The morality of lying and deception may depend on the conditions under which these acts occur, and on their motives, purposes, and consequences. An approach to the morality of lying and deception may therefore be to consider whether there are circumstances that mitigate the prima facie moral wrongness of acts that are intended to mislead or deceive people1 (although the liar may in some cases know that he has no hope of misleading or deceiving people, and he may in such cases merely hope to subvert the notion of truth).
The morality of lying may also depend on whether lying as an act of self-interest is able to reconcile itself with the interests of others. Another approach to the morality of lying may therefore be to consider whether the liar’s motives are predominantly egoistic or altruistic, and whether the act of lying produces harmony or disharmony between the liar’s self-interest and the interests of others.
According to deontological theory, lying is morally wrong if the liar has a duty or obligation to be truthful. Lying is not necessarily morally wrong if the liar does not have a duty or obligation to be truthful. The obligation to be truthful may apply to all, most, or only some situations.
According to consequentialist theory, lies that have harmful consequences may be judged as more morally wrong than lies that are harmless (if lies can be harmless). If lying has only good (or more good than bad) consequences in some cases, then it may be good (or more good than bad) in those cases. If it has only bad (or more bad than good) consequences in some cases, then it may be bad (or more bad than good) in those cases. If it has only bad (or more bad than good) consequences in all cases, then it is always bad (or more bad than good).
According to utilitarian theory, lying is good if it promotes a greater total amount of happiness (or the sum of the happiness experienced by the liar and the unhappiness experienced by his/her victims) than telling the truth. Lying is also good if it promotes a greater total amount of happiness for a greater number of people than telling the truth. The moral quality of lying is determined by the degree to which it promotes the greatest amount of pleasure or happiness for the greatest number of people.
According to pragmatic theory, lying is bad if it is unsuitable for the circumstances in which it occurs or if it hinders adaptation to the demands of experience. However, lying may in some cases be considered suitable for immediate circumstances and yet be unsuitable for less immediate or more distant circumstances. The supposed immediate or direct advantages of lying must be carefully weighed against the possible long-term or indirect disadvantages of lying. For the liar, the act of lying may initially seem to have desirable consequences and yet may later have undesirable consequences. According to pragmatic theory, if lying about one aspect of personal experience prevents the liar from getting into satisfactory relation with other aspects of personal experience, then this must also be considered in determining the moral value of lying.
A lie may be described as a statement that misrepresents, conceals, distorts, or suppresses the truth, and that is usually made for the purpose of deceiving someone. The act of lying is usually an act of intentionally trying to deceive someone by making a false statement or misrepresenting, concealing, or distorting the truth.
According to this description, a lie does not necessarily have to be a successful act of deception in order to be called a lie. Even if a liar knows that his act of lying will not deceive anyone, his act may still constitute an endorsement of falsity or an attempt to subvert the notion of truth.
The nature of the moral responsibility that a liar must bear for telling a lie may partly depend on whether, prior to telling that lie, he was aware, or should have been aware, of the possible consequences of telling that lie. The nature of his moral responsibility may also depend on whether he lied impulsively or deliberately. If he lied impulsively, then before he lied he may not have had sufficient opportunity to reflect on the possible consequences, and he may not have been as aware of the possible consequences as he would have been if he had lied deliberately.
A liar is a person who intentionally makes false statements, usually for the purpose of misleading or deceiving others. A liar may be a person who knowingly tells mistruths in order to deceive others into having false impressions of things. A liar may be fully aware that his statements or actions are false and deceptive, but he makes those statements or performs those actions because he has some purpose that can be fulfilled (or he perceives some advantage to be gained) by misleading or deceiving others. He may at the same time lie to himself about the nature and extent of his own lying.
A hypocrite may be described as a person who pretends to have qualities or virtues that he does not actually have or who pretends to have beliefs, attitudes, and principles to which he does not actually subscribe or remain faithful. A hypocrite may also in some cases be a liar. He may lie to himself as well as to others about the nature of his beliefs, attitudes, principles, values, and conduct. Hypocrisy may be a form of self-deception.
However, it may sometimes be difficult to know when one is lying to oneself and when one is being hypocritical. Hypocrisy may often be accompanied by reluctance or unwillingness to determine whether one's actions are consistent with the values and principles that one has pledged oneself to uphold.
A person may in some cases deceive herself about whether she is lying. A person may not think of herself as a liar when in fact she is a liar. A person who does not initially intend to lie about something may, for a variety of reasons, still lie about that thing. On the other hand, a person who initially intends to lie about something may find that, for some reason, her beliefs or principles prevent her from lying about that thing.
A person who makes an unintentionally false statement may in some cases be perceived as a liar, even though she did not intend to deceive anyone. A person who is perceived as having some motive or reason for lying may be perceived as a liar, even though she may actually be telling the truth. A person whose nonverbal behavior arouses suspicion or mistrust may also be perceived as a liar, even though she may actually be telling the truth.
A person who thinks that, and acts as if, he is telling the whole truth about something may not actually know the whole truth about that thing, and thus he may be viewed as an untrustworthy and unreliable source of information by those who are aware of his incomplete knowledge of that thing. If he is actually aware that he does not know the whole truth and yet claims to know the whole truth, then he may be trying to deceive others about the extent of his knowledge, and he may in fact be lying. If it is not possible for a person to know the whole truth about something, then it might be mistaken for him to pretend that he knows the whole truth about that thing if he intends to mislead or deceive others into having false beliefs about that thing. Those who are aware of his incomplete knowledge of the truth may perceive him as a charlatan, confabulator, prevaricator, or liar.
There may in some cases be degrees of truth and falsehood about things. Statements that are true in most cases may not be true in all cases. Some statements may, for the most part, be true, while others may, for the most part, be false. There may also in some cases be half-truths about things, and half-lies about things.
A habitual liar may not always know whether the statements that he is making are actually true or false. Thus, he may accidentally tell the truth. Telling the truth may be intentional or unintentional, deliberate or accidental.
It may be argued that the rightness or wrongness of making a true or false statement about something may depend on the particular situation. If telling the truth in a particular situation is harmful to another person, then it may not necessarily be good to tell the truth in that situation.
In some cases, it may be morally wrong to tell the truth (for example, if telling the truth is harmful to another person). In some cases, lying may be excusable or morally justifiable (for example, if lying can protect another person from harm). If there is no value in telling the truth in a particular situation, then it may perhaps not be morally wrong to tell a lie in that situation (if telling a lie is not intrinsically wrong, or wrong regardless of the particular situation in which it occurs).
An "innocent lie" is a lie that is perceived to be harmless or that has innocent motives. Telling a lie may in some cases be perceived as excusable if the liar has good intentions and unselfish motives, and if he is morally justified in not being completely forthcoming about the truth.
People may sometimes put a "spin" on the truth (present the truth in a particular light or context) in order to meet their own needs and purposes. People may also try to put a "sugar coating" on the truth in order to make it more palatable and easier to accept. Trying to improve the appearance or presentation of the truth may be relatively honest or dishonest, depending on the motives of whoever is performing this act, and depending on whether it is intentionally deceptive.
There may be many ways of telling the truth. The truth may be told tactfully or tactlessly, discreetly or indiscreetly, gently or harshly, delicately or bluntly, sensitively or insensitively.
Telling the truth may be intrinsically good in some situations, and telling a lie may be intrinsically bad in some situations. However, telling the truth may not be intrinsically good in all situations, and telling a lie may not be intrinsically bad in all situations. For example, telling the truth may not be intrinsically good (or may lack intrinsic value) if it is harmful to people. On the other hand, lying may be intrinsically bad for, or harmful to, the moral integrity of the person who is lying, unless it is intended to promote, or has the effect of promoting, the well-being of others or promotes the development of other (positive) aspects of that person's moral character. The act of telling the truth may reaffirm, reinforce, and protect the moral integrity of the person who is telling the truth, and it may thus in many cases be intrinsically good.
