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Summary

Saint Athanasius was rowing on a river when the pursuers – who did not recognize him – asked, ‘Where is the traitor Athanasius?’ ‘Not far away,’ the Saint replied and rowed past them.

This case is unanimously explained as a case in which the saint managed to avoid lying. Rather than lying, that is, Athanasius seems to have ‘merely’ misled the pursuers that he is not the traitor Athanasius. The case and the lying/misleading distinction also have a very interesting application on ethical debates on lying. 

According to the absolutist view on lying, lying is an offence against truth; hence, we may never lie. Kant, for example, famously writes that the demand not to violate the moral law is so strong that, even if a murderer knocks on my door looking to kill my friend who is in my house, it would be a crime to lie to him. Drawing a sharp and clear distinction between lying and other forms of deceitful speech (i.e., between lying and ‘merely’ misleading) appears to offer a way out of the requirement for absolute truth. Unlike lying, misleading and deceptive speech in general are not unqualifiedly wrong because they need not violate the fundamental principle that we must always be truthful: when I am being misleading, I tell you something true that causes you to infer something false from it.  

But where lies the distinction between lying and misleading speech? On the predominant view, to lie one must assert what one says. However, it has been recently argued that one can lie by presupposing false implication, or by implicating it, or by making false promises (see, the ‘Lying’ leaf). Even some experimental evidence supports some of these views (e.g., regarding lying by implicating). And, if one counts as lying by asserting a true proposition while implicating false information, then what one needs to do to be merely misleading in speech? Also, is it really true that lying is worse than mere misleading? 

These questions have received a notable attention recently and the debate is extremely interesting. 

Key works I think that it is too early to talk about key works but one should surely read Saul 2012, which can also be used as a nice introduction into the topic. Stokke 2018 is also a nice book. 
Introductions Saul 2012
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46 found
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  1. Lying by explaining: an experimental study.Grzegorz Gaszczyk & Aleksandra Krogulska - 2024 - Synthese 203 (3):1-27.
    The widely accepted view states that an intention to deceive is not necessary for lying. Proponents of this view, the so-called non-deceptionists, argue that lies are simply insincere assertions. We conducted three experimental studies with false explanations, the results of which put some pressure on non-deceptionist analyses. We present cases of explanations that one knows are false and compare them with analogical explanations that differ only in having a deceptive intention. The results show that lay people distinguish between such false (...)
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  2. La naturaleza de la mentira. [REVIEW]Jesús Navarro - 2024 - Análisis Filosófico 1.
    Ante la imposibilidad de alcanzar un análisis reductivo del concepto de mentira, Tobies Grimaltos y Sergi Rosell han propuesto una concepción basada en sus condiciones paradigmáticas, entre las que destaca la de engañar al oyente. La relación entre la mentira y el engaño sería, si bien fundamental para entender los casos prototípicos del concepto, meramente contingente —una tesis que tiene importantes implicaciones para su valoración moral—. Presento aquí su propuesta y avanzo tres objeciones a la misma: primero, que la teoría (...)
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  3. Lying versus misleading, with language and pictures: the adverbial account.Manuel García-Carpintero - 2023 - Linguistics and Philosophy 46 (3):509-532.
    We intuitively make a distinction between _lying_ and _misleading_. On the explanation of this phenomenon favored here—the _adverbial_ account—the distinction tracks whether the content and its truth-committing force are literally conveyed. On an alternative _commitment_ account, the difference between lying and misleading is predicated instead on the strength of assertoric commitment. One lies when one presents with full assertoric commitment what one believes to be false; one merely misleads when one presents it without full assertoric commitment, by merely hinting or (...)
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  4. The Wrong of Lying and the Good of Language: A Reply to “What’s the Good of Language?”.Brian Haas - 2023 - Ethics 133 (4):558-572.
