Can animals(non humans) lie?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by davewhite04, Jul 23, 2008.

  1. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Good, on both. I only mentioned God to illustrate why "unsupported belief" is not a suitably narrow definition for "intution." Can you define intution?
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  3. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member

    Intuition is almost a posh word for instinct.

    The difference is that instinct tends to be more accurate.
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  5. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    we are getting too far off thread but I disagree on both. For example I think intutions are "unsupported beliefs" but instinct often are not as there is no belief of any kind, only a pattern of behavior that is given to the organism genetically (almost sure that is how)

    I also have difficulty with applying the "accuracy" concept to an instinctive pattern of behavior. For example, humans (as babies) have an instinct to curle their fingers around objects placed in their palm, which permit this, like an adult's finger or pencil. They will suck on anything placed in their mouth, etc. - what is the accuracy value of these actions?
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  7. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member

    Hmmm I'm not sure about instincts being solely genetic, I think every animal learns. I don't think animals are robots.

    Let's keep this discussion within the animal kingdom.

    Here's an interesting link:

    Look at the section "What does it mean to have a starling who is "imprinted"
    on people."
  8. Enmos Valued Senior Member

    A statement or act that is deliberately untruthful with the intend to deceive.
  9. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

    So a person who has a good intution, say in relation to 'reading' liars, is simply randomly guessing and on the lucky end of the statistical bell curve?

    (Now I realize I am using intution perhaps slightly differently than you meant. On the other hand I think the two meanings get mudled by many people and the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater.)
  10. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    That seems to be essentially the same as mine, but I avoid using "untruthful" and "intent" and prefer:

    A statment or act contary to the producer's own BELIEVE with the reasonable hope or expectation it will decieve some receiver or witness of the act.

    I avoid any refererence to "truth" as many people think any false statement is a lie, but we agree that whether or not the statement is true or false is not important. For example a geography teacher in an Egyptian school 3500 years ago might have made the statement: "Except for local variations in elevation, such as hills and valleys, the world is flat." Neither of us think he was lying despite his making this false statment as he believed this and deception of his students clearly was not the teacher's intent, hope or expectation.

    I prefer defintions that can be "operationally applied." The determination of "intent" in many, if not most, cases is very difficult or impossible. Thus, I avoid that word also. Often even the "doer" does not know why he did something. - What his true intentions were, even if the "doer" thinks he understands why he did something, what his "intent" was, etc.

    This is especially true for the non-humans this thread is asking about. Often then the "doer's" behavior is under the control of instincts and has no "intent" only an advantage, on average, that evolution has selected for. For example, I think a spider spinning a web has neither "intent" nor "belief." Thus, at the spider level, "belief" is no better than "intent," but higher up on the evolutionary scale I think it is. Also as I stated earlier, the camoflaged moth is not lying even if it has deceptive coloration to resemble tree bark, as it lacks, any intent, belief, or expectaion of deception.

    I.e. it is often easier to infer what is believed (from knowlege of information the "doer" has especially if when recieved, his action pattern changes, than what the intent of the new action is. For example, if while driving to work a man hears the radio weather man say: There is a 90% chance of rain late this afternoon." and we then observe him immediately speed up the car, we can probably infer he heard and believes there is a 90% chance of rain late this afternoon.

    Perhaps he intends to go back home to get his raincoat and yet not be late for work. Perhaps he intends to park early at store near work to have time to buy an umbrella. Perhaps he want to get there early to get a parking space closer to the work place door, Perhaps he speed up to arrive at work early, plans to work thru lunch, and leave early before the afternoon rain begins, perhaps he is just angry and drives faster when angry, perhaps .... - what he intended by speeding up the car is harder to accurately guess than what he now believes that caused the change in action pattern.

    "Belief" vs. "intent" is not a big difference and you can probably find a counter example, but I think in gerneral inferring believe, given the information history and resulting change in action pattern is more easy and accurate that inferring the intent of some change in action pattern.

    I admit often a change in action pattern implies only one intent and belief with essentially the same accuracy/ probability. For example, a dog that gets a weekly bath in the kitichen in a washtub, may run and hide under the bed etc when he see owner get the tub out and begin filling it. Then it is equally reasonable to infer that the dog believes the owner will try to wash him and the dog intends to at least delay this bath. I think it rare that intent can be better inferred than belief, but certainly that is possible.

