The Journal of Philosophy

Volume 118, Issue 6, June 2021

Emanuel Viebahn
Pages 289-319

The Lying-Misleading Distinction: A Commitment-Based Approach

The distinction between lying and mere misleading is commonly tied to the distinction between saying and conversationally implicating. Many definitions of lying are based on the idea that liars say something they believe to be false, while misleaders put forward a believed-false conversational implicature. The aim of this paper is to motivate, spell out, and defend an alternative approach, on which lying and misleading differ in terms of commitment: liars, but not misleaders, commit themselves to something they believe to be false. This approach entails that lying and misleading involve speech-acts of different force. While lying requires the committal speech-act of asserting, misleading involves the non-committal speech-act of suggesting. The approach leads to a broader definition of lying that can account for lies that are told while speaking non-literally or with the help of presuppositions, and it allows for a parallel definition of misleading, which so far is lacking in the debate.