Intentionalism and Bald-Faced Lies

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (2020)
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In Lying and Insincerity, Andreas Stokke argues that bald-faced lies are genuine lies, and that lies are always assertions. Since bald-faced lies seem not to be aimed at convincing addressees of their contents, Stokke concludes that assertions needn’t have this aim. This conflicts with a traditional version of intentionalism, originally due to Grice, on which asserting something is a matter of communicatively intending for one’s addressee to believe it. I argue that Stokke’s own account of bald-faced lies faces serious problems and give several responses on behalf of intentionalism. Some bald-faced lies are best understood as irrational attempts to deceive. Others are best understood as indirect speech acts of various kinds. Still, others are best understood as conventional speech acts, which differ from communicative acts like assertion in the ways that they must be embedded in social institutions or practices. An overarching theme of this essay is that we should not make theoretical decisions about how to classify speech acts by consulting ordinary usage.

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Daniel W. Harris
Hunter College (CUNY)


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