What’s the Good of Language? On the Moral Distinction between Lying and Misleading

Ethics 130 (1):5-31 (2019)
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Abstract

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 lies are wrong, that we can lie nonlinguistically, and that linguistic innovation is morally significant.

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Author's Profile

Sam Berstler
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Citations of this work

Lying, speech acts, and commitment.Neri Marsili - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):3245-3269.
Group Assertions and Group Lies.Neri Marsili - 2023 - Topoi 42 (2):369-384.
On Deniability.Alexander Dinges & Julia Zakkou - 2023 - Mind 132 (526):372-401.

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References found in this work

What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Meaning.Herbert Paul Grice - 1957 - Philosophical Review 66 (3):377-388.
Convention: A Philosophical Study.David Lewis - 1969 - Synthese 26 (1):153-157.
Are there any natural rights?H. L. A. Hart - 1955 - Philosophical Review 64 (2):175-191.

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