Non-literal lies are not exculpatory

Philosophical Quarterly (forthcoming)
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One can lie by asserting non-literal content. If I tell you “You are the cream in my coffee” while hating you, I can be rightfully accused of lying if my true emotions are unearthed. This is not easy to accommodate under many definitions of lying while also preserving the lying-misleading distinction. The essential feature of non-literal utterances is their falsity when literally construed. This interferes with accounts of lying and misleading, because such accounts often combine a literal construal of what is said by an utterance with a falsity requirement for lying. In the presence of non-literal lies such definitions struggle to make plau- sible predictions for non-literal lies and merely misleading utterances together. In this article I aim to fix this by extending Daniel Hoek’s pragmatic account of conversational exculpature to assertions in general. Since this mechanism is designed to compute the intended meanings of non-literal utterances, it straightforwardly predicts non-literal lies to be as such. The lying-misleading distinction is also preserved, because merely misleading utterances arise out of exploiting a different pragmatic mechanism—Gricean additive implicatures. Along the way I also draw some general lessons about assertion and implicatures.

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Hüseyin Güngör
Princeton University

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References found in this work

Studies in the Way of Words.Paul Grice - 1989 - Philosophy 65 (251):111-113.
Questions in Action.Daniel Hoek - 2022 - Journal of Philosophy 119 (3):113-143.
Lying with Presuppositions.Emanuel Viebahn - 2020 - Noûs 54 (3):731-751.
Belief as Question‐Sensitive.Seth Yalcin - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 97 (1):23-47.

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