The act of telling the truth or telling a lie may often be motivated by self-interest. A person may be motivated to tell the truth or to tell a lie by what he presumes to be his own best interests. Sometimes these interests may in fact be his best interests, but sometimes they may be merely selfish or self-centered interests. The moral dimensions of telling the truth or lying may thus be partly determined by whether this motive of self-interest is in harmony with the interests of others. Lying as an act of self-interest may in some cases be morally justifiable if it is in harmony with the interests of others.
This approach to the morality of lying and deception may also be compatible with the principle that in order to attain our own happiness, we must bring happiness to others. In order to prevent our own pain or suffering, we must prevent pain or suffering in others. If those whom we love or care for are unhappy, then we cannot be truly happy. The principle that "If we do not want others to lie to us, then we should not lie to them" may also be important if we are to find harmony or balance between our own self-interest and the interests of others.
Common forms of lying include
- providing false information on an employment application
- providing false information in order to obtain a license or passport
- providing false information in order to gain compensation for unemployment
- providing false information in order to gain government funding for a research or development project
- providing false information on an insurance application
- providing false information about one's level of professional knowledge or expertise
- providing false information about one's educational background or about the academic degrees that one has received
- providing false information about one’s previous professional or technical training
- providing false information about one's military background
- providing false information about one's financial income or salary
- providing false information about the value of one's financial assets or property.
Other common forms of lying include
- providing false information in a financial report
- providing false testimony in a legal proceeding
- providing false information about the terms of a contract
- providing false information about the nature or extent of extent of services that have been rendered
- providing false information about a commercial product or item of merchandise
- providing false information about an item of property
- providing false information about damage to property
- providing false information about the nature and extent of a personal injury
- providing false information about the nature and cause of an accident
- providing false information about the personal or professional activities of another person
- making false accusations
- making false excuses
- making false promises
- making a false confession
- making a false admission of guilt.
More specific examples of lying include cases in which
- a person who is addicted to drugs denies being addicted to drugs
- a person who has a criminal record denies that he has a criminal record
- a government official who knows in great detail about the operation of a public agency denies that she has any knowledge of the operation of that agency
- a person who knew of illegal activity by the department of which he was in charge denies that he knew of any illegal activity by that department
- a politician who has no intention of supporting a particular change in public policy makes a promise during his election campaign that he will support that change in public policy
- a person who forgot to attend an important meeting says that she was never informed of the date or time of the meeting
- a person who has never made a payment on an overdue charge account says that he was never aware of the status of that account
- a person who is caught stealing money from a trust fund says that her withdrawal of money from the account was an inadvertent error and that she intended to redeposit the money in the account.
It may often be difficult to tell a person that she is lying without making her feel ashamed or angry. If she believes that she is actually telling the truth, then the accusation that she is lying may be considered by her to be an unjustified attack on her truthfulness and integrity. If she in fact knows that she is lying, then the accusation may make her feel guilty, ashamed, or angry that she has been discovered.
If a person is found to be lying, then her subsequent statements may lose their credibility. Even if she subsequently tells the truth, she may still be perceived as a liar. Thus, a person who has been found to be lying may have to take various steps to restore her credibility. She may have to make statements that can be easily verified as truthful, and the truthfulness of these statements may have to be recognized by others before she can regain her credibility.
A moral prohibition against lying may be enforced by the liar's having to suffer embarrassment and humiliation if her act of lying is discovered. If a liar is discovered by others to be lying, then she may have to face unpleasant consequences, such as humiliation, shame, guilt, and disgrace. She may have to exercise some skill and ingenuity in order to avoid the unpleasant consequences of being exposed as false and deceitful.
A liar may not always know how much of his falsehood is accepted as truth by his intended victim. He may in some cases have to test his victim's credulity in order to determine how to proceed with the act of deception. In some cases, he may have to exercise great care and caution in the testing of his intended victim's credulity in order not to arouse suspicion. In other cases, he may not care whether all of his statements or actions deceive his intended victim. The degree of carefulness and caution that is necessary in order to mislead or deceive a person may depend not only on how capable and motivated that person is to discover falsehood or deceit, but also on how capable and motivated the liar or deceiver is to successfully mislead or deceive that person.
A person who is exposed as a liar and who is therefore compelled to admit, deny, make amends for, or make light of his own dishonesty may claim that there were extenuating circumstances that accounted for his lack of forthrightness and straightforwardness. In order to mitigate any sense of guilt or culpability, he may claim that he was to some extent forced into the act of lying. The truth or falsity of this claim may to some extent determine his culpability for having been false and deceitful.
A person who is exposed as a liar may also claim that his act of lying was merely a reconstruction or reinterpretation of the truth. He may try to justify his deceitfulness and dishonesty by denying that there is any difference between truth and falsehood.
A liar may sometimes believe that the truth can be changed, adjusted, or rearranged in order to meet the needs of the particular situation, and he may feel that truthfulness is the same as expediency. He may in some cases argue that objective facts do not exist, and that facts can be changed to conform to whatever statements he desires to make about them.
He may also try to justify his deceitfulness by using the argument that his victim was not ready or willing to listen to the truth. He may knowingly use the fallacious argument that the truthfulness of a statement is defined by the degree to which the statement pleases or satisfies people. He may try to justify his dishonesty by arguing that the truthfulness of a statement is defined by the degree to which the statement makes people happy or easier to deal with.
However, people may also sometimes ask for and expect to be told the truth when they do not actually want to know or be told the truth. Even when people accept the existence of an obligation to be truthful in their dealings with others, they may take this obligation as an excuse to be manipulative, tactless, insensitive, cruel, and selfish.
Some kinds of lying may be seen as socially acceptable, while other kinds may be seen as socially unacceptable. Thus, the refusal to participate in socially acceptable kinds of lying may be an act of nonconformity to social norms. This act may have selfish or unselfish motives. It may be an act of conscience or lack of conscience, depending on the morality of the particular kind of lying.
Albert Camus's L'Étranger (The Stranger, 1942) provides an example of how the refusal to participate in socially acceptable forms of lying may be an act of distancing oneself from social norms and expressing one’s personal alienation from society. The protagonist of the novel, Meursault, refuses to comply with social norms that require him to lie about his lack of feeling, emotion, or personal commitment. His motives for refusing to lie about his lack of personal commitment are selfish and not altruistic. He believes that conventional expressions of emotion are merely pretenses that are used as means of reassuring ourselves that our lives have meaning.
A liar usually intends for his victim to have a false impression about something. He intends to create an illusion in his victim's mind about something that she does not know fully or completely. The victim may be relatively willing or unwilling to believe the liar's false statements, and she may be relatively suspicious or unsuspicious of the liar's pretenses of sincerity and honesty.
The victim of a liar may or may not be motivated to detect the liar's deceitfulness. She may in some cases find that it is to her advantage to believe the liar's statements, even though those statements may not be completely plausible or consistent. She may in some cases willingly submit to being manipulated, even though she may be aware that the liar is not acting in a completely forthright and straightforward manner.
She may in some cases collaborate with the liar by refusing to take any steps to differentiate truth from falsehood. On the other hand, she may sometimes be able to detect the liar's insincerity and dishonesty, and she may also be able to deceive the liar into thinking that his act of deception has been successful, so that he can be called to account for his dishonesty and deceitfulness.
The victim may also feel a sense of anger, resentment, humiliation, or betrayal when she discovers that she has been deceived. She may, upon discovering the liar's deceitfulness, feel a need to retaliate or a need to reevaluate her own previous assumptions about the liar's honesty.
A person who discovers that she has been the victim of a liar may try to expose his dishonesty by publicly denouncing him, by calling attention to the possible motives for his deceitfulness, by demonstrating that his statements are inconsistent and self-contradictory, or by giving him an opportunity to engage in more acts of lying so that his dishonesty can be more openly exposed.
A person may in some cases feel a sense of uncertainty about whether someone is lying to her. This sense of uncertainty may lead her to doubt the truthfulness of any further statements made by the suspected liar. If she feels that she may be the intended victim of an act of deception, then she may become skeptical about the suspected liar's motives for making statements, and she may not be able to accept any of his statements at face-value.
The statements of a successful liar lack transparency in their expression of his motives and intentions. If his statements become transparent, then they no longer conceal his motives and intentions. Thus, he must maintain the non-transparency of his statements in order to successfully deceive his victim.
