Second Thoughts About Bluffing

Business Ethics Quarterly 3 (4):317-341 (1993)
It is common for people to misstate their bargaining positions during business negotiations. This paper will focus on cases of the following sort: I am selling a house and tell a prospective buyer that $90,000 is absolutely the lowest price that I will accept, when I know that I would be willing to accept as little as $80, 000 for the house. This is a lie according to standard definitions of lying-it is a deliberate false statement which is intended to deceive others. I will defend the following two theses:a. Appearances to the contrary, this kind of bluffing typically does not constitute lying. (I will argue that standard dictionary definitions of lying are untenable and defend an alternative definition hinted at, but never clearly formulated by, W. D. Ross. On my definition, deliberate false statements about one's negotiating position would rarely constitute lies in this society.)b. It is usually permissible to misstate one's bargaining position when one has good reason to think that one's negotiating partner is doing the same and it is usually impermissible to misstate one's negotiating bargaining if one does not have good reason to think that the other party is misstating her position
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