Immoral lies and partial beliefs

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 65 (1):117-127 (2022)
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In a recent article, Krauss (2017) raises some fundamental questions concerning (i) what the desiderata of a definition of lying are, and (ii) how definitions of lying can account for partial beliefs. This paper aims to provide an adequate answer to both questions. Regarding (i), it shows that there can be a tension between two desiderata for a definition of lying: 'descriptive accuracy' (meeting intuitions about our ordinary concept of lying), and 'moral import' (meeting intuitions about what is wrong with lying), vindicating the primacy of the former desideratum. Regarding (ii), it shows that Krauss' proposed 'worse-off requirement' meets neither of these desiderata, whereas the 'comparative insincerity condition' (Marsili 2014) can meet both. The conclusion is that lies are assertions that the speaker takes to be more likely to be false than true, and their distinctive blameworthiness is a function of the extent to which they violate a sincerity norm.

Author's Profile

Neri Marsili
Universidad Nacional de EducaciĆ³n a Distancia


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