The truth or falsehood of some statements may not be capable of being verified by a particular person at a particular time in a particular situation. Verifiability regarding the truth or falsehood of statements may be one criterion of their trustworthiness and reliability.
The philosopher Alfred J. Ayer (1946) distinguishes between "strong" and "weak" verification, and between theoretical and practical verification. A statement may be "strongly" verifiable if its truth can be conclusively verified by experience, while a statement may be "weakly" verifiable if its truth can be rendered probable by experience. Statements that are verifiable in theory may or may not be verifiable in practice.2
The truth or falsehood of statements that are vague, unclear, or ambiguous may be incapable of being verified. The meaning of a statement must be sufficiently clear and intelligible if its truth or falsity is to be verified.
Liars may be skillful or unskillful, clever or inept, experienced or inexperienced, impulsive or deliberate, occasional or habitual, casual or professional. They may sometimes become truth-tellers, and truth-tellers may sometimes become liars.
Lying may take the form of misrepresentation, dissimulation, obfuscation, or equivocation. A liar may give evasive answers to questions, and he may refuse to provide direct answers to questions.
It may often be relatively easy to detect that a person is lying if he makes promises that he cannot possibly keep. It may also be relatively easy to detect that a person is lying if a particular event is known to have occurred and he claims that it never occurred. On the other hand, it may be very difficult for the intended victim of a liar to detect whether he is lying if she does not have sufficient familiarity with the subject about which he is attempting deceive her. It may also be very difficult for her to detect whether he is lying if he speaks in a foreign language and she is not completely fluent in that language.
A lie misrepresents the truth about something or breaks the rules of truthful representation of that thing. However, a lie may have to comply with its own set of epistemic rules if it is be a successful act of deception. The rules of misrepresentation may be as important to the liar as the rules of truthful representation are to the truth-teller. The rules may be constitutive as well as regulative of the act of misrepresentation.
If the act of lying is an act of misrepresenting the truth, then it cannot occur in the absence of truth. A liar may deny that a given statement is true, but he cannot logically deny the existence of truth and falsehood. It is not possible to tell a lie about something if there is no true statement that can be made about that thing.
A liar may view himself as playing a game of deception in which the goal of the game is not to get caught in the act of lying. Thus, he may have to comply with a given set of rules in order to win the game. If he is discovered to be lying, then he will lose the game. The rules of the game may be fixed or variable, specified or unspecified, definite or indefinite, strict or flexible, depending on whatever game he happens to be playing. He may in some cases have to respond to a change in the rules, or he may be able to invent a new set of rules while he is playing the game. The rules may also change if there is a change of players or a change in the setting of the game.
If the liar sees himself as playing a game in which the primary goal is to deceive his intended victim, than he may to some extent be able to devise his own set of rules for communicating with that intended victim. He may decide to play by a different set of (moral and linguistic) rules than the person to whom he is lying.
Liars may have many different motives for their acts of deception, including
- the desire to avoid or deny responsibility for their own actions
- the desire to reinforce or inflate their sense of self-esteem
- the desire to escape punishment or retribution for wrong actions
- the desire to avoid blame, ridicule, humiliation, or embarrassment
- the desire to protect themselves from criticism
- the desire to protect others from criticism
- the desire to create a positive impression of something
- the desire to create positive impressions of themselves (or of others).
Other motives that liars may have for their acts of deception include
- the need to relieve frustration for having failed to achieve success by honest methods
- the desire to experience the thrill of defying social norms of honesty and truthfulness
- the desire to discover how inventive they can be in devising means to “beat the system.”
Other motives that liars may have include
- the desire to provide themselves with a feeling of power and control
- the desire to persuade people to perform actions that they would not otherwise perform
- the desire to take advantage of other people’s trust and confidence in them.
Motives for making false accusations against a person may include
- the desire to gain power over that person
- the desire to express dislike or contempt for that person
- the desire to express anger or resentment toward that person
- the desire to ridicule or humiliate that person
- the desire to obtain compensation for some perceived injustice committed by that person
- the desire to obtain revenge against that person for some perceived wrong that he/she has committed
- the desire to obtain sympathy from others
- the desire to be recognized and comforted by others.
Motives for giving a false compliment to a person (a compliment that intentionally exaggerates, disguises, or conceals true feelings) include
- the desire to appear to be courteous toward that person
- the desire to perform an act of apparent civility, kindness, and respect in relation to that person
- the desire to express praise and admiration for that person
- the desire to ingratiate oneself with that person
- the desire to develop a closer relationship with that person
- the desire to lessen that person’s distrust or hostility
- the desire to perform an act of apparent propitiation and conciliation in relation to that person
- the desire to deceive that person in order to ridicule or humiliate him.
Motives for making a false excuse about something include
- the desire to conceal one’s true feelings of personal inadequacy
- the desire to avoid responsibility for having performed a particular action
- the desire to protect someone or something from criticism
- the desire to account for the deficiency or inadequacy of something
- the desire to justify one’s response or lack of response to a particular situation
- the desire to escape blame for a wrong action
- the desire to avoid feeling guilty for a wrong action.
Motives for making a false promise to do something include
- the desire to escape unwanted responsibility
- the desire to avoid unwanted commitment
- the desire to ingratiate oneself with another person
- the desire to be rewarded for conforming to another person’s expectations
- the desire to gain influence over another person.
Liars may sometimes be motivated by the thrill and excitement of being able to successfully deceive others, as well as by the excitement of trying to see how daring and provocative they can be without getting caught.
Lying may be intended to conceal, cover up, misrepresent, falsify, distort, or subvert the truth. Thus, it may be a subversive act. A liar may intend to subvert the notion of truth and to discredit the idea that propositions can be meaningfully described as true or false. He may also in some cases hope to subvert a coherent system of truths, so that the coherence of the system falls apart and can no longer be used as a guide to the truth or falsehood of statements.
Falsehood may in some cases replace a lost or missing truth. For example, a false sense of personal identity may replace a true sense of personal identity. A false sense of direction may replace a true sense of direction.
Falsehood may also be accepted as a substitute for an unattainable truth or reality. For example, a false sense of fulfillment may be taken as a substitute for a true sense of fulfillment. A false set of teeth may be used as a substitute for real teeth. A fake diamond ring may be chosen as a substitute for a real diamond ring. A forged copy of a painting by Van Gogh may be sold as a substitute for a real painting by Van Gogh.
Artificiality may represent a kind of falsehood. Artificiality may be described as a state or quality of being false, contrived, produced by human artifice, or lacking in naturalness and spontaneity.
Examples of artificiality include prostheses (artificial limbs, artificial joints, artificial heart valves, breast prostheses, eye prostheses, artificial lenses), implants (breast implants, penile implants, pacemakers, insulin pumps, or other prosthetic implants), wigs, toupees, cosmetics, artificial fingernails, artificial suntans, artificial fabrics (nylons, polyesters, acrylics, rayons), artificial fur, artificial leather, artificial jewelry, artificial food colorings, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, artificial plants, artificial grass or turf, artificial cigarettes, and artificial environments (for film or theater productions, museum exhibits, entertainment venues, submarines, or space vehicles).
Other examples of artificiality include artificial intelligence, virtual reality (simulated reality), computer simulations, artificial insemination, artificial respiration, artificial language, artificially high or low scoring, artificially high or low valuation, artificially-created demand or need, artificial gestures, artificial feelings, pretenses, artificial sentiments, artificial explanations, and artificial expressions of condolence, friendship, or affection.
The expression of artificial feelings may become a form of lying if it is intentionally deceptive with regard to the nature of true feelings. For example, the pretense or false show of concern and understanding may conceal a real lack of concern and understanding. An artificial expression (or false display) of happiness and satisfaction may conceal real unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
Lying may be apparent or concealed, overt or covert, random or systematic, episodic or habitual, premeditated or unpremeditated, impulsive or deliberate, reckless or circumspect, clever or inept, direct or indirect, malicious or altruistic, detectable or undetectable, convincing or unconvincing, successful or unsuccessful.