    Sam Berstler has recently argued for a fairness-based moral difference between lying and misleading. According to Berstler, the liar, but not the misleader, unfairly free rides on the Lewisian conventions which ground public-language meaning. Although compelling, the pragmatic and metasemantic backdrop within which this moral reason is located allows for the generation of a vicious explanatory circle. Simply, this backdrop entails that no speaker has ever performed an assertion. As I argue, escaping the circle requires rejecting Berstler’s fairness-based reason against (...)
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  5. Group Assertions and Group Lies.Neri Marsili - 2023 - Topoi 42 (2):369-384.
    Groups, like individuals, can communicate. They can issue statements, make promises, give advice. Sometimes, in doing so, they lie and deceive. The goal of this paper is to offer a precise characterisation of what it means for a group to make an assertion and to lie. I begin by showing that Lackey’s influential account of group assertion is unable to distinguish assertions from other speech acts, explicit statements from implicatures, and lying from misleading. I propose an alternative view, according to (...)
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  6. Lying with Uninformative Speech Acts.Grzegorz Gaszczyk - 2022 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 52 (7):746-760.
    I propose an analysis of lying with uninformative speech acts. The orthodox view states that lying is restricted to assertions. However, the growing case for non-assertoric lies made by presuppositions or conventional implicatures challenges this orthodoxy. So far, the only presuppositions to have been considered as lies were informative presuppositions. In fact, uninformative lies were not discussed in the philosophical literature. However, limiting the possibility of lying to informative speech acts is too restrictive. Firstly, I show that standard, uninformative presuppositions (...)
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  7. Fictions that Purport to Tell the Truth.Neri Marsili - 2022 - Philosophical Quarterly 73 (2):509-531.
    Can fictions make genuine assertions about the actual world? Proponents of the ‘Assertion View’ answer the question affirmatively: they hold that authors can assert, by means of explicit statements that are part of the work of fiction, that something is actually the case in the real world. The ‘Nonassertion’ View firmly denies this possibility. In this paper, I defend a nuanced version of the Nonassertion View. I argue that even if fictions cannot assert, they can indirectly communicate that what is (...)
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  8. Saying, commitment, and the lying – misleading distinction.Neri Marsili & Guido Löhr - 2022 - Journal of Philosophy 119 (12):687-698.
    How can we capture the intuitive distinction between lying and misleading? According to a traditional view, the difference boils down to whether the speaker is saying (as opposed to implying) something that they believe to be false. This view is subject to known objections; to overcome them, an alternative view has emerged. For the alternative view, what matters is whether the speaker can consistently deny that they are committed to knowing the relevant proposition. We point out serious flaws for this (...)
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  9. What Is the Commitment in Lying.Jessica Pepp - 2022 - Journal of Philosophy 119 (12):673-686.
    Emanuel Viebahn accounts for the distinction between lying and misleading in terms of what the speaker commits to, rather than in terms of what the speaker says, as on traditional accounts. Although this alternative type of account is well motivated, I argue that Viebahn does not adequately explain the commitment involved in lying. He explains the commitment in lying in terms of a responsibility to justify one's knowledge of a proposition one has communicated, which is in turn elaborated in terms (...)
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  10. Lying, Misleading, and Fairness.Emanuel Viebahn - 2022 - Ethics 132 (3):736-751.
    Sam Berstler defends a general moral advantage for misleading over lying by arguing that liars, but not misleaders, act unfairly toward the other members of their linguistic community. This article spells out three difficulties for Berstler’s account. First, though Berstler aims to avoid an error theory, it is dubitable that her account fits with intuitions on the matter. Second, there are some lies that do not exhibit the unfairness Berstler identifies. Third, fairness is not the only morally relevant difference between (...)
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  11. Minimal contents, lying, and conventions of language.Massimiliano Vignolo - 2022 - Synthese 200 (2):1-25.
    One recurrent objection against minimalism is that minimal contents have no theoretical role. It has recently been argued that minimal contents serve to draw the distinction between lying and misleading. In Sect. 1 and Sect. 2 I summarise the main argument in support of that claim and contend that it is inconclusive. In Sect. 3 I discuss some cases of lying and some of misleading that raise difficulties for minimalism. In Sect. 4 I make a diagnosis of the failure of (...)
