Assert What You Know: The Problem With Bald-Faced Lies

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Joanne Park


In “Bald-Faced Lies! Lying Without the Intent to Deceive,” Roy Sorensen argues that the existence of bald-faced lies, or lies that do not involve deceit, challenge conventional definitions of lying. As part of his argu- ment, he claims that bald-faced lies are not in themselves bad, as most ethical condemnations of lying target deceit and not the lie itself. In this paper, I chal- lenge this aspect of Sorensen’s claim by using Timothy Williamson’s distinction from “Knowing and Asserting” between conventional and constitutive rules. I argue that bald-faced lies are in themselves bad because they place too much emphasis on conventional rules of assertion at the expense of the constitutive rule of assertion: assert only what one knows. Ultimately, Sorensen is wrong to say that bald-faced lies are morally neutral, as bald-faced lies devalue the constitutive rule of assertion and therefore the practice of assertion itself, which plays a critical role in the sharing of knowledge.

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