Lying and Deception: A Happy Marriage

Ishani Maitra, University of Michigan

Abstract: Traditionally, lying has been understood to involve an intention to deceive. There is a long history, going all the way back to Augustine, that characterizes lying this way. More recently, however, a series of examples have been proposed to show that lying involves no such intention. In response to these examples, theorists have largely moved away from the intent-to-deceive tradition. In this paper, I argue that this is a mistake, in part because it leaves us unable to explain some moral features of lying. I focus on two kinds of purported counter-example to the intent-to-deceive tradition, and make three claims about these disputed cases. First, I argue that much of the evidence offered to establish the absence of an intent-to-deceive in fact doesn’t show this at all. Second, I draw on a more deflationary account of intention to argue that in some of these disputed cases there is an intent-to-deceive after all. Third, I look at some contemporary characterizations of lying, and argue that they are committed to implausible conclusions unless they also tacitly appeal to an intent-to-deceive. Taken together, these three claims are enough to show that the purported counter-examples ultimately pose no challenge to the intent-to-deceive tradition. I draw some general conclusions from this discussion, both for lying and for other speech acts.