Is making a declarative statement through willful ignorance of the facts lying? When a politician, say, makes a statement about immigration without checking the facts is that politician a liar? I base my answer around two premises: that the person making the statement is doing so with the knowledge that what that person is saying could be untrue; second, that the person is making the statement with dishonest intent.
In regards to the first statement, a counterpoint could be made that somebody could make a statement that they think is false when it turns out to be true. To my way of thinking this would still be considered a lie, based around my second premise. The biggest concern here is intent. If somebody is making a statement with dishonest intentions in mind, they are lying, regardless if the statement turns out to be true or not.
This relates to the age-old question of whether or not somebody is lying if they don’t say anything at all. For example, if you know information that could damage a loved one’s relationship to another loved one but you keep it to yourself to keep the relationship going. I argue that this is not lying. It is dishonest, certainly. But it all boils down to semantics. One could argue the moral implications of that dishonesty and whether they equate to those of lying or not. But my point is that lying involves presenting information (making a statement), with dishonest intent.
So what if the person makes a statement that they believe is true, but it turns out that person is wrong? Then I say: they’re just wrong. This brings me to an example that got me thinking about this subject in the first place. I don’t know why, but I suddenly remembered recently something that happened to me back in first grade, nearly thirty years ago. I said something to a classmate which turned out to be false. I thought it was true, so I wasn’t lying. I was just wrong. I didn’t want to admit that I was but I was trying to force myself to say so.
However, the little girl told on me to the teacher, saying that I was lying. I was trying to say “I wasn’t lying, I was just wrong” but the girl kept interrupting me. I only got as far as “I wasn’t lying” when she kept saying “Yes, you were.” It only made me more upset and the conversation ended up going nowhere. Fortunately, the teacher didn’t punish me for anything. I doubt she would have, but that would have only made matters worse.
This brings me to a partial shift in topic, but it relates to my above point in a way. This should come to no surprise to anybody who knows me personally, but the following are my three biggest pet peeves, in descending order.
- I absolutely hate when somebody interrupts me when I’m talking.
- Specifically, I hate when somebody interrupts me when I’m talking by responding to what they assume I’m about to say, when their assumption is wrong. This forces me to back up the conversation and waste time, as well as pissing me off.
- I hate being called a liar. I may not always be right, but I never lie. I don’t necessarily see this as a virtue, as arguments could be made that lying isn’t always morally wrong. Still, don’t call me what I’m not.
The second pet peeve only relates to the above example partially. But it illustrates a statement that has to do with my initial question: just as somebody who is wrong is not necessarily lying, somebody who is right could be.
Of course, I could back this up even further by asking “what is truth?” but I think I’ll leave that topic for another day… or not.