A skillful liar may be more adept than an unskillful liar at inspiring trust, confidence, and lack of suspicion in those to whom he is lying. He may be able to take advantage of the credulity of those to whom he is lying, and he may be more able to appear honest, trustworthy, and reliable than an unskillful liar. He may also be adept at acting as if he has no hidden motives that would cause people to question his truthfulness and veracity.
A great deal of skill may sometimes be required in order to be a successful liar, and a successful liar may sometimes have remarkable talents and abilities, such as shrewdness, cleverness, imagination, ingenuity, originality, resourcefulness, astuteness, adroitness, deftness, agility, boldness, daring, and audacity.
However, a successful liar may also have many undesirable traits, such as dishonesty, deviousness, infidelity, insincerity, irresponsibility, untrustworthiness, and unreliability.
The liar as hero is a subject of ancient Greek mythology, in which a liar may be portrayed as both a hero and a scoundrel. Odysseus, for example, is a hero of Greek mythology who is a skillful liar and deceiver. Among his acts of deception is his attempt to avoid serving in the Greek army as it is preparing for the Trojan War. He pretends to be insane in order to avoid being forced to leave his family, but his ruse is discovered by Palamedes, and he is forced to join the Greek army. After the Greek fleet is stranded at Aulis by a lack of favorable winds, the leaders of the Greek army decide that Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigenia must be sacrificed in order to propitiate the goddess Artemis, and Odysseus persuades Iphigenia’s mother, Clytemnestra, to send Iphigenia to Aulis, by telling her that Iphigenia will be offered in marriage to Achilles. Another of Odysseus’s acts of deception occurs at the end of the Trojan War. When the Trojan War has reached a stalemate, Odysseus devises the strategy of hiding a band of Greek soldiers inside a wooden horse. A huge wooden horse is constructed and is then abandoned outside the city of Troy as a supposed religious offering. When the Trojans find the horse and discover that the Greek fleet has apparently sailed away, they bring the horse inside the walls of Troy. The Greek soldiers who have been hiding inside the horse emerge that night and set fire to the city. Another of Odysseus’s acts of deception occurs during his journey home after the war. After the Trojans have been defeated, Odysseus travels home to his kingdom in Ithaca. Along the way, he and his soldiers stop in Sicily, and are captured by Polyphemus, the one-eyed son of Poseidon. When Polyphemus asks his name, Odysseus responds by saying, “Nobody.” Later, Odysseus and his soldiers escape from the cave of Polyphemus by clinging to the underbellies of a flock of sheep as Polyphemus releases the sheep from the cave. Odysseus also acts deceptively when he finally returns to his kingdom in Ithaca. He disguises himself as a beggar in order to deceive the suitors who have invaded his palace and who have besieged his faithful wife Penelope with their demands that she marry one of them. He defeats the suitors in a battle within the palace hall, and he is finally reunited with Penelope.
A skillful liar is often better at concealing his feelings than an unskillful liar. He may offer fewer behavioral cues to his act of lying than an unskillful liar. He is often better at telling lies in a convincing and persuasive manner than an unskillful liar.
A skillful liar may often be able to adapt and improvise according to the particular situation, and he may be able to adjust his behavior according to the circumstances. He may be able to adapt to new information that becomes available to him and to his intended victim, and he may be able to suppress any feelings of anxiety, guilt, pleasure, and delight that may be caused by his act of lying to, and successfully deceiving, his victim.
An unskillful liar may not be able to readily adapt and improvise according to the particular situation, and may be clumsy or awkward in responding to new and unexpected circumstances. He may also be unable to quickly discover how much his intended victim already knows or does not already know about whatever is being falsified, misrepresented, distorted, or concealed.
A successful liar may be able to identify subjects about which his intended victim does not have complete or adequate knowledge, and he may thus be able to escape detection by lying to his victim only about these subjects. He may also be able to escape detection by making seemingly plausible statements that are difficult to verify.
In Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago is a masterful liar and manipulator. He is an ensign in the Venetian army, who is angry about having been passed over for a promotion. Othello, the commander of the army, has promoted Cassio instead of Iago to the position of lieutenant. Iago is determined to take revenge against both Othello and Cassio. Thus, he skillfully deceives Othello into believing that Desdemona (Othello’s wife) is secretly in love with Cassio. Desdemona is in fact loyal and faithful to Othello, but Othello allows himself to be persuaded by Iago that she is in love with Cassio. Othello becomes distrustful of Desdemona, and he rashly agrees to Iago’s plan to kill Cassio. Rodrigo, who is a confederate of Iago’s, ambushes Cassio and wounds him, but Cassio escapes, and Iago kills Rodrigo so that the conspiracy against Cassio will not be revealed. Othello refuses to believe his wife’s protestations of innocence, and he kills her by smothering her as she lays in her bed. Iago’s wife, Emilia, is horrified by this tragic turn of events, and she reveals Iago’s deceitfulness to Othello. Iago stabs and kills Emilia, and is then arrested and taken away to be punished for his crime. Othello is tormented by guilt for having killed Desdemona. He stabs himself and dies, falling on the bed beside the body of his wife. The tragedy occurs partly because Othello is unaware of the duplicity and deceitfulness of Iago. He is by nature trusting and generous, but he allows his passions to overcome his power of reason. An important theme of the tragedy is the conflict between truth and falsehood, between honesty and deception, between innocence and guilt, and between loyalty and betrayal.
A skillful liar must be able to make accurate inferences about what his intended victim already knows or does not know about whatever is being misrepresented, distorted, or concealed, so that he will not make any statements to the victim that the victim already knows are false or inaccurate. If the liar makes statements to his intended victim that are already known by the victim to be false, then he may be forced to retract those statements or to find some excuse for having made them. He may be forced accept blame for having spoken falsely or may have to tell more lies in order to conceal the fact that he has been knowingly stating falsehoods.
A successful liar may be able to take advantage of the fact that people may not always feel the inclination or have the opportunity to ask a series of questions that would expose the inconsistency, contradictoriness, and implausibility of his statements to them.
The plausibility of the statements made by a liar may depend on whether they are consistent with known facts, whether they are verifiable, whether they are consistent with other statements made by him, whether they are in themselves consistent, whether they are specific enough to promote the impression of truthfulness, and whether they are expressed in a manner that inspires confidence in their trustworthiness and reliability.
A lie or mistruth may be simple or complex. A liar may need to have some ingenuity in order to tell a series of complex lies or to produce a coherent system of complex mistruths.
A lie or mistruth may be evident or non-evident. An evident lie is one that is apparent and unconcealed. A non-evident lie is one that is unapparent, hidden, or concealed. A non-evident lie may become evident if it becomes apparent and is no longer concealed.
An evident lie may be directly or indirectly evident. A lie may be directly (intuitively) evident if its falsehood does not require additional proof or demonstration, while it may be indirectly (demonstratively) evident if its falsehood is proved or demonstrated by additional evidence.
Some lies may be blatant or self-evident (self-evidently false and deceptive, without creating any need for the intended victim to conduct further investigation in order to determine that they are false).
Liars may also knowingly use fallacious arguments as methods of persuasion, representing them as valid arguments in order to deceive others. Such arguments include the appeal to ignorance, the appeal to consequences, the appeal to popularity, the appeal to authority, the appeal to false authority, and the appeal to force.
Liars may knowingly use fallacious arguments in order to change the subject of a discussion and in order to avoid having to present evidence for the truth of a statement. Examples of such arguments include the ad hominem argument, the argument of guilt by association, the circular argument, and the appeal to emotion.
Fallacious arguments may also take the form of unwarranted generalizations, false analogies, oversimplifications, and exaggerations. Such arguments may be ambiguous, misleading, inconsistent, or self-contradictory.
Habitual liars may fail to place any particular value on telling the truth or they may in some cases place more value on lying than telling the truth. They may have a disordered system of values in which lying has greater moral value than telling the truth. The act of lying may in some cases have to be decided on by weighing the relative values of lying versus telling the truth, but in cases in which it is impulsive, it may not require any weighing of its relative value (or of its consequences either).
