell an untruth. LIE is the blunt term, imputing dishonesty <lied about where he had been>. PREVARICATE softens the bluntness of LIE by implyingquibbling or confusing the issue <during the hearings the witness did his best to prevaricate>. EQUIVOCATE implies using words having more than one sense so as to seem to say one thing but intend another <equivocated endlessly in an attempt to mislead her inquisitors>.PALTER implies making unreliable statements of fact or intention or
insincere promises <a swindler paltering with his investors>.** FIB applies to a telling of a trivial untruth** <fibbed about the price of the new suit>.

I hope that might have helped answer the question… :smiley:

:I don’t think I’ve ever posted in GD before, so y’all be gentle: :slight_smile:

For me, Biggirl, the issue would be one of effect. I try to be the kind of person who lives so as to bring as much good into the world and as little bad as possible.

The reason Radio Shack asks for your address is so they can add you to their mailing list. Secondarily, these kinds of statistics are used to determine where to put new stores. These are important needs from Radio Shack’s perspective, but from my perspective as a Radio Shack customer, I don’t want more junk mail and I have ample access to as many Radio Shacks as I can stand.

Let us assume for the moment that “I’m sorry, I’d rather not tell you that” doesn’t settle the issue. I would likely make up a post office box address. They’re easy to make up on the fly, because it’s usually just a string of 4 or 5 numbers and a zip code. :slight_smile:

I personally just answer like abc or 12345 for everything on those types of things. I don’t consider it a lie either unless its an actual fake address.:slight_smile:

This is also my first post in the GD :slight_smile:

From way back when I took a criminal law class in high school, the legal definition of a lie was “the propagation of information that you know to be misleading or not true, either through commission or omission”.

So that’s the definition that we had legally, and even though technically giving them a false address would be a lie, I’m also not convinced that it’s wrong. In this day and age of everyone selling your address to everyone else so they can intrude more into your personal life, don’t we have the right to protect ourselves?

This reminds me of a philosophy called situational ethics. For instance, suppose there was someone who had broken into your home with a gun and was intent on killing your family members. Let’s also assume for argument’s sake that your whole family is hiding in a closet, and you are out in the family room at gun point. The gun wielding invader asks you “Where is the rest of your family?” Now at this point you can certainly say “In the closet.”, at which point you would not be guilty of lying or you could insist that they weren’t there. Telling him that they aren’t there is definately a lie, but in this situation it is a good thing, something IMO that is moral and right.

Although the radio shack situation is a far cry from the illustration above, I think the illustration shows us that lying is not always a bad thing. It really does depend on the situation. :slight_smile: So IMO, telling radio shack a different address to protect yourself from harassment isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

You can also say that your phone number is 555-1212.

Regarding the OP, those who think that statements of untruth that are made without an intent to deceive may have a difficult time with jokes, humor or even fiction.

Arg. I meant those who believe that intentional false statements that are made without an intent to deceive are lies may have a difficult time with jokes, humor or even fiction.

Lying 101:

If (a) the question you are being asked is not an appropriate question and (b) it’s more disruptive to explain point (a) than to just lie, then it’s OK to lie.

It’s nothing to be proud of, but I think I’ve nailed the basic principles behind how it works in practice.

Complications usually involve disputes over the appropriateness of the question. Ties to be broken by wildly vacillating consensus among your peers.


flowbark, thanks for framing the question more eloquently than I ever could.

The problem that I see with messageboards is that it is harder for the people you are communicating with to tell if a stated untruth was meant to deceive. I have seen it happen where Poster A makes a statement, Poster B calls Poster A a liar. Poster A comes back with “I was kidding.”

Or, as in the Radio Shack example, if the cashier excepts the “Myndr Beezwax” address without question and you don’t explain the pun --are you now a liar?
Is the lack of intent to deceive all that is needed to ablsove you even if it is clear that the other person was deceived? Is “I’m not a liar, your just stupid” a valid defense?

Some comedian (might have been Letterman) had a great bit about the check-out process at Radio Shack: “What? My address?? - No, see, the way it works is: I give you the money, you give me the batteries. Relationship over. I don’t need to be your friend.”

Regarding lies: I’m unsure of the technicality under debate here. A lie is a false statement. Context and intent determine “if it is O.K.” - Which would mean sarcastic people are, by definition, lying. But they’re not trying to deceive anyone.

A lie is anything that requires belief.

Note: It may be impossible to completely fool an honest person.

A lie is any false statement, regardless of intent? Even if the person didn’t know the statement was false? If a statement made is meant to mislead, even if the statement was later proven to be true, the person doing the misleading is still lying.

Certainly intent has something to do with whether or not a statement is a lie.