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  12. Is Lying Bound to Commitment? Empirically Investigating Deceptive Presuppositions, Implicatures, and Actions.Louisa M. Reins & Alex Wiegmann - 2021 - Cognitive Science 45 (2):e12936.
    Lying is an important moral phenomenon that most people are affected by on a daily basis—be it in personal relationships, in political debates, or in the form of fake news. Nevertheless, surprisingly little is known about what actually constitutes a lie. According to the traditional definition of lying, a person lies if they explicitly express something they believe to be false. Consequently, it is often assumed that people cannot lie by more indirectly communicating believed‐false claims, for instance by merely conversationally (...)
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  13. The Lying-Misleading Distinction: A Commitment-Based Approach.Emanuel Viebahn - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (6):289-319.
    The distinction between lying and mere misleading is commonly tied to the distinction between saying and conversationally implicating. Many definitions of lying are based on the idea that liars say something they believe to be false, while misleaders put forward a believed-false conversational implicature. The aim of this paper is to motivate, spell out, and defend an alternative approach, on which lying and misleading differ in terms of commitment: liars, but not misleaders, commit themselves to something they believe to be (...)
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  14. Can a question be a lie? An empirical investigation.Emanuel Viebahn, Alex Wiegmann, Neele Engelmann & Pascale Willemsen - 2021 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 8 (7).
    In several recent papers and a monograph, Andreas Stokke argues that questions can be misleading, but that they cannot be lies. The aim of this paper is to show that ordinary speakers disagree. We show that ordinary speakers judge certain kinds of insincere questions to be lies, namely questions carrying a believed-false presupposition the speaker intends to convey. These judgements are robust and remain so when the participants are given the possibility of classifying the utterances as misleading or as deceiving. (...)
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  15. Lying, Misleading, and Dishonesty.Alex Barber - 2020 - The Journal of Ethics 24 (2):141-164.
    An important moral category—dishonest speech—has been overlooked in theoretical ethics despite its importance in legal, political, and everyday social exchanges. Discussion in this area has instead been fixated on a binary debate over the contrast between lying and ‘merely misleading’. Some see lying as a distinctive wrong; others see it as morally equivalent to deliberately omitting relevant truths, falsely insinuating, or any other species of attempted verbal deception. Parties to this debate have missed the relevance to their disagreement of the (...)
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  16. Bending and Stretching the Definition of Lying.Martina Blečić - 2020 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 20 (2):247-256.
    One of the recent trends in dealing with the concept of lying has been to argue that the idea that one needs to deceive someone in order to lie has been accepted too hastily. In Lying and Insincerity Stokke shares this opinion and proposes a definition of lying based on the notion of common ground that includes bald-faced lies. Additionally, he rejects the idea that lying can be accomplished with pragmatic means such as conversational implicatures and proposes a formal distinction (...)
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  17. Strategies of Deception: Under‐Informativity, Uninformativity, and Lies—Misleading With Different Kinds of Implicature.Michael Franke, Giulio Dulcinati & Nausicaa Pouscoulous - 2020 - Topics in Cognitive Science 12 (2):583-607.
    Franke, Dulcinati and Pouscoulous also examine a form of covert lying, by considering to what extent speakers use implicatures to deceive their addressee. The participants in their online signaling game had to describe a card, which a virtual coplayer then had to select. When the goal was to deceive rather than help the coplayer, participants produced more false descriptions (overt lies), but also more uninformative descriptions (covert lies by means of an implicature). [73].
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  18. Lying, Misleading, and the Argument from Cultural Slopes.Lisa Herzog - 2020 - Res Publica 27 (1):77-93.