Malicious lying may be associated with other malicious acts and other kinds of antisocial behavior. Malicious liars may engage in cheating, stealing, deliberate destruction of the property of others, cruelty to others, verbal harassment and intimidation of others, and physical aggression and violence against others. They may also fail to honor their personal commitments, fail to fulfill their financial obligations, fail to fulfill their professional responsibilities, fraudulently use aliases and false names, fraudulently use false addresses and false telephone numbers, and engage in other kinds of antisocial and criminal behavior.3
Malicious liars may have a disdain for the truth, and they may feel a personal sense of being unconstrained by moral norms. They may also demonstrate an attitude of selfishness or egoism in dealing with other people, as well as a lack of remorse for deceiving or hurting other people and a tendency to use or exploit people for personal gain.4
Dishonesty may be a background for the act of lying. A person may be a habitual liar because he is a basically dishonest person. The habit of lying may arise from a basic attitude of dishonesty. On the other hand, the act of lying may define the nature of a person’s dishonesty. A person may be perceived as dishonest because he is a liar.
Lying is not the only kind of dishonesty, however. Dereliction of duty (such as the duty to honor personal and professional commitments) is another kind of dishonesty. Other kinds of dishonesty include cheating, stealing, fraud, forgery, extortion, money laundering, hijacking, sabotage, and obstruction of justice.
A liar may be a masquerader, a person who wears a mask of honesty in order to conceal his dishonesty. He may be a skillful wearer of social masks and disguises. If his dishonesty is detected, then he may be unmasked. His successfulness in deceiving people may be partly determined by how convincingly he can wear a mask of sincerity and honesty. If he realizes that he has been discovered to be lying, then he may have to drop the mask and may have to decide whether he should stop lying or whether he should put on another mask.
A habitual liar is a person who tells lies as a matter of habit. A habitual liar has a tendency to tell lies, and this tendency may become a self-perpetuating mode of behavior. A habitual liar is experienced in the art of deception, and thus he may be less likely to fear being caught than a person who is not a habitual liar. He may have less difficulty in controlling his feelings and emotions than an impulsive liar. He may also be less likely to feel ashamed or guilty about lying than an impulsive liar.
It may be more difficult for a habitual liar to tell the truth than it is for a person who is used to telling the truth, insofar as a habitual liar may find it difficult to break his habit of lying. It may also be more difficult for a truthful person to tell a lie than it is for a habitual liar, insofar as a truthful person is more disposed (more conditioned and habituated) to telling the truth.
It may also be easier for a person to tell a lie if there is some motive or incentive for her to lie. The more motivated that a person is to tell a lie, the easier it may be for her to tell a lie. The greater the incentive there is for her to tell a lie, the easier it may be for her to tell a lie. On the other hand, it may be more difficult for a person to tell a lie if there is no incentive for her to lie or if there is some disincentive for, or deterrent to, her telling a lie. The greater the deterrent to her telling a lie, the more difficult it may be for her to tell a lie. Thus, it may be more difficult for a child to tell a lie to her mother if she knows that her mother will be disappointed or angry if she does not tell the truth. It may be easier for a student to pretend to have completed an assignment if he knows that otherwise he will not receive a passing grade for the assignment. It may be more difficult for a public official to admit that he accepted a bribe if he knows that an admission of guilt will be used as supporting evidence for a criminal indictment against him. It may be easier for the driver of a car to deny that he had any responsibility for causing an accident if he knows that he will lose his insurance policy if he admits that he could have driven more slowly in order to avoid the accident.
A person who instinctively tells lies may be a compulsive liar, or he may become a habitual liar. A compulsion to tell lies may lead to a habit of telling lies. A habitual liar may become so used to telling lies that it becomes difficult for him to recognize the difference between telling a lie and telling the truth. A compulsive or pathological liar may tell a lie even when there is nothing to be gained by lying, and even when better results might be obtained by telling the truth.
A person who is confabulating is not lying, insofar as confabulation is not an act of intentionally making false statements in order to mislead or deceive someone. Confabulation may be caused by a memory disorder in which a person tends to fill in memory gaps by replacing them with false memories that are experienced as true and real. Thus, a person who is confabulating may say that he experienced an event that never happened. He may unintentionally make false statements about past events due to a memory disorder that prevents him from distinguishing true memories from false memories.
Malingering and pretending to be ill or injured may be acts of lying about the true nature of one’s physical capacities. Malingerers may display intentionally false, contrived, or exaggerated physical or psychological symptoms in order to deceive others into performing actions that they would not otherwise perform. Malingering may be motivated by a desire to avoid work, by a desire to avoid compulsory activity, by a desire to avoid unwanted responsibilities or commitments, by a desire to obtain special privileges, by a desire to obtain financial compensation, by a desire to obtained controlled medications, by a desire to avoid civil or criminal prosecution, by a desire to obtain the attention and concern of others, or by a desire to satisfy other personal needs.
A false statement may be partly or completely false. Statements that are only partly true may become completely true. A false statement may conceal the truth, but it may also assert or imply a new mistruth. It may in fact be more convincing if it has an aura of truth. It may also be more convincing if it does not appear to be contrived or fabricated.
In some cases, truth and falsehood may be difficult to differentiate. There may be a “gray area” between truth and falsehood, and the difference between truth and falsehood may not be as clear as the difference between “black and white.” There may in some cases be some truth in falsehood, and falsehood in truth. There may also in some cases be a blurring of the boundary between truth and falsehood.
The so-called Liar Paradox represents a situation in which it may be difficult or impossible to distinguish truth from falsehood. The paradox characterizes statements that assert their own falsity, such as the statement, “I’m lying to you.” (If this statement is true, then it must be false, and if it is false, then it must be true.)
The Strengthened Liar Paradox, as described by the philosopher Bas van Fraassen, characterizes the statement, “What I’m saying to you isn’t true.” (The paradoxical nature of the statement is strengthened by the fact that it refers to itself as not true.)5 The Liar Paradox may also take many other forms, such as the conditional statement, “If what I said to you yesterday was true, then what I’m saying to you now is false.”
In some cases, a particular use (or misuse) of language may be intentionally or unintentionally deceptive. Unintentionally ambiguous statements by a person may conceal her true intentions. The unintentional misuse of language by a speaker or writer may be deceptive as to her true motives, ideas, intentions, or purposes. On the other hand, a given speaker or writer may intentionally make use of equivocation and ambiguity in order to suggest uncertain, vague, or indefinite areas of meaning. She may intentionally make use of equivocation and ambiguity in order to conceal the difference between truth and falsehood.
The detection of lies may to some degree require a type of semiology, or a study of true and false signs. This semiology may include a study of the meaning of true and false signs, a study of the rules that govern their signification, and a study of their actual purposes, uses, and effects.
True and false signs may be confused with each other if they mimic or resemble each other. The deceptiveness of a false sign may partly depend on how closely it resembles a true sign. The intention of a liar may be to produce false signs that resemble true signs. Thus, the task of a semiotics of lying and deception may be to distinguish false signs from true signs.
Lying may be a form of false and deceptive signification, in which a lie is a false signifier of a signified concept or idea. The successfulness of an act of lying may be determined, at least in part, by how effectively it disguises or conceals the truth of a signified concept or idea. The act of lying may involve a manipulation of linguistic and behavioral signs, so that false signs are substituted for true signs.
A false sign may mislead an observer as to the nature of truth or reality. A sign may be false if it falsely represents reality (if the sign is false in itself) or if it represents a false concept of reality (if the sign signifies a false concept). Thus, it may have a primary or secondary falsity. The falsity of a sign may be due to the falsity of the signifier or the signified.
The meaning of a sign is a property that must be interpreted by an observer. A false sign may lend itself to misinterpretation by an observer.
A system of signs may include signs that refer to each other. A false sign may falsely refer to other signs or it may not refer to any true signs.
A system of signs may require a code to unlock it and to specify its rules of signification. A code may be public or private, disclosed or undisclosed, broken or unbroken, articulated or unarticulated, decipherable or indecipherable.
A system of coded messages may in some cases be used in order to establish privacy or secrecy of communication. People may “speak in code” (communicate by coding their verbal messages) in order to avoid invasion of their privacy. They may also “speak in code” in order to avoid censorship, suppression of their capacity for free speech, or intimidation by those in power and authority.