So if one of my girlfriends asks me, “Do these pants make my ass look big?” am I supposed to tell her the truth and say yes if they really do make her ass look big? Of course not. I’m going to lie and say NO and try to persuade her to buy something else. If I told her the truth she’d be hurt and then I’d feel bad for hurting her so I think it’s better to lie in a situation like this.

Now, if my AA sponser asks me how many beers I drank last night and I really had 10 but I tell him I didn’t have any… that’s lying because I’m trying to deceive him and get away with something I shouldn’t have done.

Everyone has lied at one time or another… it doesn’t matter if it was a little white lie or a great big whoppin’ lie… everybody lies. It’s the people who can’t distinguish between the truth and a lie that really have problems.

Agreed. That’s what I meant by: “Context and intent determine ‘if it is O.K.’” I think the definition necessarily implies the liar is aware of the truth, and omitting or distorting it for some reason. Of course, there are many legitimate and wholesome reasons for wanting to do so.

As for attempting to mislead by saying something truthful, while not aware of the veracity of the statement at the time . . . That sounds like it would match definition 2 as posted by strawberriesandcream: to create a false or misleading impression. It would seem the liar in this instance is guilty of a lie because deception was the intent, which means the truth of which the liar was aware was not actually the truth.

In other words, if you say what you believe to be false, you are lying, whether or not what you believe to be false actually is false.

[sub]Whew. Is any of this still making sense?[/sub]

A lie, to me, means a deliberate creation of a knowingly false answer in response to genuine inquiry.

And it is never OK to lie, IMO. If you are having a bad hair day, and ask me how you look, I will say, “OK, but your hair is a little messed up.”
ARL’s Rule No1: If you don’t want to know, don’t ask.
ARL’s Rule No2: If you are about to do something which you would later, in reasonably foreseeable circumstances, have to lie about, don’t do it.

I suppose my definition lacks a clause for jokes. Consider it placed as “…with intent to have this false information be assumed as true.”

O.K., but what about the “I didn’t mean for you to take me seriously, but you did. I’m not a liar --your stupid” defense?

Ah, the crux of the matter. I would think the specific example offered falls into the “sarcasm” category; and wouldn’t consider it a lie. Maybe the Radio Shack clerk noticed, but didn’t appreciate the humor, and decided to just let it pass. :: shrug ::

I’ve been in similar situations where a sarcastic comment of mine was taken literally. I’m usually in the middle of trying to figure out how best to rephrase so that the misunderstanding is resolved when some other member of the conversation pipes up with, “You idiot, he didn’t mean it literally!”

If we’re going to attach blame to lies, we need to consider advantage. If a store demands our address, we decline. If we lose out on a sale because of it, we reserve the right to disinform them to protect our interests (not pursue them), since we did not want to give them a clear advantage (by mailing advertisements) or voluntarily become an unjust exception. If such a scenario really existed, the store would be in the wrong, and we would merely be correcting or discouraging it.

If someone puts a gun to your head to force a confession, you disinform, because to tell the truth would be to become part of their crime (enable it) and to surrender advantage, which would be a self-deception if you told them what they didn’t deserve to hear (you extended them trust for no good reason).

Again, lying has little to do with information (a supply-side object), which is problematic beyond words (what is “the” truth anyway?). It is all about requiring or demanding belief, so the liar is usually the person demanding that the “truth” be told unjustly–ie, demanding to be lied to because we don’t trust them with the truth.

Bill Clinton became party to dishonesty the moment he agreed to answer private questions, yes or no. He could not trust us because we did not trust him. We both became liars, but we were first, and our lie was to self-righteously force him to lie to protect himself. We made no social contract to protect his job if he told the truth, it was a trap.

Demand-side lying excludes intent, mistakes, jokes, and self-defense situations. Intent is a sticky word. We only intend something to happen by the outcome, and someone’s intent cannot be measured before the fact and subliminal drives confuse the entire issue. Liars usually deceive others with intent to deceive, no question, but who really fooled the fool but themselves? Who had the best intentions in a fake deal to sell political influence, for instance–the liar of the lied to?

The old addage applies: One cannot demand trust, one earns it, and it is freely given, for better or worse. We may be lied to, but we can’t reserve the right to blame the other side, any liar can do that as well.

Back a West Point they drilled in the idea that a lie was characterized by the intent to deceive, whether by commission or ommission. If I made a false statement without intent to deceive, it was not a lie so long as I clarified the matter at my earliest opportunity.

I have never found the need to find another definition.

I do not agree that it is always unethical to lie, but I think the imperative to honesty can only be overridden when the forseeable consequences to the truth are severely unjust (the Nazis at the door exemption).

I think the proper response to the Radio Shack situation is to shop elsewhere.