[FOM] FOM: Noble Lies

John Corcoran corcoran at buffalo.edu
Sat Dec 10 15:21:11 EST 2005

Some of our esteemed colleagues whose mathematics is impeccable do not
seem as well-versed in speech ethics. They might have misunderstood the
nature of the lie. A lie is a speech-act, not merely a sentence or a
proposition. A lie is a statement of a proposition that is not a belief
of the speaker. Speakers who state their false beliefs are not lying.
And speakers who state true propositions that they do not believe are
lying--regardless of whether the non-belief is disbelief. Persons who
state propositions on which they have no opinion are lying as much as
those who state propositions they believe to be false. Not every lie is
a statement of a false proposition--some lies are true and some have no
truth-value. If memory serves, most or all of these points have been
made before by the logicians W. V. Quine and J. S. Ullian in their
fascinating monograph THE WEB OF BELIEF, New York, Random House 1970.


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