A Pack of Lies: Towards a Sociology of Lying by J. A. Barnes

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By J. A. Barnes

Defining lies as statements which are meant to lie to, this publication considers the contexts within which humans inform lies and explores the results. the writer appears at societies with unique non secular and moral traditions the place mendacity is the norm. He additionally exhibits how little ones collect the potential to lie at an early age, and study whilst it really is acceptable to take action. In end, Professor Barnes argues that folks are likely to inform the reality, for except the query of morality, there are pragmatic purposes for doing so.

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To maintain a complex social fabric we have to be prepared sometimes to give some politicians the benefit of the doubt; they have to avoid excessive, and hence counter-productive, lying. 33 Where lies are expected According to the 'noble lie' doctrine discussed by Plato (see chapter 6), governments are empowered to tell lies that are in the national interest. Jody Powell, sometime White House press secretary, goes one step further; in his view: 'In certain circumstances government has not only the right but a positive obligation to lie' (Powell 1984:223).

E. lies of commission, and 'evasions', which are, roughly speaking, lies of omission; the latter are, he says, 'not out-and-out lies' (Douglas 1976:59). Thus Bok, and Montaigne before her, see deceptive intention as the distinguishing feature of lying, whereas Chisholm and Feehan distinguish one type of deception from another on the basis of outcomes, what happens to the beliefs held by the dupe. Definitions that hinge only on the 17 What is a lie? intentions of liars or the beliefs of dupes may well be sufficient for discussions in moral philosophy but for a sociological analysis we cannot confine our attention to just these two social actors.

I cannot see how postmodernists, for instance, can be said to collaborate 'in pretending that circumstances are other than they know them in fact to be'. The same objection applies to functionalists, structuralists and the protagonists of innumerable other 'lesser designs'. Bailey does not refer to Nietzsche, but like him uses the term 'lie' overenthusiastically, so that as an analytic tool it becomes unacceptably blunt. Rappaport (1979:231) is another writer who paints the concept of lie in broad terms.

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