Lying and Misleading in Discourse

Philosophical Review 125 (1):83-134 (2016)

Abstract

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 as a mode of contributing information to a discourse that is sensitive to the state of the discourse itself. The resulting account is applied to a number of ways of exploiting the lying-misleading distinction, involving conversational implicature, incompleteness, presuppositions, and prosodic focus. The essay shows that assertion, and hence lying, is preserved from subquestion to superquestion under a strict entailment relation between questions, and it discusses ways of lying and misleading in relation to multiple questions

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Andreas Stokke
Uppsala University

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