Deception and Related Concepts

Thomas L. Carson

in Lying and Deception

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199577415
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722813 | DOI:
Deception and Related Concepts

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Deception can be defined roughly as intentionally causing someone to have false beliefs, but this definition needs to be qualified to deal with certain cases, including the following. I intentionally cause you to believe statement X and X is false, but I neither believe that X is true nor believe that X is false. The chapter also discuss several other cases that may require modifications of this definition and formulate several revised versions of the definition; the chapter counts cases in which people intentionally cause others to persist in false beliefs as cases of deception. There are two main differences between lying and deception. First, unlike “lying,” “deception” implies success. An act must actually cause someone to have false beliefs in order to count as a case of deception. Intentional false statements need not succeed in deceiving others in order to count as lies. Second, although a lie must be a false statement, deception need not involve making a false statement; true statements can be deceptive, and many forms of deception do not involve making statements of any sort. Thus, many instances of deception do not constitute lying. The chapter also explains the relationship between deception and the notions of withholding information, concealing information, “keeping someone in the dark,” “spin,” and “half‐truths,” and the chapter analyzes the relationship between lying, deception, and bullshit. Harry Frankfurt, to the contrary, suggests bullshit does not require the intent to deceive and bullshit can constitute lying. The chapter also argues that Frankfurt's famous claim that bullshitters, qua bullshitters, are unlike liars in that they are unconcerned with the truth (unconcerned with knowing “how things are”) is mistaken. As Frankfurt claims that unconcern with the truth is the essence of bullshit, this shows that his analysis of bullshit is mistaken.

Keywords: deception; lying and deception; withholding information; concealing information; keeping in the dark; spin; half truths; James Mahon; bullshit; Harry Frankfurt

Chapter.  9510 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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