« Home | Analogy? » | T vs. Modernity » | Conquering the Qur'an » | Blast from the Past » | The Authority of Scripture » | Yet Another Reply » | A further response » | On the telly » | A Response to my Learned Colleague » | News »

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Here's a not-so-interesting question Jacob and I were discussing earlier tonight: does the word "lie" always include with its meaning the intention to deceive?

According to Merriam-Webster, it does not. "b: an untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker." Thus if I told someone it was raining outside and it wasn't, but I believed it to be raining outside, I would be lying.

I have to disagree with good ol' MW on this one. I think "lying" always means (or at least implies) intentional deceit. Someone who argues for untrue beliefs that they believe are true is not lying, but is just wrong. What they are telling is simply an untruth, not a lie.

I think the terms "lie," "lying," and "liar" get tossed around a lot more in political and religious discourse than they should be. They seem (even if MW disagrees with me) to always indicate a malicious, deceitful intent on the part of the other party which is not always actually there.


"Not-so-interesting"!? I daresay our readership demands yet more probing questions into the deepest recesses of etymology, theology, and anything else that might cross our minds!

I first noted this point in relation to Liar Liar, when the son of Jim Carrey’s character says to him, “But my teacher always says that real beauty is on the inside,” to which he responds, “That’s just something ugly people say.” It seems like there were other instances in which his unseemly beliefs accidentally came out because he couldn’t “lie”. After clarifying the distinction in my own mind I decided that I agreed with the writer’s interpretation, although previously I had thought about it more in terms of absolute truth. I agree with you guys that “malicious, deceitful intent” is usually indicated when one speaks of lies and that we should be aware of this when the term is used by or near us, regardless of what the MW definition states.

(first of all Jacob, you've got to get an updated profile picture. You look a little too angelic-choir-boy in this one. AND THE GAVEL, SERIOUSLY?)

I also disagree with MW. Lying is only lying when you intentionally speak something other than what you know/believe to be true.

Another form of "lie" would also be to "lie down." I don't think there's any grammatical confusion about that one.

For the record, I would differ with Andrew's opinion that "lies" (i.e., the noun form) cannot be told without the speaker's knowledge that he/she is speaking a falsehood. However, if someone "lies" (i.e., verb form), that certainly implies that the speaker had knowledge of the untruths they were saying.

For example, Job says that his friends whitewash with "lies," even though they certainly believed they were rebuking someone who needed to be rebuked.

I think it is important to note, for the sake of the morality issue in this discussion, that the 10 commandments forbid bearing "false witness" (Exodus 20:16 and Deuteronomy 5:20). This phrase seems to certainly involve the intent--if you were testifying falsely about something you had seen, you would have to be intentionally lying, right? There *might* be a deeper moral issue with intentionally deceiving someone (i.e., bearing false witness) than there would be about unintentionally deceiving someone (the rain example Andrew gives).

I say that there *might* be a deeper moral issue with one than with the other because of the warning James gives us: "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness." I doubt there are many teachers in the Church who purposefully teach falsehoods; I have no doubt that there are tons of teachers who unintentionally deceive people (I'm sure I have done it at times). Intentionally or not, though, James states plainly that any "lies" (my sense) that proceeds from the mouth of a teacher will be strictly judged.

Thank you for publicly airing your grievances with my favorite senior picture. :) And by the way, gavels are cool.

Well seeing as you're a senior AGAIN, I think it's time for a new photo shoot, don't you think?

Time for another gavel shoot, I guess.

Post a Comment