    This paper discusses a novel kind of argument for assessing the moral significance of acts of lying and misleading. It is based on considerations about valuable social norms that might be eroded by these actions, because these actions function as signals. Given that social norms can play an important role in supporting morality, individuals have a responsibility to preserve such norms and to prevent ‘cultural slopes’ that erode them. Depending on whether there are norms against lying, misleading, or both, and (...)
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  19. Truthful but Misleading: Advanced Linguistic Strategies for Lying Among Children.Chao Hu, Jinhao Huang, Qiandong Wang, Ethan Weare & Genyue Fu - 2020 - Frontiers in Psychology 11.
    We explored whether children could apply linguistic strategies for lying, i.e., manipulating linguistic content of speech to mislead others. We announced a knowledge-test entailing prizes in the classrooms of a primary school and a middle school. Altogether 79 Chinese children (6-18 years) voluntarily participated in the test: listening to a series of animal sounds before guessing the names of the animals. Meanwhile, behind the participants, a video was playing images that ostensibly corresponded to the sounds being played. In fact, this (...)
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  20. To lie or to mislead?Felix Https://Orcidorg Timmermann & Emanuel Https://Orcidorg Viebahn - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (5):1481-1501.
    The aim of this paper is to argue that lying differs from mere misleading in a way that can be morally relevant: liars commit themselves to something they believe to be false, while misleaders avoid such commitment, and this difference can make a moral difference. Even holding all else fixed, a lie can therefore be morally worse than a corresponding misleading utterance. But, we argue, there are also cases in which the difference in commitment makes lying morally better than misleading, (...)
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  21. What’s the Good of Language? On the Moral Distinction between Lying and Misleading.Sam Berstler - 2019 - Ethics 130 (1):5-31.
    I give a new argument for the moral difference between lying and misleading. First, following David Lewis, I hold that conventions of truthfulness and trust fix the meanings of our language. These conventions generate fair play obligations. Thus, to fail to conform to the conventions of truthfulness and trust is unfair. Second, I argue that the liar, but not the misleader, fails to conform to truthfulness. So the liar, but not the misleader, does something unfair. This account entails that bald-faced (...)
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  22. The Aesthetic Significance of the Lying-Misleading Distinction.Jessica Pepp - 2019 - British Journal of Aesthetics 59 (3):289-304.
    There is a clear intuitive difference between lying and attempting to mislead. Recent efforts to analyse this difference, and to define lying in ways that respect it, are motivated by the conviction that the difference is important or significant in some way. Traditionally, the importance of the lying-misleading distinction has been cashed out in moral terms, but this approach faces a number of challenges. The purpose of this paper is to suggest and develop a different way in which the lying-misleading (...)
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  23. Deceiving without answering.Peter van Elswyk - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1157-1173.
    Lying is standardly distinguished from misleading according to how a disbelieved proposition is conveyed. To lie, a speaker uses a sentence to say a proposition she does not believe. A speaker merely misleads by using a sentence to somehow convey but not say a disbelieved proposition. Front-and-center to the lying/misleading distinction is a conception of what-is-said by a sentence in a context. Stokke (2016, 2018) has recently argued that the standard account of lying/misleading is explanatorily inadequate unless paired with a (...)
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  24. Lying and History.Thomas Carson - 2018 - In Jörg Meibauer (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Lying. Oxford University Press. pp. 541-552.
    I begin by discussing views about the permissibility of lying by political leaders. Sections II and III address historically important lies and lies about history and the historical record. These two categories overlap - some lies about the historical record were historically important events. In section IV, I discuss the related notion of half-truths and give examples of misleading/deceptive half-truths about history. In the final section of this chapter, I briefly discuss the obligations of historians to give truthful accounts of (...)
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  25. Lying and Insincerity.Andreas Stokke - 2018 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    Andreas Stokke presents a comprehensive study of lying and insincere language use. He investigates how lying relates to other forms of insincerity and explores the kinds of attitudes that go with insincere uses of language. -/- Part I develops an account of insincerity as a linguistic phenomenon. Stokke provides a detailed theory of the distinction between lying and speaking insincerely, and accounts for the relationship between lying and deceiving. A novel framework of assertion underpins the analysis of various kinds of (...)
