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Are you lying? Find out!

india Updated: Sep 26, 2009 19:32 IST

A recent poll by a TV show has suggested that the average person lies 42 times a week. But do people actually lie as much as believed? Lying

Well, a professor of Philosophy at Washington and Lee University insists that there is far less real lying in society than people might think.

James E. Mahon, who has written the definition of lying for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, says: “Certain conditions have to be in place for a statement to rise to the level of a lie. First, a person must make a statement and must believe that the statement is false. Second, the person making the statement must intend for the audience to believe that the statement is true. Anything else falls outside the definition of lying that I have defended.”

He says that lying is about what you believe as well as what you intend. He says that a person is not said to tell a lie if he/she believes a statement to be true, even if it can be show to be false. On the other hand, Mahon maintains, that a person can be lying when they say something that is verifiably true.

“If you believe that the statement you’re making is false, even when it isn’t actually false, but you try to get others to believe it’s true, then you have told a lie by my definition,” he says. “Some people would probably argue that if they accidentally get it right, if what they say is true when they think it’s not, that they’re not lying. I don’t excuse them on that basis. They have set out to deceive, and I set a slightly stricter standard than some others might,” he adds.

According to Mahon, the vast majority of lies are told for self-interested reasons — saving face or self-protection. “I believe that very few lies are told to hurt others. And when someone does lie, they usually end up telling two lies — the original lie and the cover-up of the lie,” he says.He also argues that the public will allow lies that are not for personal gain, but in the interest of some greater good such as national security.