    I think one can agrue that this dog is lying. I.e. the dog not only believes, it knows it is at home, but by its actions it is stating it is not at home with the hope, expectation that it may decieve. In this case your "with intent to decieve" is just as good.
    As our definitons of lying are so much alike*, can I assume that you too think it is impossible to lie to yourself** or to a turtle?
    *The main difference, between our definitons is, I believe, that I explicitly reqire that some comphending "reciever of the stament" to exist for there to be lying and you only implicitly require that, or perhaps from your earlier posts, you do not require any reciever ever to be actually decieved or even exist.

    Consider your example of the camofaged moth. Is it always "deliberately untruthful with the intend to deceive" ? I ask, to be clear: Is the moth lying its entire life, even if no preditors ever saw it? If yes, then you are in the position of "no understanding statement receiver" required to make a lie. So you must also think a human can lie to a rock, to a turtle, etc., if the never seen moth is lying all its life.

    **without the aid of a time delying tape recorder etc as discussed in may earlier post.
  11. Jetex Jim Registered Member

    Billy T
    Possibly so, but just because something is unprovable shouldn't exclude it from the scope of the discussion. (especially in philosophy)

    For me, the 'intent' issue is by far the most interesting part of the debate.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2008
  12. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I was not excluding. I agree determination of "intent" and "belief" is an interesting problem and even to be sure they exist is hard. (The behaviorist lead the human sciences field for more than half a century and firmly deniged that either existed.) They denied all "mental states" - emotional feelings (distinct from sensory feelings) wishes etc. as well as intent, beliefs etc.)

    I.e they carried the idea that if not observable, then does not exist too far. I like that POV for everything with no supporting evidence, but I have the strongest possible, very direct, evidence - experience that these mental staes do exist. I am not 100% sure that anything else, like a universe, chemical elements, etc. do, but metal states do, at least for me, I am sure. (You may be free of them. - I can not be sure, but think you have them too. - This is just the "other minds problem" again.)

    I like the joke that ridicules the behaviorist:
    Guy to girl just after sex:
    "It was good for you. - how was it for me?

    BTW, you did not answer my direct questions. I will settle for just those of the last paragraph, which was:

    "Consider your example of the camofaged moth. Is it always "deliberately untruthful with the intend to deceive" ? I ask, to be clear: Is the moth lying its entire life, even if no preditors ever saw it? If yes, then you are in the position of "no understanding statement receiver" required to make a lie. So you must also think a human can lie to a rock, to a turtle, etc., if the never seen moth is lying all its life. "

    Specifically: is that moth (a) always lying; (b) lying only when a bird is tricked or at least hesitates to eat; or (c) Never lying.

    Please explain your answer by citing how it fits with your definition - your defined requirements of a lie.

    I answer (b) of course, as my definition, unlike yours, explicitly requires the presence of the "comprehender of the statement" - the one lied to. See footnote of my prior post for more comments.
    For same reason, I say a human can not lie to a turtle, no matter what the human may say. Perhaps a fly can lie to a turtle, by "playing opossum". (I think turtles will not eat a dead fly.)
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 30, 2008
  13. Jetex Jim Registered Member

    To look to your question. For me. intent is crucial to the definition of a lie. An appropriate level of conciousness is neccessary to your definition to be the reciever of a lie, yes? Hence a turtle or rock cannot be lied to.

    For me, a camoflagued creature cannot be lying just by haveing a deceiving colour pattern. The liar must have sufficient conciousness, to have the intent to deceive. And that complex bird decoying behaviour described earlier, cannot be considered a lie.

    Some humans think in self deluding states, when in denial, they are not really lying, they actually lack the self knowledge to be complicit. This is not just fuzzy liberal thinking, I believe what happens is that solid evidence to the contrary, is ignored when an emotional state is 'set to' a certain level.

    It may be that, love, fear, certain emotional feelings 'bias' the concious mind to the extent that some sensory information is disgarded, or given minimal consideration.-- Then. some situations fall below the level of attention neccessary for one to be conscious of them.

    Now animals do seem to demonstrate emotional states. But what I consider to be an essential component of conciousness, namely that little inner, narrative 'self' voice, probably doesn't exist in animals, they never developed the verbal language skills that we have, so that part of the brain anatomy (Broca region), is unique to man.

    And without this, they may not have enough knowledge of 'self' to be complicit enough to lie. But maybe, non-verbal creatures could have something different, yet equivelant 'narrative in some other form'. I'm rather tickled by the idea of a dog having an internal monologue of smells.

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