Can a lie be the truth?

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Reply Sat 23 Aug, 2008 02:10 am
The great philosopher George Costanza once said, "It's not a lie, if you believe it."

Let's say you do "x", and you later tell your family and friends and anyone else, "y".

No one saw you do "x", no cameras were at you, no dogs or cats sniffed you doing "x", no evidence at all that can contradict your "y" story.

Soon enough though, you begin to believe your "y" story; you have pushed the memory of "x" to the farthest reaches of your brain; you consciously remember "y" as what actually happened for the rest of your life.

You die, and with your death, the last remnants of "x" disappear forever.

Is "y" the truth?
 
de budding
 
Reply Sat 23 Aug, 2008 03:09 am
@Victor Eremita,
Harvard psychologist Daniel L. Schacter's fourth sin of memory 'Missattribution' (Schacter, 1999)...


[CENTER][quote]Misattributions[/quote][/CENTER]
Quote:



While misattributions can have disastrous consequences, most are not so dramatic in everyday circumstances. Like the other sins of memory, misattributions are probably a daily occurrence for most people. Some examples that have been studied in the lab are:

Misattributing the source of memories. People regularly say they read something in the newspaper, when actually a friend told them or they saw it in an advert. In one study participants with 'normal' memories regularly made the mistake of thinking they had acquired a trivial fact from a newspaper, when actually the experimenters had supplied it (Schacter, Harbluk, & McLachlan, 1984).
Misattributing a face to the wrong context. This is exactly what happened to Donald Thomson. Studies have shown that memories can become blended together, so that faces and circumstances are merged.
Misattributing an imagined event to reality. A neat experiment by Goff and Roediger (1998) demonstrates how easily our memory can transform fantasy into reality. Participants were asked either to imagine performing an action or actually asked to perform it, e.g. breaking a toothpick. Sometime later they went through the same process again. Then, later still they were asked whether they had performed that action or just imagined it. Those who imagined the actions more frequently the second time were more likely to think they'd actually performed the actions the first time.


Here is the rest of the article...

I think also if we play with scenarios where, let's say, a child steals something from a shop but doesn't realize that he drops the item of theft before he exits the door. The boy thinks he must have dropped his stolen goods on the way home from the scene of the crime, but, the shopkeeper laughs as he picks up the items which never left the shop door. Without taking items over the threshold of the store the boy didn't steel.

The next day the shop keeper rings the boys mum to let her know what he tried to do and how he didn't do anything wrong without realizing it. The boy's mother asks him if he has been shop lifting... he sais NO, adamant he is lying to his mother, but his mother knows from the shopkeeper that this is the truth. Does the boy's conviction of thought alter anything?

And what if I add that all along that this was the boys plan, and the items he dropped where a distraction from the 500.00 he stole from the till? Just so happens that the shopkeeper has yet to check and ring the boy's mother of this second crime.


And finally what of the old puzzle of two guards at two doors, one has a mental impairment that means he can only tell the truth, the other has a similar mental condition but he can only ever lie. In the riddle it is the pretext that tells us this and allows us to use the guard whom can only lie to extract the truth about which guard has which impairment, it is then we can begin to ask effective questions. Surely here lies are at least taking the noble, knowledge grasping position we often attribute to truths.

Dan.
 
Arjen
 
Reply Sat 23 Aug, 2008 04:02 am
@de budding,
Adding to Dan's post I'd like to get Immanuel Kant's thoughts into it. He is of the opinion that it is not the physical act which defines something, but the intent with which the act was made. In that sense it is not important that the boy dropped the stolen item at the door; he was of the intent to steal and therefore a thief.

The same applies to the denial of action X. The memory of something is not important; it is the intent with which the action was made. Therefore Y is not true, but X is. Y is merely the testament of the lies the actor tells himself.

Hope this helps.
 
iconoclast
 
Reply Sat 23 Aug, 2008 04:16 am
@Arjen,
well, yes and no. X was done then denied. Your X - is something that was intended but not achieved. while i think you're correct in what you say, there's a distinction here.

iconoclast.
 
de Silentio
 
Reply Sat 23 Aug, 2008 11:34 am
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita wrote:
Is "y" the truth?


Ask Big Brother.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2008 09:07 am
@de Silentio,
Is in not true that the act is what causes damage and not the intent to commit it? We punish actuality, not potentiality, and damage does not spring from potentiality, but actuality, for though the intent to commit an act might be considered evil, it is only so because of the actuality of commiting it. It is not that I am angry that is evil, but what is borne of that anger that makes it so. If I were hateful of everyone but it could not be externally verified and it does not affect my goals and actions, the hate would be without consequence and thus benign and not evil.
 
