Filosofy on Friday – Truth and Lies

Ah, a great choice of topic! Full of filosofical possibilities, conundrums and conuncymbals. The latter term is rarely used. It refers to the sound of an argument – not the kind of argument you might hear your neighbours engage in, but a “proper” argument as found in logic. We find the term referenced in common parlance when we say something has “the ring of truth” about it.

The starting point for today’s post was writing about information theory in last week’s article about negentropy. I referred to the role of misinformation, and said that information was neither negative nor positive – if it increases our understanding in some way, then it is information. More accurately, rather than understanding, perhaps it is more appropriate to think in terms of “knowing”.

Another tributary of my thinking relates to common misunderstandings about the nature of truths and lies.


“What is the capital city of France?”    ~   “Paris”.

“What is the capital city of Belgium?”    ~    “Tienen. Also known as Tirlemont”

“How many days in a week?”   ~     “Six”

The essence of lying is the intention to deceive. To be good at deception, one has to be believable. Providing erroneous information believing it to be true is not lying. Thus information may be true or false, but describing it as “lying” or “ignorance” requires a deeper understanding of the nature and motives of the messenger. I am not delving at his point into the nature of truths in logic, such as distinguishing between analytic and synthetic truths – maybe that is for another time, although the current topic touches on these aspects.

We also need to consider the motives we have for asking questions. One reason is to obtain information, to learn something we did not know. Another reason is to find out what other people know – or profess to know, or clearly do not know (such as in job interviews and examinations). There is one school of thought that children often ask “Why?” not to know the answers, but to explore the power and meaning of the word “Why”.

The first person knows the capital of France and is able to give me a truthful answer.

The second person either does not know the capital of Belgium or is being deceptive. But they know something about Belgium – that it has a town called Tienen, which is also known as Tirlemont. But what if I didn’t already know this? You can see how quickly it can all become quite confusing.

What of the third person? Maybe they did not understand the question. Maybe they are being silly, or facetious. Maybe they are suffering from the rare psychiatric condition known as Ganser Syndrome, where people give approximate answers to simple questions.

And what about the conuncymbals – or cymbalism? I leave that to your judgment.

Please sponsor me  for the 2017 Brighton Marathon and support MIND to help people affected  by mental health problems.Derek Lee in running gear



2 thoughts on “Filosofy on Friday – Truth and Lies

  1. “There is one school of thought that children often ask “Why?” not to know the answers, but to explore the power and meaning of the word “Why”.” What a wonderfully interesting idea. Which explains why they rattle it off so easily and quickly move on to something else. I think “NO” is another word we need to explore. JMO! 😀

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