Journal of Philosophical Research


published on August 8, 2018

Yotam Benziman

What Is Wrong With a Thumping Liar

I address the puzzle of the supposed wrongness of “a thumping liar” (a term I borrow from a story by Henry James.) On the one hand, it seems that the more you lie, the more wrong you commit. On the other hand, the more you lie, the more people are aware that you are not telling the truth, the less can you deceive them, the less can you wrong them. The liar who is known as such seems to cause no harm. I show how according to some analyses such a person would not even be considered to be lying, which is surely mistaken. I claim that he is both lying and bullshitting, thus challenging Frankfurt’s distinction between the two terms. The thumping liar excludes himself from being a meaningful part in the joint venture of conversation. It is himself that he mainly harms.