People may also communicate by a verbal or nonverbal system of coding in order to disguise or conceal their true impressions, feelings, attitudes, and intentions. Thus, a liar may transmit coded messages (by facial expression, eye contact, tone of voice, or gesture) in order to conceal his deceitful intentions. The detection of a lie may require a decoding of the motives and purposes of the liar’s statements in order to discover their true signification.
A lie or mistruth may be communicated by a gesture (such as a nodding of one’s head to express agreement or disagreement), by a facial expression, by a particular tone of voice, or by other nonverbal and verbal methods. Liars may differ in their manner and mode of deception. There are as many ways to lie as there are to tell the truth.
Lying and deception may occur in relationships between women and men. Women and men may intentionally misrepresent or conceal their feelings about each other and may deceive each other. Women and men may deceive themselves about their own feelings, and they may falsely deny their own feelings about themselves and about each other.
Women and men may tell lies to each other about how they perceive each other. They may also tell lies to each other about how they perceive themselves, and about what they want and expect from each other. They may be false to themselves, as well as to each other.
Women and men may tell lies to each other about their marital status, their health status, their racial or ethnic background, their educational background, their family background, their religious background, their occupational history, their financial resources, the extent of their personal property, their sexual feelings, their sexual preferences, and their relationships with other woman and men.
Men and women may lie to each other in order to influence each other, in order to manipulate each other, in order to attract each other, in order to have power or control over each other, in order to get closer to each other, in order to take advantage of each other, and in order to distance themselves from each other.
False friendship may take the form of
- entering into a close personal relationship with someone in order to promote a selfish or malicious purpose
- engaging in a close personal relationship with someone in order to promote one’s own personal advantage or gain
- entering into a close personal relationship with someone in order to promote some dishonest or deceitful activity
- claiming to be a person’s friend but simultaneously trying to damage her reputation
- claiming to be a person’s friend but simultaneously trying to harm her interests or well-being
- claiming to be a person’s friend when she is socially popular but rejecting her when she becomes socially unpopular.
Slander and libel may take the form of intentionally false statements about a person or thing in order to expose that person or thing to ridicule or humiliation. A slander is a malicious, false, and defamatory statement about a person or thing, by means of speech rather than by means of writing, pictures, or other publication. A libel is a malicious, false, and defamatory statement about a person by means of writing, pictures, or other publication (other than spoken words or physical gestures). A defamatory statement is a false and malicious statement that attacks the good name and reputation of a person or thing.
Fraud is a kind of deception, dishonesty, breach of confidence, or abuse of a person’s trust. It is an intentional misrepresentation of the truth in order to gain an unfair and dishonest advantage over another person or thing, with resultant injury to that person or thing. To defraud a person is to deprive that person of something, by means of fraud.
Fraud as a legal concept includes actual fraud and constructive fraud.6 Actual (positive) fraud is an act of intentionally misrepresenting matters of fact in order to deprive a person of money, property, or other things to which that person is legally entitled. Constructive fraud is conduct involving breach of confidence, trust, or duty, which has the effect of an actual fraud but may not require that the accused party has knowingly made false statements about matters of fact.
Fraud as a legal concept also includes fraud in the factum and fraud in the inducement.7 Fraud in the factum is the intentional misrepresentation of an agreement by someone, causing the signer of the agreement to incur costs, risks, or obligations that were not represented to him/her as being included in that agreement.8 Fraud in the inducement is intentional misrepresentation of the facts upon which the signer of an agreement will base his decision on whether to sign the agreement, leading the signer to sign an agreement that he would not otherwise have signed.
The legal concept of fraud also includes intrinsic and extrinsic fraud. Intrinsic fraud is conduct that belongs directly to the actions being considered as the basis for charges of fraud. Extrinsic (collateral) fraud is conduct that may be collateral (or may contribute) to acts of fraud, such as concealing or destroying evidence, preventing a person from knowing about his/her legal rights, or preventing a person from having a fair opportunity to present evidence at a trial.9
The elements of a legal claim of fraud include an intentionally false representation of facts by a defendant, reliance by the plaintiff upon the defendant’s act of misrepresentation, and resultant damage to the plaintiff because of the defendant’s act of misrepresentation.10
There are many types of fraud, including investment fraud, insurance fraud, bank fraud, consumer fraud, corporate fraud, securities fraud, commodities fraud, credit card fraud, check fraud, copyright fraud, academic fraud, identity fraud, mortgage fraud, welfare fraud, social security fraud, election fraud, campaign financing fraud, bankruptcy fraud, payroll fraud, charity fraud, adoption fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, telephone fraud, telemarketing fraud, internet fraud, art fraud, action fraud, and other types of deceptive business practices.
Examples of investment fraud include
- lying by a stockbroker to his/her client about the risk of a particular investment
- unauthorized trading of securities (when a stockbroker buys or sells securities without a client’s permission)
- improper execution of trades by a stockbroker who does not follow his/her client’s instructions
- “churning” (excessive buying and selling of securities by a broker in order to generate higher commissions)
- insider trading
- market manipulation
- unsuitable investments by a broker who buys or sells securities that are unsuitable for his/her client’s objectives
- failure to disclose conflicts of interest involving a broker who has advised his/her clients to invest in firms with which the broker has an undisclosed financial relationship.
Insurance fraud may involve
- making a false claim about having sustained a personal injury in an accident
- making a false claim about damage to property
- knowingly providing false information about the cause of an accident
- exaggerating the extent of a personal injury in order to gain additional compensation
- exaggerating the extent to damage to property (or the cost of repairs to property) in order to gain additional compensation
- intentionally causing damage to property in order to file an insurance claim
- providing unnecessary services in order to collect insurance payments
- billing an insurance company for services that have not been performed.
Examples of bank fraud include
- check fraud (including check forgery, fraudulent alteration of checks, check counterfeiting, and check kiting)
- loan fraud
- mortgage fraud
- bankruptcy fraud
- money laundering
- tax evasion through the use of secret accounts
- fraudulent conveyance of money or property by a debtor in order to defraud creditors
- unauthorized or inappropriate investments by a bank investment broker
- unauthorized transfers of funds
- fraudulent fees for servicing accounts
- computer hacking in order to gain unauthorized access to client information or accounts.
Corporate fraud may occur when a corporation or one of its employees
- knowingly provides false financial reports
- knowingly provides reports that overstate revenues and assets
- knowingly provides reports that understate expenses and liabilities
- falsifies reports on sales and inventory
- knowingly overstates costs of materials
- overcharges for products or services
- falsifies expense reports
- falsifies productivity reports
- falsifies work records or attendance reports
- falsifies claims for bonuses or benefits
- falsifies payroll reports
- knowingly overstates costs on government contracts
- violates government regulations
- engages in illegal price-fixing
- engages in corporate mergers that are fraudulent or that are not in the interests of shareholders
- provides secret bonuses or secret loans to company executives
- provides or accepts illegal kickbacks
- engages in tax evasion
- engages in bribery or political corruption.
Examples of consumer fraud include
- promises by a service provider to perform services that the provider does not intend to perform or that the provider knows will not be informed
- lying by a service provider about whether services are necessary
- lying by a service provider about the nature or extent of services that are necessary to perform a particular task or function
- lying by a service provider about the price of a particular service or product
- lying by a service provider about the time spent performing a particular task or function
- billing clients for services that the provider knows are unnecessary
- intentionally causing damage to a client’s property in order to perform additional services that can be billed to the client
- lying by a service provider about the qualifications of the provider to perform a particular task or function
- lying by a service provider about the ability or qualifications of a competing provider to perform a similar task or function
- lying by a seller about the quantity or quality of a product that is being sold to the consumer
- intentional mislabeling of a product
- selling a product that the seller knows is ineffective, defective, damaged, or adulterated
- selling a poisonous, toxic, or dangerous product to the consumer, while intentionally concealing from the consumer the dangers of the product.
Examples of telemarketing fraud include
- fraudulent offers of prizes and sweepstake
- fraudulent offers of investment opportunities
- fraudulent offers of free or low-cost travel opportunities
- fraudulent offers of credit cards
- fraudulent solicitations for charitable contributions
- fraudulent billing for telephone services that have never been ordered or received by the consumer
- fraudulent switching of a consumer’s telephone service provider to another provider without the consumer’s permission (“slamming”).