Deftil
 
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2008 11:31 am
@Victor Eremita,
If an X falls in a forest and no one is around to Y it, does it make a Z?

Sorry, I'm in a silly mood.

Off the top of my head, I'd say that it is true that people believe Y, but that doesn't make the factual claim that Y actually happened true.

If people really and truly believe the Holocaust didn't happen, does it make it true that it didn't happen?

I need a nap, I hope my logic isn't too off here. =)
 
de budding
 
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2008 11:44 am
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235 wrote:
Is in not true that the act is what causes damage and not the intent to commit it? We punish actuality, not potentiality, and damage does not spring from potentiality, but actuality, for though the intent to commit an act might be considered evil, it is only so because of the actuality of committing it. It is not that I am angry that is evil, but what is borne of that anger that makes it so. If I were hateful of everyone but it could not be externally verified and it does not affect my goals and actions, the hate would be without consequence and thus benign and not evil.


No, it is not true that we punish actuality not potentiality. our understanding of cause and effect and, further more, how dependency on initial conditions and the butterfly effect can quickly rocket chain reactions to non-sensible limits, should rule these sorts of considerations.


Given a scenario like...

Man x (a government employed roof-repairman) leaves his ladder up while out to lunch- a bird lands on the ladder off-setting it's equilibrium... the ladder rocks... a breeze (caused by the flapping of a butterfly miles away) whips up and adds to the now swaying ladder... finally an unobservant pedestrian accidently lets his foot catch the bottom of the ladder and... TIMBER! A man in an Armani suit is killed by the ladder as it fell unmanned.

Man y, who has slowly been losing touch with reality and whom has the exact same job as man x, has been feeling the strain of day-to-day life... bellow, 30 meters down into the street, he spies his boss whom this morning had caused him to fall out with his wife by calling him in today (a bank holiday.) He decides to flick some paint on his boss's new Armani suit but alas he loses grip of the paint pot and it tumbles the 30 meters. A second later the can of paint strikes his boss on the temple causing a chain of medical events that lead to the death of his boss in hospital.

Man z, a young man at only 17, sees an unattended ladder in the street. Being a foolish youth he decides to climb the ladder and spit on the people in the street (a common activity for kids to do commonly referred to as 'hawking a loogie'.) Through his disgusting and immature act he manages to knock a can of paint of the roof! The can tumbles and knocks an innocent looking man in a new Armani suit on the head, killing him instantly and ruining his new suit!

Man x is convicted of undue care and sued as well as having man slaughter charges pressed against him; man y of murder and man z of man slaughter. Are these men equally 'evil' based on the result of the actuality of their actions? I think you will find the chain reaction of cause and effect (the actuality) pretty uninteresting in the case of man x
 
de budding
 
Reply Mon 25 Aug, 2008 12:23 pm
@Deftil,
Deftil wrote:
If an X falls in a forest and no one is around to Y it, does it make a Z?



Please differentiate; by 'make a Z?' do you mean 'create a Z?' or 'get Y'd by P?'

Dan. :shifty:
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 26 Aug, 2008 06:32 am
@Victor Eremita,
Victor Eremita wrote:
The great philosopher George Costanza once said, "It's not a lie, if you believe it."

Let's say you do "x", and you later tell your family and friends and anyone else, "y".

No one saw you do "x", no cameras were at you, no dogs or cats sniffed you doing "x", no evidence at all that can contradict your "y" story.

Soon enough though, you begin to believe your "y" story; you have pushed the memory of "x" to the farthest reaches of your brain; you consciously remember "y" as what actually happened for the rest of your life.

You die, and with your death, the last remnants of "x" disappear forever.

Is "y" the truth?


Of course not. Why should it be? Y did not happen, the proposition that Y happened is false and so, not true. The fact that you believe it is true cannot make it true.

But there can be a lie that is a truth in the following way. Suppose you tell someone there is oil under your property to get him to buy the property, but you, of course, do not believe there is oil. However, after he buys the property, and you think you have deceived him, it turns out that unknown to you, there is oil under the property. In that case, you have lied, saying what you believed to be false, but it turned out that what you said was true. So, that is a lie which is true.

I think you mean, George Santayana, not "Constanza".
 
de budding
 
Reply Tue 26 Aug, 2008 07:14 am
@kennethamy,
Kennethamy,

'you think you have deceived him', and as far as you are concerned you have lied; I don't know about you but I rule my own world. My intent and the subsequent actions are governed by me not the external perspective of others. I tell the truth as far as I can, and if/when it becomes public that the truth is somewhat a lie I am quick to repair my knowledge, I am eager to know the truth myself and don't wish to mislead anyone even for my own means. You going to call me a liar because I misspell a word are you?

