Lies, damned lies, and statistics: An empirical investigation of the concept of lying

Adam J. Arico, Don Fallis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


There are many philosophical questions surrounding the notion of lying. Is it ever morally acceptable to lie? Can we acquire knowledge from people who might be lying to us? More fundamental, however, is the question of what, exactly, constitutes the concept of lying. According to one traditional definition, lying requires intending to deceive (Augustine. (1952). Lying (M. Muldowney, Trans.). In R. Deferrari (Ed.), Treatises on various subjects (pp. 53-120). New York, NY: Catholic University of America). More recently, Thomas Carson (2006. The definition of lying. Nous, 40, 284-306) has suggested that lying requires warranting the truth of what you do not believe. This paper examines these two prominent definitions and some cases that seem to pose problems for them. Importantly, theorists working on this topic fundamentally disagree about whether these problem cases are genuine instances of lying and, thus, serve as counterexamples to the definitions on offer. To settle these disputes, we elicited judgments about the proposed counterexamples from ordinary language users unfettered by theoretical bias. The data suggest that everyday speakers of English count bald-faced lies and proviso lies as lies. Thus, we claim that a new definition is needed to capture common usage. Finally, we offer some suggestions for further research on this topic and about the moral implications of our investigation into the concept of lying.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)790-816
Number of pages27
JournalPhilosophical Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Conceptual Analysis
  • Experimental Philosophy
  • Lying

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Applied Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Lies, damned lies, and statistics: An empirical investigation of the concept of lying'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this