As previously mentioned, thinking about definitions (the way we should think of them) entails thinking about the necessary and sufficient conditions for whatever is at hand. Consider the standard definition of lying we are working with on Flipgrid:
A lie is a false statement uttered with the intent to deceive.
If this is right, then it necessarily excludes certain things that aren’t actually uttered (images, impersonations, etc.). This is problematic for many, considering many would look at things like a doctored image and say they were lies. This also means that the person uttering the lie must have the intent to deceive, so simply uttering a false statement wouldn’t constitute a lie (like many seem to think). It would also mean things like bald-face lies (lies that are uttered when the audience knows the utterance is false) wouldn’t be lies, either. It would also seem to exclude other things that some consider lies: exaggeration, bullshitting, and other things in between. These issues complicate matters for the standard definition of lying, suggesting that it may perhaps be too limited. This is not to say that the conditions can’t be parts of lies; no one will deny that a lie can be a false statement uttered with the intent to deceive, but many disagree that lies are only false statements uttered with the intent to deceive.
Consider the definitions we have so far:
Standard Definition: A false statement uttered with the intent to deceive.
Smith’s Definition: Any form of behavior the function of which is to provide others with false information or to deprive them of true information.
Harris’s Definition : When one intentionally misleads others when they expect honest communication.
Notice that Smith’s definition is incredibly inclusive–any form of behavior. As he mentions, this would include things like wearing makeup or deodorant. This is quite the departure from the standard definition considering how much it would include as a lie. This also isn’t as narrow as Harris’s definition, either. For Harris, the audience (or conversational partner, or interlocutor–whatever you’d like to call the recipient of a lie) must expect honest communication. This adds a contextual element to lying that neither the standard definition nor Smith give attention.
All three of these can’t be right. The key things to consider: What do these views have in common? Here are parts of the authors’ views so far:
Twain: Lying is necessary circumstance of life and, therefore, we ought to lie judiciously.
Smith: Lying is an evolutionary phenomenon.
Harris: Typical notions of why we should lie to others are misguided; we shouldn’t lie to others.
What do they necessarily entail if they are right, and what is problematic about this (if anything)? For instance, how should we think about the discussed versions of lying we have so far?
Silent lie (Twain): Where someone may believe something the speaker knows is false and the speaker does nothing to alter the belief (ex. Your mother saying, “Well I know you would never steal from church because you were raised better” when in fact you did and you said nothing to change your mother’s mind).
Lies of commission (Harris): Lying with conscious intent to gain something.
Lies of omission (Harris): Doing nothing to correct a false understanding that harms another or for self-benefit.
White Lies (Harris): Lies we tell at sparing others’ discomfort.