Regardless the statement isn't anything to do with logic; it refers to self-deception and the potency of belief over fact. God doesn't in fact exist and he never will, but to a Christian it is not a lie to tell their children so... on youtube there is a Dawkin's documentary up entitled 'Enemies of Reason', find the chapter where he tests dowsers (people who think they can 'sense' water underground with sticks.) Dawkins sets up a double blind test and proves to every dowser there that they can not, 100%, sense water with their dowsing sticks... what do you think they say in the interviews afterwards? They blame the test, the whether, the cameras, the pressure etc. But they are not intentionally misleading us nor are they intentionally misleading themselves... It is amazing what one will do in the interest of keeping a consistent world-model in their heads.

p.s what if it then turns out the oil is mud?

Dan.
 
Deftil
 
Reply Tue 26 Aug, 2008 07:58 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:


I think you mean, George Santayana, not "Constanza".


Surprisingly, he means Costanza, and is correct.
George Costanza wrote:
Jerry, just remember, it's not a lie if you believe it.

George Costanza - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Unless of course Constanza was quoting Santayana there, but if Santayana said that, I'm not aware of it. Smile
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 26 Aug, 2008 08:17 am
@Deftil,
Deftil wrote:
Surprisingly, he means Costanza, and is correct.

George Costanza - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Unless of course Constanza was quoting Santayana there, but if Santayana said that, I'm not aware of it. Smile


Thank you. I never heard of the man. I'll read the Wiki article.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 26 Aug, 2008 08:28 am
@de budding,
de_budding wrote:
'you think you have deceived him', and as far as you are concerned you have lied;
p.s what if it then turns out the oil is mud?

Dan.


"As far as you are concerned, you have lied" means only that you believe you have lied. And, of course, you accidentally told the truth if there was oil. So, you meant to deceive, but were not successful. The trouble is that there are two components to normal cases of lying: intending to deceive, and deceiving. Sometimes, they split apart, as in this case. That is why we distinguish between "telling the truth" and "being truthful". If we are being truthful, we may still fail to tell the truth although we intend to do so. I might be truthful when I said there was oil, but I may have been wrong and there was no oil. I did not lie for I did not intend to deceive. But neither did I tell the truth.

If there was only mud under the ground then I clearly lied, since I said there was oil and there was no oil, but mud.
 
Deftil
 
Reply Tue 26 Aug, 2008 09:28 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
Thank you. I never heard of the man. I'll read the Wiki article.


I bet you have. He was the character played by actor Jason Alexander on the TV sit-com Seinfeld.

http://cache.boston.com/images/bostondirtdogs//Headline_Archives/BDD_seinfeld-george.jpg

So the quote wasn't said by a philosopher (not in the strict sense anyway) but an actor/comedian. Which is funny because some people are probably thinking the man that said the quote was some deep thinker.
Nonetheless, I find the quote philosophically interesting.

"It's not a lie, if you believe it."

It's actually true.. even if what you say is false, it's only a mistruth and not technically a lie. So a lie and a mistruth aren't exactly the same thing. Ulimately, what you say isn't true then... it's just not a lie.
 
Zetetic11235
 
Reply Tue 26 Aug, 2008 09:52 am
@Deftil,
Debudding, you completely misunerstood the intent of my post. Earlier it was claimed that the intent to steal might equate the act, but it is lesser, the intent cannot be all that there is, you must also consider the outcome. That was the main point of my post. I would hold your accusations of ignorance in check.

I doubt man X would be charged with manslaughter, it wouldn't stick at all, even involuntary manslaughter, there is no legal basis for any charge in any of those cases. In no way do any of the scenarios fit manslaughter, even criminal negligence.

Now, the subtleties of intent do well play into murder versus manslaughter, but the line is very blurry when considering attempted murder. Preventative law is on the weakest footing, this is one major line which is often crossed. How do we prevent crimes? After all, it is better to never have crimes than to have to punish and still have them.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 26 Aug, 2008 12:08 pm
@Deftil,
Deftil wrote:
I bet you have. He was the character played by actor Jason Alexander on the TV sit-com Seinfeld.

http://cache.boston.com/images/bostondirtdogs//Headline_Archives/BDD_seinfeld-george.jpg

So the quote wasn't said by a philosopher (not in the strict sense anyway) but an actor/comedian. Which is funny because some people are probably thinking the man that said the quote was some deep thinker.
Nonetheless, I find the quote philosophically interesting.

"It's not a lie, if you believe it."

It's actually true.. even if what you say is false, it's only a mistruth and not technically a lie. So a lie and a mistruth aren't exactly the same thing. Ulimately, what you say isn't true then... it's just not a lie.


I never watched "Seinfeld".

