On lying: intentionality, implicature, and lying: intentionality, implicature, and imprecision ... to the fundamental work of Paul Grice, ... intentionality, implicature, and imprecision 279

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<ul><li><p>Intercultural Pragmatics 8-2 (2011), 277292 1612-295X/11/0008-0277DOI 10.1515/IPRG.2011.013 Walter de Gruyter</p><p>On lying: intentionality, implicature, and imprecision</p><p>Jrg Meibauer</p><p>Abstract</p><p>Although lying is a classical topic in philosophy, and certainly is very impor-tant in everyday life, there is a lack of genuine linguistic analyses of lying. In this article, lying is viewed as a speech act of insincere assertion. The liar misrepresents truth in order to deceive. While definitions like this are fairly common, consequences for the semantics/pragmatics interface, and, more importantly, for the ongoing debate about minimalism versus contextualism, never have been worked out in detail. This is what the article aims at, concen-trating on three relevant issues, namely intentionality, implicature, and impre-cision. It takes a moderate contextualist stand by showing that the possibility of lying is built into the language, thus allowing speakers to manipulate the representation of truth according to certain social goals. A case in point would be lying while saying the truth; in this case, the risk of being caught in the act of lying is reduced.</p><p>1. Introduction</p><p>Lying is a topic everyone is interested in. Being a liar and being lied to are fundamental experiences in human life. Lying may be approached from a num-ber of angles: From ethics and religion to pedagogy, (forensic) psychology (Vrij 2000), sociology (Barnes 1994), and jurisprudence (Green 2007), from novels and films to theatre and photography. There is an immense public inter-est in lying, not only with regard to lying in the political sphere, but also in the commercial sphere in which the security industry is heavily engaged in the development of lying detectors. Public life is chock-full of reflections about lying, as a quick glance in a newspaper, a soap opera, or the Internet will show (Whitty and Joinson 2008).</p><p>A great tradition of analyzing lies in philosophy and the philosophy of language ranges from Saint Augustine and Immanuel Kant to Arthur </p><p>AUTHORS COPY | AUTORENEXEMPLAR </p><p>AUTHORS COPY | AUTORENEXEMPLAR </p></li><li><p>278 Jrg Meibauer</p><p> Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche, to name only the most famous think-ers. Until today, the question of why lying is usually evaluated as a bad behav-ior arouses the interest of moral philosophers (Dietz 2002, Martin 2009, Carson 2010). However, reflecting on the fact that lying is primarily a linguistic act, one wonders why there is so little linguistic analysis of lying. We find an im-portant tradition dealing with truth and truth conditions, but only a few at-tempts at clarifying the speech act of lying. An entry on lying in the recent, otherwise well-informed, The Pragmatics Encyclopedia (Cummings 2010) is lacking.</p><p>I propose that lying as an object of linguistic study should be firmly settled in linguistic pragmatics, or, to be more precise, in the semantics/pragmatics interface. Drawing the boundary between pragmatics and semanticsboth being disciplines that deal with linguistic meaningbelongs to the most basic problems of modern linguistics. In recent years, a lively debate has emerged about that problem (cf. Szab 2005). Most researchers engaged in the debate relate their approaches to the fundamental work of Paul Grice, who made the by now classical distinction between what is said and what is implicated (Grice 1989a). Obviously, the exact nature of the semantics/pragmatics inter-face is itself a matter of debate. Firstly, there is a debate between minimalists (roughly, those researchers who stick to truth-conditional semantics) and con-textualists (roughly, those researchers who stress the influence of the context on meaning constitution); secondly, there are different views in the contextual-ist camp, e.g., between Neo-Griceans (Kent Bach, Laurence Horn, Stephen Levinson) and Relevance Theorists (Robyn Carston, Dan Sperber, Deirdre Wilson), but also with respect to other approaches (Mira Ariel, Kasia Jaszczolt, Franois Recanati, etc.).</p><p>My approach pursues a double strategy: On the one hand, it tries to analyze lying by settling it within this broader debate; on the other hand, it tries to show that this debate may profit from an exact case study of lying. It is obvious that lying is indeed a case that is suitable for that purpose. Lying has to do with truth and truth conditions, i.e., issues that traditionally are associated with (truth-conditional) semantics. But lying is also a speech act that is deeply em-bedded in rich situational and discourse contexts. What a lie is cannot be de-tected when abstracting away from the cognitive and social goals the liar has in mind.