Internet fraud may include
- identity theft
- impersonation of an authorized user of a system in order to gain access to restricted information on that system
- hacking into a system (accessing a system without authorization) in order to steal, falsify, or delete information on that system
- software piracy
- copyright fraud
- fraudulent advertising and marketing practices
- fraudulent sales of computer equipment or hardware
- fraudulent sales of internet access services
- fraudulent sales of merchandise
- fraudulent auctions
- fraudulent offers of business or career opportunities
- fraudulent loan offers
- fraudulent credit card offers
- fraudulent offers of prizes
- fraudulent offers of certificates or licenses
- fraudulent offers of diplomas
- fraudulent solicitations for contributions to charities.
Academic fraud may include
- cheating on exams (such as copying another person’s work, stealing notes from another person, using notes without permission during an exam, sharing notes without permission during an exam, obtaining exam questions prior to an exam without the instructor's permission, and providing exam questions or answers to other students prior to an exam without the instructor's permission)
- submission of work (such as essays, term papers, assignments, or reports) under the name of an author who has not actually written or completed that work
- purchases of work (such as essays, term papers, or reports) from other people or agencies in order to submit that work under one’s own name
- fabrication or falsification of data in a report
- false references in a report that identify sources of information from the which the information in the report was not actually or directly obtained
- intentional misrepresentation of a co-author’s contribution to a publication or report
- fraudulent inflation or deflation of student grades or evaluations
- fraudulent altering of test scores
- fraudulent awarding of credit to a student for passing an exam or completing a course of study when that student has not actually passed that exam or completed that course of study
- forgery or falsification of academic records or transcripts
- fraudulent purchasing or selling of diplomas
- lying about educational expenses
- lying about personal financial status in order to qualify for financial assistance and scholarships
- failure to disclose conflicts of interest in the conduct and publication of research
- misuse or misappropriation of research funds
- intentional misrepresentation of historical or scientific facts in a work that claims to be in accordance with principles of academic and scientific integrity
- intentional neglect of legal or ethical requirements in the conduct of academic and scientific research.
Examples of art fraud include
- check fraud (such as the writing of worthless checks in order to purchase works of art)
- insurance fraud (such as the filing of a fraudulent claim that a particular work of art has been stolen or that overstates the value of a particular work of art)
- investment fraud (such as fraudulent financial accounting by an art dealer, auctioneer, or museum)
- tax fraud (such as the overstating of the value of a particular work of art in order to gain a higher tax deduction when the artwork is donated to a museum)
- bank fraud (such as the overstating of the value of a particular artwork that is to be used as collateral for a loan)
- money laundering (such as the purchasing of art in order to launder dirty money)
- art dealer fraud (by dealers who deprive artists of profits from sales of artworks, who sell artworks that they are not entitled or authorized to sell, who knowingly buy or sell stolen works of art, or who knowingly sell fakes or forgeries)
- consignment fraud (by dealers who have accepted artworks on consignment and who do not pay previously agreed-upon amounts of money to an artist or collector of art when those artworks are sold)
- auction fraud (such as through illegal price-fixing).
Examples of fraud in the music and entertainment industry include
- fraudulent financial accounting by music recording companies
- fraudulent sales reports by music recording companies
- misrepresentation of sales revenues by music recording companies in order to deprive artists of royalties
- fraudulent recording contracts
- fraudulent promotional contracts
- plagiarism by musical artists or producers
- misrepresentation by musical artists of their contributions to recordings (concerning whether they actually performed, composed, or arranged the music)
- fraudulent sales of tickets to concerts
- fraudulent overcharging for concert tickets by ticket vendors
- copyright piracy.
Fraud in legal practice may take the form of
- lying to a client
- intentionally preventing a client from knowing about his/her legal rights
- intentionally preventing a client from having a fair opportunity to defend himself/herself at a trial
- intentionally overbilling a client
- intentionally disregarding a client’s instructions regarding the objectives of litigation
- assisting a client to commit fraud
- misappropriating a client’s funds
- failing to disclose conflicts of interest
- failing to disqualify oneself from a case in which one has a conflict of interest
- practicing law without a license
- intentionally filing false documents in an act of litigation
- knowingly making false accusations against a defendant
- manufacturing false evidence against a defendant
- fabricating evidence to exonerate a defendant.
Health care fraud may include fraud by providers and consumers. Fraud by health care providers may involve
- filing of false claims to insurers (such as filing of claims for services that were not performed, overstatement of the level of services that were performed, submission of false information concerning a patient’s diagnosis or severity of illness in order to justify tests or services that were not medically necessary, and fraudulent certification of medical necessity for procedures or equipment)
- fraudulent alteration of medical records
- fraudulent concealment of medical errors
- providing false information in an application for a medical license
- practicing medicine without a license
- providing fraudulent treatments to patients.
Fraud by health care consumers may include
- submission of false information to health care insurers
- fraudulent claims of medical disability in order to qualify for financial benefits
- fraudulent rewriting or forging of prescriptions
- attempts to obtain medications or treatment under false pretenses
- filing of claims for reimbursement of payment for services that were not received or paid for by the consumer.
Falsity is also an important concept with regard to other legal terms besides fraud, such as false arrest, false imprisonment, false pretenses, and false verdict. Lying may include such acts as taking a false oath, engaging in false swearing, and committing perjury.
False pretenses may be used in order to obtain money, property, information, special privileges, or access to restricted domains. False pretenses may also be used in order to make the acquaintance of a person, to gain the confidence of a person, to obtain the approval of a person, to establish intimacy with a person, to gain a person’s sympathy, to receive comfort from a person, or to attract a person’s attention.
False pretenses as a legal concept refers to the criminal act of obtaining title to property by means of making intentionally false statements, and it is thus distinguished from larceny by the fact that larceny involves stealing but not the taking of legal title to property.11
Lying and deception may be a mode of what the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1943) describes as “bad faith.” If people assume that they will act honestly and truthfully toward one another, then they also assume that they will act toward one another in good faith. Lying to others (or to oneself) may be an act of bad faith. Trying to escape moral responsibility for one’s own actions may also be an act of bad faith.
It may not be possible for a liar to deceive someone who has no faith in what he is saying. If he is trying to deceive someone who has no faith in what he is saying, then he must try to restore that faith by saying something truthful or by pretending to act in good faith.
Faith in the supposed truthfulness of a liar may in some cases be a senseless, pointless, or groundless faith. If the liar has already demonstrated his dishonesty and deceitfulness, then there may be no grounds for belief in his good faith.
The difference between the deceiver and the deceived may also be the difference between bad and good faith. Whether or not the act of lying is successful may be determined by whether belief (on the part of the victim) displaces disbelief, and whether bad faith (on the part of the liar) displaces good faith.
When people engage in conversation or dialogue, they may implicitly be entering into a social contract to be truthful. Engaging in lying may be a violation of a social contract to be truthful.
Lies (whose falsehood is intentional) should be distinguished from unintentionally false statements based on misperceptions, misunderstandings, misinterpretations, or delusions. While a person who is lying knows that what he is saying is (at least to some degree) false, a person who voices a delusion does not know that what he is saying is (at least to some degree) false.
A delusion may be described as a sustained, fixed, false belief that is peculiar to a particular individual and that is resistant to logical reasoning. It may also be described as a persistent, incontrovertible, false belief that is held despite obvious and irrefutable evidence of its falsehood.12 A delusional individual believes that his delusions are true reality.
By definition, a delusion is not a widely-held religious doctrine, nor is it a matter of religious faith. Furthermore, it is not a commonly shared belief or attitude. False beliefs are considered to be delusions only if they are fixed, sustained, resistant to reason, and idiosyncratic to the delusional person (not shared by other members of that person’s culture, subculture, or social background).13
A delusion is different from a hallucination, which is a sensory experience of something that does not exist in the real world. A hallucination may be a sensory perception for which there is no corresponding stimulus in the external world.