I don't know the word, "mistruth: and it is not in the dictionary. So it must be a word you just made up. So, how could you expect me to know what it means? Or how lies differ from "mistruths". I do know, however, that if I intend to deceive, and I do deceive, I am lying. And, even if I intend to deceive and through no doing of my own, I don't deceive because I happened to tell the truth, I was not being truthful, and that is still lying.
 
de budding
 
Reply Tue 26 Aug, 2008 01:46 pm
@Zetetic11235,
Zetetic11235 wrote:
Debudding, you completely misunerstood the intent of my post. Earlier it was claimed that the intent to steal might equate the act, but it is lesser, the intent cannot be all that there is, you must also consider the outcome. That was the main point of my post. I would hold your accusations of ignorance in check.

I doubt man X would be charged with manslaughter, it wouldn't stick at all, even involuntary manslaughter, there is no legal basis for any charge in any of those cases. In no way do any of the scenarios fit manslaughter, even criminal negligence.

Now, the subtleties of intent do well play into murder versus manslaughter, but the line is very blurry when considering attempted murder. Preventative law is on the weakest footing, this is one major line which is often crossed. How do we prevent crimes? After all, it is better to never have crimes than to have to punish and still have them.
 
Deftil
 
Reply Tue 26 Aug, 2008 08:11 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
I never watched "Seinfeld".

I don't know the word, "mistruth: and it is not in the dictionary. So it must be a word you just made up. So, how could you expect me to know what it means? Or how lies differ from "mistruths". I do know, however, that if I intend to deceive, and I do deceive, I am lying. And, even if I intend to deceive and through no doing of my own, I don't deceive because I happened to tell the truth, I was not being truthful, and that is still lying.

Laughing

Easy there.

From the way you protest, you'd think what I had said wasn't compatible with what you've said above.

First of all, "mistruth" is in the dictionary. Specifically page 743 of my Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition. "mis" is a prefix that can mean "opposite or lack of" and can be added to the noun "truth" to create the valid word that I did not make up "mistruth". If you'd lke online proof, simply go here mistruth - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary , read the defintion of the prefix "mis", and then scroll down to where "mistruth" is listed. "Mistruth" then means "the opposite, or lack of, truth". Perhaps you're familair with the word "falsehood". It is more commonly used for the concept I was describing. But how serendipitous! What you have done, accuse me of making a word up when I have not, is basically an example of what I was explaining about the quote. Did you do that on purpose?
Again, the quote was "It's not a lie, if you believe it." You (kennethamy) apparently believed that "mistruth" wasn't a word, so when you told me that I must have made it up, you actually believed it wasn't a word. Therefore when you stated that it is not is the dictionary, you were not lying; you were just wrong. If you believe some piece of information is true, when you state that information as true, you are not lying, you are just being incorrect. You never had the intent to decieve. This is completely consistent with the correct point you have made which is that when one tells information with the intent to deceive, they are lying, even if they accidently end up having told the truth. What I was describing was the opposite phenomena that when one's intent is to tell the truth, they are not lying, even if it turns out they were wrong. This is what would literally be meant by the quote "It's not a lie, if you believe it."
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 27 Aug, 2008 06:42 am
@Deftil,
Deftil wrote:
Laughing

Easy there.

From the way you protest, you'd think what I had said wasn't compatible with what you've said above.

First of all, "mistruth" is in the dictionary. Specifically page 743 of my Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition. "mis" is a prefix that can mean "opposite or lack of" and can be added to the noun "truth" to create the valid word that I did not make up "mistruth". If you'd lke online proof, simply go here mistruth - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary , read the defintion of the prefix "mis", and then scroll down to where "mistruth" is listed. "Mistruth" then means "the opposite, or lack of, truth". Perhaps you're familair with the word "falsehood". It is more commonly used for the concept I was describing. But how serendipitous! What you have done, accuse me of making a word up when I have not, is basically an example of what I was explaining about the quote. Did you do that on purpose?
Again, the quote was "It's not a lie, if you believe it." You (kennethamy) apparently believed that "mistruth" wasn't a word, so when you told me that I must have made it up, you actually believed it wasn't a word. Therefore when you stated that it is not is the dictionary, you were not lying; you were just wrong. If you believe some piece of information is true, when you state that information as true, you are not lying, you are just being incorrect. You never had the intent to decieve. This is completely consistent with the correct point you have made which is that when one tells information with the intent to deceive, they are lying, even if they accidently end up having told the truth. What I was describing was the opposite phenomena that when one's intent is to tell the truth, they are not lying, even if it turns out they were wrong. This is what would literally be meant by the quote "It's not a lie, if you believe it."


You are right, and I jumped the gun. Sorry. "It's not a lie if you believe it" is ambiguous, and of course, saying what is false need not be lying, as those who attack Bush for lying when he said there were WMDs should learn.
 
 

 
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