Conscious assertion of what the speaker knows he does not believe.
Note that it is not required that a lie is a false statement: What
is required is that its speaker considers it one, but states it as if it is
Most human lying is in fact done by the conscious non-saying of truths one
does know but rather does not give voice to in public, whether from cowardice
or self-interest. A large part of public lying - as in the tale of the
emperor's clothes - is collective collaborative public non-saying of things,
that may indeed be motivated by justified self-interest, as in dictatorships,
or common politeness, but also by
That what is a lie for the speaker may be a truth in fact was remarked
above, and it needs also remarking that there is a considerable difference
between the lying of children and that of adults: Children tend to really mean
what they say, if they don't lie, but most adults have falsified themselves
and pretended so much that they are hardly capable, in many circumstances, to
clearly distinguish their poses and pretensions of what they think they should
socially seem to be and what they could know is true or likely.
There also is a considerable difference between the lying of children
and of adults: Children really mean things, whereas most adults
have falsified and pretended so much that they are hardly capable of
real and authentic feeling and thinking, since they need
falsified versions of themselves to exist socially.
That is, the lies of children are conscious; the lies of grownups are
usually semi- conscious: They are playing some role and produce the
required inauthenticity and falsehoods semi automatically "because that
is the proper thing to do". And as remarked, much lying consists of
ommissions to say what one really thinks (while knowing someone else,
who might have been told the truth by the tacit person, has a personal
concern or danger in not knowing the truth).
The majority of human beings is not much interested nor finds much
profitable in true or probable ideas, but is much interested in
pleasant illusions and profitable lies.
And the majority knows this very well, although they rarely
admit it in public.
And the sad fact concerning lying - see Features
of Moral Norms - is
that the majority of human beings let themselves be deceived by lies
they could rather easily have seen through, if only the lies they accept
as if it were truths are the lies of their own leaders, or are the lies
which support their own desires or delusions - which they then support
with great moral pride as the socially and morally decent and moral
thing to say and believe.