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  26. Conventional Wisdom Reconsidered.Laurence R. Horn - 2016 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 59 (2):145-162.
    Lepore and Stone seek to replace the rationality-based Gricean picture of coordination between speaker and hearer with one leaning more strongly on the roles of convention and speaker knowledge while doing away with conversational implicature. Focusing on the phenomena of indirect speech acts, asymmetric conjunction, and scalar inferencing, I argue that the case for abandoning implicature as an analytical tool is not ultimately compelling. I seek further to demonstrate the utility of the classical Gricean distinction between what is said and (...)
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  27. Lying, Misleading, and What is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics, written by Jennifer Mather Saul. [REVIEW]Eliot Michaelson - 2016 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (4):491-494.
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  28. Lying and Misleading in Discourse.Andreas Stokke - 2016 - Philosophical Review 125 (1):83-134.
    This essay argues that the distinction between lying and misleading while not lying is sensitive to discourse structure. It shows that whether an utterance is a lie or is merely misleading sometimes depends on the topic of conversation, represented by so-called questions under discussion. It argues that to mislead is to disrupt the pursuit of the goal of inquiry—that is, to discover how things are. Lying is seen as a special case requiring assertion of disbelieved information, where assertion is characterized (...)
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  29. Lying, misleading, and what is said: An exploration in philosophy of language and ethics by Jennifer Mather Saul.C. Brown - 2014 - Analysis 74 (1):179-180.
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  30. Lying, Misleading, and What Is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics, by Jennifer Mather Saul. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, xiii + 146 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-960368-8 hb £30.00. [REVIEW]Don Fallis - 2014 - European Journal of Philosophy 22 (S1):e17-e22.
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  31. Better lie!Clea F. Rees - 2014 - Analysis 74 (1):59-64.
    I argue that lying is generally morally better than mere deliberate misleading because the latter involves the exploitation of a greater trust and more seriously abuses our willingness to fulfil epistemic and moral obligations to others. Whereas the liar relies on our figuring out and accepting only what is asserted, the mere deliberate misleader depends on our actively inferring meaning beyond what is said in the form of conversational implicatures as well. When others’ epistemic and moral obligations are determined by (...)
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  32. Lying, Misleading & What Is Said.Jamie Whyte - 2014 - Philosophical Quarterly 64 (254):209-210.
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  33. Lying, Misleading, and What Is Said: an Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics, by Saul Jennifer Mather: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. xii + 146, £30.00. [REVIEW]Stuart Brock - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (4):831-832.
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  34. Jennifer Mather Saul , Lying, Misleading, and What Is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics . Reviewed by.Melissa MacAulay & Stainton - 2013 - Philosophy in Review 33 (5):403-405.
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  35. Saying too Little and Saying too Much. Critical notice of ‘Lying, Misleading and What is Said’, by Jennifer Saul. [REVIEW]Andreas Stokke - 2013 - Disputatio 5 (35):81-91.
    Saying too little and saying too much : critical notice of Lying, Misleading, and What is Said by Jennifer Saul.
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  36. Lying, Deceiving, and Misleading.Andreas Stokke - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (4):348-359.
    This article discusses recent work on lying and its relation to deceiving and misleading. Two new developments in this area are considered: first, the acknowledgment of the phenomenon of lying without the intent to deceive , and second, recent work on the distinction between lying and merely misleading. Both are discussed in relation to topics in philosophy of language, the epistemology of testimony, and ethics. Critical surveys of recent theories are offered and challenges and open questions for further research are (...)
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  37. Liar!Jonathan Webber - 2013 - Analysis 73 (4):651-659.
