Thursday, March 4, 2010

What's a lie? (redux)

There seems to be a constellation of things that are lie-like and people may or may not view them as lies. There seems to be three elements of a traditional lie: deception, saying something the sayer believes false, and an element that is viewed as worthy of condemnation. If a speech act has at minimum any two of these elements, there is a chance it may be construed a lie.

Consider this scenario where someone says something he doesn't believe for the sake of hurting someone else but he does so without trying to deceive the person (or anyone else). If Bob gets angry at his wife Jean and tells her "You're a fat!" out of spite, even though neither he nor Jean thinks of Jean as fat, then has he lied? He said something he doesn't believe true and his act may be generally considered condemnable but it's not deceptive. We can think of other examples with any two of the elements without the other. It seems that there may be many things that are lies but have only two, but any two combination, of the elements to be a lie while traditional lies have all three elements. Where to draw a line between those that have two elements that are lies and those that don't is contingent. I doubt there is anything that has just one of the elements that people will consider a lie but I could be wrong.

No comments:

Post a Comment