RE: Lying through a constructivist lens
Mon, 26 Feb 1996 23:27:00 EST

Bob Neimeyer writes:
>Let me take Bill Chambers' invitation at face value and respond
>straightforwardly by sharing a few quick thoughts on "lying" from a
>constructivist perspective. At a process level, I like the Ruskin quote,
>but the concept is a bit tricky at an epistemological level. If we reject
>an objectivist notion of truth as something impartial, "out there,"
>uncontaminated by the play of human perspectives, how can a constructivist
>salvage the concept of "lying," vs. "honest," or variations on this theme?
>In other words, what we need is some way of accrediting the idea that there
>may be many truths, spoken from different vantage points, but each of which
>can be distinguished from dissembling in its many forms.
>This line of inquiry interests me in connection with the earlier thread (to
>which I hope at some point to return) about PCP and social constructionism.
> An affirmative valuing of "honesty" or "personal truth" would help edge
>constructivism away from the nihilism that characterizes at least some
>forms of constructionist discourse.

What a wonderful and provocatively stated question. It seems to my that
one can approach the notion of "lying" quite nicely from a constructivist
approach. I think that one of the problems that we get ourselves into when
we think about lying is the everday conception that lying means "not
telling the truth". A little thought, however, reveals the lie in this
conception of lying. I can tell an "untruth" without awareness of the
"error" that I'm making. As such, it indicates that what is central to the
concept of lying is not so much the "untruth" but rather the "intentional
deception" of others. That is, I am lying when I am intentionally attempt
to deceive you -- to intentionally encourage you to construct one
representation of an event when I believe that another representation is
really more appropriate. I realize, of course, that some might see me as
begging the question of "truth" with my use of the term "appropriate", but
at least this frames the issue of lying as intentional deception without
refering to some external truth as the criterion of the lie.

Michael F. Mascolo
Merrimack College