Lying may be a warping or distortion of the truth. It may be an attempt to twist, bend, or stretch the truth. It may also attempt to turn the truth outside in or inside out.
It may also attempt to marginalize the truth, so that falsehood is centralized in meaning. It may thus be a decentering or shifting of focus of the sphere or domain of truth.
Decentering may be used as a method of deconstructing the assumptions that underlie a particular view of truth or reality. Decentering may also be used as a method of destabilizing a structure of meanings, so that concepts regarding the nature of truth or reality no longer occupy a stable or stationary position in a sphere of meaning.14
Unintentionally false statements due to linguistic errors may take many forms, including simple or complex linguistic mistakes, slips, stumbles, blunders, misconstructions, misstatements, misquotations, and misrepresentations.
Other kinds of errors include conceptual, procedural, methodological, administrative, clerical, diagnostic, regulatory, scientific, statistical, logical, syntactic, semantic, translational, computational, mathematical, medical, legal, and judicial errors.
Errors may also be classified as involving modes of identification, detection, recognition, verification, classification, coding, copying, programming, signaling, design, memory, repetition, interpretation, and judgment.
The moral dimensions of unintentional errors may be defined by the extent to which steps are taken to prevent, detect, and correct them. If the consequences of errors are insignificant or harmless, then there may be less of a need to prevent, detect, and correct them. However, if the consequences of errors are potentially significant, then there may be a greater moral obligation to prevent, detect, and correct them.
An example of a situation in which there may be a moral obligation to correct or reduce the effect of an unintentionally false statement is the publication by a newspaper of a news report that is later found to be inaccurate. Another example is the publication by a scientific journal of a research study whose findings are later found to be flawed and inaccurate.
An illusion may be a false perception of something or a false belief in something. It may be a false impression of something that actually exists or a belief in something that does not actually exist. It may be a state of being deceived about something.
The illusion of reality produced by an artwork may sometimes cause an audience to believe that something imaginary depicted by the artwork is actually real. The characters or events depicted by a work of poetry, drama, or fiction may be imaginary, but the audience may be so emotionally moved by those characters or events that they are experienced as being real. The audience may to some extent and in some cases allow itself to be deceived by an artwork in order to experience the power, beauty, and sublimity of that artwork. The truthfulness of an artwork may reside not only in its faithfulness to the imagination of the artist and audience, but also in its faithfulness to true reality.
On the other hand, a successful storyteller or writer of fiction may, in a sense, be a good liar. A storyteller or novelist may engage in an honest form of deception in which his/her readers actually want to be deceived into believing and imagining that fictitious events are real. A novelist, poet, or playwright may produce a work of creative imagination that portrays fictitious scenes, characters, and events believably.
The art of deception may be used honestly or dishonestly. It may be used to promote good or bad purposes. Thus, the moral quality of deception may depend on its motives, methods, means, and ends.
The art of deception may be useful for (and may be used honestly by) storytellers, novelists, playwrights, actors, entertainers, theatrical set designers, film directors, visual effects artists, film animators, cinematographers, painters, sculptors, clowns, jesters, puppeteers, ventriloquists, card players, chess players, military strategists, users of camouflage, hunters, fugitives, magicians, conjurers, sorcerers, and wizards.
It may also be useful for (and may be used dishonestly by) liars, cowards, con-artists, thieves, swindlers, forgers, plagiarists, counterfeiters, spies, secret agents, saboteurs, traitors, terrorists, dictators, demagogues, charlatans, slanderers, impostors, impersonators, malicious pranksters, perpetrators of hoaxes, malicious computer hackers, unfaithful husbands and wives, and students who cheat on exams.
To be able to move deceptively and to have deceptive speed or agility may be an important skill for a competitive athlete, such as a hockey player, soccer player, football player, or basketball player. To be able to be deceptive with regard to the reason for a particular line of questioning during the course of an interview or interrogation may be an important skill for a prosecuting attorney, investigator, or police officer.
Deceptive appearances may cause people to have false expectations (expectations that are unfounded or based on misimpressions). For example, a “false face” may be mistaken for a “true face.” A false alarm may be mistaken for a true alarm. A false bottom (in the stock market, for example) may be mistaken for a true bottom. A false friend may be mistaken for a true friend. A fake diamond may be mistaken for a real diamond.
Falsity as a musical concept may take the form of false accent, false chord, false close (interrupted cadence), and deceptive cadence. Lip-syncing may be an intentionally deceptive act insofar as the performer pretends to sing the words of a song while the song is played on a recorded soundtrack.
The moral nature of truth and falsehood within a given sociocultural context may to some extent define the morality of discourse within that context. The morality of discourse may be defined by such factors as the participants’ willingness to communicate, their willingness to honestly share their thoughts and feelings, their responsiveness to one another’s statements, and their readiness to adapt and modify their thoughts and feelings in accordance with the needs of further communication.
Discourse ethics may be rules or principles of civility. They may include such principles as the obligation to be truthful, the obligation to be tactful and discreet, the obligation to be respectful and considerate of other people’s feelings, the obligation to listen to what other people wish to say, the obligation to allow people an opportunity to speak, the obligation to allow for a free exchange of thoughts and feelings, the obligation not to enforce the rules of discourse too rigidly or arbitrarily, and the obligation not to constrain, interrupt, or cut off discourse unnecessarily.
According to the philosopher Jürgen Habermas (1983), discourse ethics are a form of moral argumentation or decision-making in which norms of discourse, as well as the consequences of those norms, must be agreed upon by all participants. Normative agreement among all participants must be obtained if discourse is to become a conjoined effort to distinguish truth from falsehood.
The truthfulness and fidelity of social institutions may be determined by such factors as whether those institutions portray themselves accurately, whether they report their actions truthfully, whether they represent what they are intended to represent, and whether they perform the functions that they are intended to perform.
Manipulation of the truth by social institutions (for example, by news media, political parties, public or private corporations, and government agencies) may lead to a kind of socially defined mistruth or falsehood.
Lying by government officials may be used to cover up such problems as social injustice, political corruption, breaches of national security, failures to protect human rights, failures to protect public safety, failures to provide public services, conspiracy by public officials to subvert government institutions, and conspiracy by public officials to exceed their legal authority.
Lying or misrepresentation by the news media may take the form of intentional distortions, biased reporting, false reporting, failure to confirm the reliability of informational sources, failure to distinguish between conjecture and fact, failure to correct inaccurate or misleading reports, use of deceptive practices in order to obtain information, and failure to disclose potential conflicts of interest on the part of reporters and publishers.
Truthfulness may represent a kind of social responsibility. Other kinds of social responsibility may include fairness, honesty, integrity, considerateness, and cooperation. Social responsibility may be manifested by conduct that promotes justice, peace, and social harmony. Aims of socially responsible individuals, groups, or institutions may include the aim to promote full citizenship for all members of society, the aim to protect human rights, the aim to protect public health and safety, the aim to provide health care for all members of society, the aim to eliminate hunger and poverty, the aim to promote educational and economic opportunity for all members of society, the aim to promote peace, and the aim to protect and conserve the natural environment.
1William David Ross, The Right and the Good (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1930), p. 21.
2Alfred Jules Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic (New York: Dover Publications, 1952), pp. 36-7.
3American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Washington, D.C., 2000, pp. 702-6.
4Ibid., pp. 702-6.
5Bas C. van Fraassen, “Presupposition, implication and self-reference” in Journal of Philosophy (1968), 65: 136–52.
6James E. Clapp, Random House Webster’s Dictionary of the Law (New York: Random House, 2000), p. 193.
7Ibid., p. 193.
8Henry Campbell Black, Black’s Law Dictionary, Second Pocket Edition, edited by Bryan A. Garner (St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 2001), p. 293.
9Steven H. Gifis, Law Dictionary (Hauppauge: Barron’s Educational Series, 1996), p. 210.
10Henry Campbell Black, Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition (St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1990), p. 660.
11James E. Clapp, Random House Webster’s Dictionary of the Law (2000), p. 178.
12American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Washington D.C., 2000), p. 821.
14Ibid., p. 821-2.
14Jacques Derrida. “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences,” in Writing and Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), pp. 278-80.
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