Re: Lying through an animal lens

W Ramsay (
Tue, 27 Feb 96 15:32:40 GMT

>I am not sure about dogs "lying" about pain ... but birds _will_
>feign an injury o attract a predator away from their nest. This
>behaviour increases the probability that the yyoung will reach
>their age of reproduction.
>Is this "lying"?
>Terry Semple

Nope! It's evolution. See Richard Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene", "The Blind
Watchmaker@, etc. It's not even reinforced.

In terms of construing, though, doesn't the sociality corollary provide a
reasonable description? We could model lying as the outcome of construing a
situation as one from which we anticipate an undesirable outcome. If
another party is likely to be instrumental in such an outcome, then we lie
in order to change their (anticipated by us) behaviour. To generate a
convincing lie (i.e one that will work in this sense) requires that we
construe their construing processes, otherwise how can we anticipate their
anticipation and thus change their course of action? The lie is convincing
in that the third party's construing of the lie and its attendant
circumstances generates an anticipation on his or her part which has a high
probability of validation if they act according to our version of events.

Hence the Sociality corollary. No existentialism, no nihilism. Or am I
being naif?


Bill Ramsay,
Dept. of Educational Studies,
University of Strathclyde,
Jordanhill Campus,
G13 1PP,

'phone: +44 (0)141 950 3364
'fax: +44 (0)141 950 3367