</p><p>It should be clear, then, that the focus on the semantic/pragmatics interface is not meant to exclude the other linguistic and communicative aspects of lying; quite on the contrary, it is intended to build a solid fundament for the description and explanation of these other aspects, including prosody, syntax, and the lexicon. In addition, since pragmatics consists of a number of sub-disciplines, aspects of lying have to be pointed out not only in relation to speech acts, but, as we will see in greater detail, also to implicature, and, more-</p><p>AUTHORS COPY | AUTORENEXEMPLAR </p><p>AUTHORS COPY | AUTORENEXEMPLAR </p></li><li><p>On lying: intentionality, implicature, and imprecision 279</p><p>over, reference and deixis, presupposition, information structure, and discourse structure. It goes without saying that the emerging linguistic picture of lying is not yet complete: We need also historical, acquisitional, and intercultural studies of lying (see Zagorin 1990; Lee, to appear; Vincent Marelli 2004; Dan-ziger 2010).</p><p>In the following contribution, I will go into three topics I consider as rele-vant for the task of properly situating lying in the semantics/pragmatics inter-face, namely intentionality, implicature, and imprecision.</p><p>2. Intentionality</p><p>A core problem in the study of lying is, obviously, how to define it. Numerous proposals have been made in the past (for a review, see Mahon 2008, Vincent 2006). Many proposals show a mixture of moral, psychological, and verbal aspects, so the first lesson for a linguistic approach to lying should be to use only those notions in the definition of lying that are rooted in linguistic analysis.</p><p>Basically, there are two linguistic points of departure available. The first is to develop a definition of lying with the tools of speech-act analysis, as devel-oped for instance by Searle (1969), Bach and Harnish (1979), and Alston (2000). All in all, speech-act theoretical analyses of lying are scarce, but see Reboul (1994).</p><p>The second is to elicit speaker judgments on the meaning of the verb lie, as in the seminal paper of Coleman and Kay (1981) (see also Sweetser 1987, Tsohatzidis 1990, Hardin 2010). The method used here is to present stories containing putative acts of lying and then ask test persons how to evaluate these acts. Interestingly, the very old philosophical method of interpreting problematic cases (for example, Has someone lied who erroneously told the truth?) is used here in an experimental setting.</p><p>Moreover, the linguistic analysis of lying can profit from a long-standing psychological research into lying, especially with regard to the acquisition of lying (cf. Bosco and Bucciarelli 2008; Lee, to appear). Recently, in so-called experimental pragmatics, these two strands of research, the psychological and the pragmatic, converge to a certain extent.</p><p>It is a widely accepted assumption in speech-act theory that the speaker has certain intentions when uttering a speech act, and that part of the understanding of a speech act is uncovering this intention. Now, what is the intention of a liar? A natural answer would be that it is the liars intention to deceive, deceiving broadly construed as the causing of a false belief in someone else. Therefore, we need to clarify what the relation between lying and deceiving is. In most analyses, lying is a subtype of deceiving. Typologies of deceiving, such as </p><p>AUTHORS COPY | AUTORENEXEMPLAR </p><p>AUTHORS COPY | AUTORENEXEMPLAR </p></li><li><p>280 Jrg Meibauer</p><p>Chisholm and Feehan (1977) and Vincent and Castelfranchi (1981), contain several types of deception, lying being one of them. The main distinction be-tween lying and deceiving certainly is that (i) deceiving may be non-verbal, and (ii) if verbal, is not bound to assertions (Chisholm and Feehan 1977, Vin-cent and Castelfranchi 1981, Meibauer 2005, Carson 2010: 4753). Note, in particular, that Carson (2010) argues at length against lying as involving an intention to deceive. I will come back to his argument below.</p><p>Now we may ask whether the intention to deceive should be part of the felic-ity conditions of the speech act of lying. This seems not a promising move, since the liar is, by definition, insincere; hence we would need an insincerity condition, and that is an implausible construct, as Searle (1969) already pointed out with respect to insincere promising. Rather, the deceptive intention of the liar should be captured through an analysis of lying as an act of insincere asser-tion. Lies do not constitute a separate type of speech act like promises, com-mands or questions: They are always assertions.</p><p>Improving on a proposal of Falkenberg (1982), I proposed in my (2005) the following definition of assertion:</p><p>(1) Assertion A asserted at t that p iff (a) A uttered at t the declarative sentence meaning p, (b) by uttering the declarative sentence , A presented p as true, (c) by uttering the declarative sentence , A M-intended that an ad-</p><p>dressee B to whom A uttered p actively believes that p.</p><p>This definition draws upon the framework of Grice (1989b), but it also com-prises insights of speech-act theory (cf. Searle 1969), notably the Essential Condition stating that the speaker of an assertion commits himself to the truth of the proposition expressed. Attempts at defining the assertion as in (1) are of course theory-dependent, as can be seen from numerous other proposals, e.g., the attitudinal approach of Bach and Harnish (1979: 42), or Alston (2000: 120), who focuses on the speaker taking responsibility (see Jary 2010). Condition (1b) resembles the Searlean Essential Condition for assertions.