Lying — what is it, truly?

AricoFallisPerhaps it’s not all that widely appreciated that many philosophers have serious problems with lying. For it seems that despite the rampant ubiquity of lying, there isn’t as yet a general agreement amongst philosophers as to exactly what it is. As the authors of a new paper in the journal Philosophical Psychology point out : “… a number of philosophers have proposed several different and incompatible definitions of lying.” Perhaps what’s needed is an empirical investigation into the concept of lying – and just such an undertaking has been undertaken by Dr. Adam J. Arico  and professor Don T. Fallis from the University of Arizona, US. It’s entitled:  ‘Lies, damned lies, and statistics: An empirical investigation of the concept of lying’. Their two-part experimental study involved the participation of more than 200 students from the university, who were exposed to vignette scenarios of truth and lies. Thus, the implications of bald-faced lies, proviso lies, straight-forward lies, and confused lies were examined. But, disappointingly perhaps for those who were expecting a new watertight definition, the study doesn’t go so far as to provide one – noting that further empirical studies are needed before that becomes, from a philosophical point of view, a reality.

Extras:

Some of the lies which were used in the study are available here.

Here’s Ricky (The Office) Gervais explaining the plot of his alternative-reality comedy film ‘The Invention of Lying’.

And here’s a sample of the result

Also don’t miss: The Truth Goggles from Dan Schultz (MIT)  Which will be available here (when it’s finished).