Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Disagreement with a bald-faced liar

Date: 13 February 2019

Time: 15:00

Place: Seminari de Filosofia UB


How do we disagree with a bald-faced liar? To answer, we must settle on what bald-faced lies are: are they assertions? Are they lies? Does the speaker have the intent to deceive? In contexts of bald-faced lies, it is common knowledge that what the speaker says is false. Sorensen (2007) characterizes bald-faced lies as prima facie lies that are made without the intention to deceive. He claims that bald-faced lies are not, because of this, deserving of disapproval. And according to recent proposals by Keiser (2016) and Maitra (2018), a bald-faced liar is not even making an assertion. Maitra has claimed that a bald-faced liar is engaged in a form of fictionality, like actors following a script. If that's the case, can we disagree with a bald-faced liar? There doesn't seem to be a disagreement in doxastic state: both speaker and audience believe that what the speaker said is false. And why would there be a disagreement in activity, when it is common ground that what is said is false and the speaker has no intent to deceive? Against these views, I argue, first, that the criticisms that can be directed at bald-faced liars aren’t, and shouldn’t, be directed at actors following a script, or actors who break character. Second, if the bald-faced lies-are-fiction were a correct theory, we would be mistaken in criticizing walk backs of the illocutionary assertoric force of a bald-faced lie. Moreover, it would be puzzling that bald-faced lies contribute to gaslight – i.e., to dominate the hearer by diminishing her good epistemic stance.


Disagreement with a bald-face liar requires not only reinstating the truth, but also to resist accommodating the abusive speaker’s assertion. The bald-faced liar and the hearer do disagree in attitude. A speaker and a hearer disagree in attitude when they have incompatible intentions concerning permissible context updates. They also disagree in activity, if and when they act on these incompatible intentions.