</p><p>Condition (1a) is important in that it relates the speech act of assertion to syntax and semantics. In most analyses and examples given, it is simply pre-supposed that assertions are connected to declarative sentences. Of course, other sentence types may be used for lying, too, e.g., by containing presupposi-tions or triggering implicatures. But these facts should be carefully modeled in a theoretical framework that contains these notions and allows for the explana-tion of non-literality and indirectness. A connection to semantics is also needed, because declarative sentences typically contain propositions that may be con-textually evaluated as true or false.</p><p>AUTHORS COPY | AUTORENEXEMPLAR </p><p>AUTHORS COPY | AUTORENEXEMPLAR </p></li><li><p>On lying: intentionality, implicature, and imprecision 281</p><p>Condition (1c) refers to the Gricean notion of a M(eaning)-intention, which is an intention that is necessary for the speakers attempt to produce a certain belief in the addressee by his very utterance (Grice 1989b). What is important here is that the analysis of lying is embedded in a more general theory of com-munication. All the major pragmatic theories mentioned in the Introduction must have such a general account of communication.</p><p>With definition (1) in mind, we may go on to define the term lie, following again Falkenbergs approach, as in (2) (cf. Falkenberg 1982: 75):</p><p>(2) Lie A lied at t, iff (a) A asserted at t that p, (b) A actively believed at t that not p.</p><p>Falkenberg (1982: 56) assumes that, if someone is not lying, he is truthful. By and large, this seems right, with the following two exceptions: First, A believes neither that p nor that not p, but asserts that p. Second, A fails to believe p, but asserts p (see the example of Carson 2010 discussed below). In the following discussion, I will concentrate on those cases where the simple opposition be-tween lying and being truthful holds.</p><p>Let us now illustrate the different instances of being or not being truthful with the example of a speaker A, called Barbie, who utters Im suffering from a heart disease (cf. Falkenberg 1982: 5458). First, Barbie believes at t that she is suffering from a heart disease, and it is indeed the case that she is suffer-ing from a heart disease. The propositional content p is true and the speaker is truthful (she did not lie). Second, Barbie believes at t that she is suffering from a heart disease but, actually, she is not. Thus, she is mistaken. The proposi-tional content p is false, but the speaker is truthful (she did not lie). Third, Barbie does not believe at t that she is suffering from a heart disease, and she knows that, as a matter of fact, she is not suffering from a heart disease. It fol-lows that she lies (she is not truthful). Fourth, Barbie does not believe at t that she is suffering from a heart disease, but in fact, she is. She is mistaken, since the propositional content p is true. Moreover, she lies (she is not truthful) since she wants to deceive.</p><p>For a theory of lying, it is very important that it can deal with this last case. With regard to the speakers intention to deceive, it does not matter what actu-ally is the case, it only matters what the speaker believes to be the case. (This seems to represent at least the majority opinion to which I stick.) As a con-sequence, the definition (2) refers to (weak) believing instead of (strong) knowing. The notion of actively believing in definition (2) intends to ex-clude those cases in which speaker A is merely accidentally or mistakenly in a certain state of belief (Falkenberg 1982: 4550). To give an example, consider </p><p>AUTHORS COPY | AUTORENEXEMPLAR </p><p>AUTHORS COPY | AUTORENEXEMPLAR </p></li><li><p>282 Jrg Meibauer</p><p>the case of someone who asserts that she is a student while forgetting or not knowing that her registration was cancelled the day before.</p><p>Let us shortly compare our definition of lying to the recent proposal of Car-son (2010). Through a series of careful redefinitions on the basis of prototypi-cal lying scenarios, he finally ends up with the following definition of lying (his L7):</p><p>(3) Lying (Carson 2010: 37) A person S tells a lie to another person S1 iff: 1. S makes a false statement X to S1, 2. S believes that X is false or probably false (or, alternatively, S does </p><p>not believe that X is true), and 3. S intends to warrant the truth of X to S1.</p><p>Definition (3) is intended to implement the following two basic tenets of Car-sons approach: (i) lying does not require that the liar intends to deceive others, (ii) lying requires making a statement that one warrants to be true (Carson 2010: 15).</p><p>Requirement (ii) is connected with the basic assumption that lying is essen-tially a breach of trust. Most speech-act theoreticians would wholeheartedly agree with th...</p></li></ul>