Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Lying and asserting

    Neri Marsili (University of Sheffield)

Date: 17 June 2015

Time: 15:00

Place: Seminari de Filosofia UB


A number of philosophers have tried to define lying. According to the ‘traditional definition’, the speaker must state what he believes to be false, with the intention to deceive the hearer. Recently, a growing number of authors have disputed this definition, claiming that it is sufficient that the speaker assert what he believes to be false. This paper endorses this alternative view, and adopts a speech-act theoretic account of assertion to define lying.
The first part of the paper presents the ‘traditional definition’, and summarises the most compelling objections addressed to the ‘intention to deceive condition’ of this definition. The second part introduces the alternative ‘assertion-based’ definitions of lying. These definitions require that the speaker genuinely assert the proposition. For these accounts, the main challenge is to offer a satisfying characterisation of what counts as an assertion; I will argue that the main proposals on the market fail to fulfil this purpose. In the third part of the paper, I adopt a speech-act theoretic account of assertion; after considering some further problematic cases, I conclude that it offers a more promising theoretical background for analysing the concept of lying.