Lying as second person engagement

David Simpson

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In this chapter I explore an apparent consequence of regarding lying as complex
deception. If lying is regarded as an act of intended deception that relies on the
simultaneous invocation and betrayal of trust, we may appear to be committed to an intellectualist and theory of mind account of interpersonal understanding and interaction. That is, it may seem that a liar, on the basis of supposed knowledge of the perspective of his or her target, sets out to manipulate the beliefs of the target by adopting a third person perspective on the target. I aim to show that this assumption is false. Lying is complex, and it does offer a window to interpersonal interaction and understanding, but it is not an instance of ‘theory of mind in action’. Theory of mind accounts treat interpersonal understanding and interaction as solutions to the gap between the first and third person perspective, but when lying is understood in this way, its particular moral and affective dimensions become mysterious, as highlighted in the work of Frankfurt and others. Lying, I argue, is best explained as a (Davidsonian) second-person phenomenon, and the social cognition it involves is best understood in terms of primary interaction, as found in phenomenological and Wittgensteinian approaches
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDeception:
Subtitle of host publicationSpies, Lies and Forgeries
EditorsLaura Crossley, Clara Sitbon
Place of PublicationOxford UK
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9781848884106
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameEducational Philosophy and Theory Special Issues Series
ISSN (Print)0013-1857


  • Lying
  • trust
  • second person
  • social cognition
  • intellectualism
  • theory of mind

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