The definition of lying and deception have too many deceptions around them!

Diogenes searching for an honest man
Knowing the opposite definition of truth is essential as a seeker of the truth.

It now seems that the words “deception,” “lying,” and “liar” are not good words for me to use because there is too much deception around there definitions. 

Ok! Today Mary and I disagreed about when we can call something a lie and when we can call someone a liar. 

She countered that someone who unintentionally tells an untruth was not a liar. (Notice I took the word “liar” down to the less harsh word “untruth.”) 

I liked the shock value of the word. “LIAR”! Guess I will have to stop that as a result of my research.

Well! To prove her wrong, I went to the dictionary. There to my dismay, she was right.

The standard definition of a lie is: “A statement madeby one who does not believe it2 with the intention that someone, else4 shall be led to believe it3.” 

Wow! I immediately thought these definitions opened a big can of worms and wondered which deceiver was in charge of that definition?

The standard definition of a lie requires four conditions for it to be defined as a lie.

  1. A person makes a statement. (I can think of numerous ways to lie without making a statement. What if I just nod my head? Hum!)
  2. The person believes the statement to be false. That is, lying requires that the statement be untruthful. (Does that mean: If I haven’t taken the time to research the subject and just repeat someone else’s lie, then I’m not lying because I believe it’s the truth?)
  3. That the person intended the other person to believe the untruthful statement to be true. (So white lies such as harmless or trivial lies, especially ones told to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or just trying to be polite, are Ok?)
  4. The untruthful statement is made to another person. (What if I tell my dog a lie and know Mary will hear the lie I’m telling my dog? I didn’t make the statement to another person!)

. So I had to do a bit more research. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a good resource. Here I found an article with dozens and dozens of pages of the definition of lying and deception. Not for mere mortal consumption. I read it over anyway, and here are some interesting things I found.

“There is no universally accepted definition of lying to others.” “Wow!” Says John to himself. We were arguing about something with very complex definitions. No wonder our “simplistic” answers were causing us trouble. We didn’t know there were multiple schools of thought on the word “deception.” Now for a huge mouthful. There are two positions on deception. 

  1. Deceptionism: Intention to deceive is necessary for lying.
  2. Non-Deceptionism: Intention to deceive is unnecessary for lying.

OH! But it gets better. Deceptionism is divided into:

  • Simple Deceptionists: hold that lying requires the making of an untruthful statement with the intention to deceive
  • Complex Deceptionists: hold that lying requires the making of an untruthful assertion with the intention to deceive by means of a breach of trust or faith
  • Moral Deceptionists: hold that lying requires the making of an untruthful statement with the intention to deceive, as well as the violation of a moral right of another or the moral wronging of another.

But on top of that, the Non-Deceptionism position holds two positions on this:

  • Simple Non-Deceptionists: who hold that the making of an untruthful statement is sufficient for lying, 
  • Complex Non-Deceptionists: who hold that a further condition, in addition to making an untruthful statement, is required for lying. But:
    • Some hold that lying requires warranting the truth of what is stated.
    • Others hold that lying requires the making of an untruthful assertion.

Well! This little part of the article muddles my brain. In the first few sentences, Mary rolls her eyes and, in her mind, flies off  to “What should I cook for supper?” Read the long article for yourself if you want. Here is the link. If any of the above makes any sense to you. You can even try using their definitions to see if they are trying to deceive you with their article. 

Anyway, interesting reading for my personality type, but my rule is simple. If the definitions are too complex, Run! 

I concluded that the word to use is deceiving. That’s unless I am deceived. 

Conclusion: I’m sticking with the simple definition that works for me. 


To make someone believe something that is not true. 

This means we are responsible for perpetuating a lie even if don't:

  • Do intentionally
  • Do it consciously
  • Lie (The best deceivers are the ones who don’t lie.)
  • Don't know it is untrue