    We have good reason to condemn lying more strongly than misleading and to condemn bullshit assertion less harshly than lying but more harshly than misleading. We each have good reason to mislead rather than make bullshit assertions, but to make bullshit assertions rather than lie. This is because these forms of deception damage credibility in different ways. We can trust the misleader to assert only what they believe to be true. We can trust the bullshitter not to assert what they (...)
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  38. Just go ahead and lie.Jennifer Saul - 2012 - Analysis 72 (1):3-9.
    The view that lying is morally worse than merely misleading is a very natural one, which has had many prominent defenders. Nonetheless, here I will argue that it is misguided: holding all else fixed, acts of mere misleading are not morally preferable to acts of lying, and successful lying is not morally worse than merely deliberately misleading. In fact, except in certain very special contexts, I will suggest that – when faced with a felt need to deceive – we might (...)
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  39. Lying, misleading, and what is said: an exploration in philosophy of language and in ethics.Jennifer Mather Saul - 2012 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    1. Lying -- 2. The problem of what is said -- 3. What is said -- 4. Is lying worse than merely misleading? -- 5. Some interesting cases.
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  40. On the Impermissibility of Telling Misleading Truths in Kantian Ethics.Cameron Shelley - 2012 - Open Journal of Philosophy 2 (2):89-91.
    Sandel (2009) has recently revisited the issue of the moral permissibility of telling misleading truths in a Kantian ethical framework. His defense of its permissibility relies on assimilating it to simple truth telling, and discounting its relationship with simple lying. This article presents a refutation of Sandel’s case. It is argued that comparison of misleading truths with telling truths or lies is inconclusive. Instead, comparison with telling of leading truths is appropriate. With this comparison in view, it is clear that (...)
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  41. Lying with Conditionals.Roy Sorensen - 2012 - Philosophical Quarterly 62 (249):820-832.
    If you read this abstract, then you will understand what my essay is about. Under what conditions would the preceding assertion be a lie? Traditional definitions of lying are always applied to straight declaratives such as ‘The dog ate my homework’. This one sided diet of examples leaves us unprepared for sentences in which conditional probability governs assertibility. The truth-value of conditionals does not play a significant role in the sincere assertion of conditionals. Lying is insincere assertion. So the connection (...)
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  42. Why lying is worse than merely misleading.Stephen Wilkinson - 2000 - Philosophy Today 13 (34):6-7.
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  43. On the morality of deception--does method matter? A reply to David Bakhurst.J. Jackson - 1993 - Journal of Medical Ethics 19 (3):183-187.
    Does it signify morally whether a deception is achieved by a lie or some other way? David Bakhurst has challenged my view that it can signify. Here I counter his criticisms--firstly, by clarifying the terminology: What counts as a lie? Secondly, by exploring further what makes lying wrong. Bakhurst maintains that lying is wrong in that it infringes autonomy--and other deceiving stratagems, he says, do so equally. I maintain that lying is wrong in that it endangers trust--and other types of (...)
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  44. On lying and deceiving.D. Bakhurst - 1992 - Journal of Medical Ethics 18 (2):63-66.
    This article challenges Jennifer Jackson's recent defence of doctors' rights to deceive patients. Jackson maintains there is a general moral difference between lying and intentional deception: while doctors have a prima facie duty not to lie, there is no such obligation to avoid deception. This paper argues 1) that an examination of cases shows that lying and deception are often morally equivalent, and 2) that Jackson's position is premised on a species of moral functionalism that misconstrues the nature of moral (...)
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  45. Lying and Misleading in Context.Palle Leth - unknown
    In this paper I question the lying/misleading distinction from three different angles. I argue, first, that if speakers are responsible for what they explicitly say only and hearers for what they infer that speakers implicitly convey, it is practically impossible to enforce speaker responsibility. An implication of this view is that the lying/misleading distinction is untenable. Other attempts at questioning the distinction have been countered by empirical evidence of the robustness of the distinction. However, there is also contrasting empirical evidence (...)
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  46. The Lying/Misleading Distinction Belied.Palle Leth - unknown
    The Lying/Misleading Distinction Belied.
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