Misleading Talk Is Lying on a Higher Level

Finnish version not currently available.

I’m sure you are all familiar with how it’s possible to speak misleadingly without technically saying anything that is untrue. Rely on exact wording, use statistics misleadingly, and so on. Like, say, advertising something as fat-free even though all products of that type are fat-free, giving the impression this product is somehow better when it’s not.

This is generally no better morally for not technically being a case of lying. However, there is also a sense in which it is a case of lying. In saying whatever you say, you are in effect saying more than one thing, on more than one level of abstraction — and the usefulness of using half-truths like this seems might often derive from the fact that people will remember things on a higher level of abstraction, ie. more vaguely and generally. You quote some numbers that seem to indicate that there is a trend, even though they’re misleadingly selective — and people will remember the proposition that the trend exists, not the numbers themselves. You say your wine gums are fat-free (I think they all are, right?), and though people might not forget that so easily as numbers, they will also take home the (more general, abstract) message that they are somehow better. So while you’re saying something technically true, on a higher level of abstraction you’re also effectively saying something that is a lie.

Of course, this is just one way of conceptualising it, potentially a helpful perspective in some cases. But remember what I said at the beginning — whether you’re looking at it that way or not, whether calling it a lie or not, doesn’t really affect its moral status, because it’s similarly misleading anyway. This is just one way of pointing to the misleadingness.


Small Evidence, Big Theory

Finnish version not currently available.

Why is it that different people can look at the same evidence and see it as proving entirely different things? This post introduces what I see as being one reason.

Here’s an example:

But to analyse it explicitly…

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How to Make People Irresponsible

Finnish version not currently available.

How to make people irresponsible? At the core, it’s simple: Tell them they’re not responsible. Tell them they’re not in control. Make it seem like they don’t have a free choice and don’t hold them accountable for what they do.

It really works like that, and that’s one reason that things that don’t seem to matter, like a culture’s customs of what to say to and about people, really do matter. This is what the concept of responsibility is for, and it turns out to be one we really need.

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Only English for the Time Being


I have aimed to write almost everything on this weblog in both English and Finnish. Now, however, I will give up this practice and write only in English for the time being.

As you may have noticed, I have not published anything in a while. Especially now, during the summer, I’m simply too busy. (I’m both working and writing my Master’s thesis.) Nevertheless, I have occasionally been inspired enough to find time to write something — but not also to translate it, which takes about equally long. That’s why I haven’t published anything. Therefore, I can actually get something done here if I start doing it in only one language, and English is of course the one that pretty much all of my readers understand.

I don’t know for how long I will continue like this. Later, I may come back to translate these articles.

Toistaiseksi vain englanniksi


Olen lähtökohtaisesti kirjoittanut melkein kaiken tähän blogiin sekä englanniksi että suomeksi. Nyt kuitenkin luovun toistaiseksi tästä käytännöstä ja kirjoitan pelkästään englanniksi.

Kuten olette saattanut huomata, en ole julkaissut pitkään aikaan mitään. Varsinkin nyt kesällä minulla on yksinkertaisesti liian kiire. (Käyn töissä ja kirjoitan pro gradu -työtäni.)  Kuitenkin olen aina välillä saanut inspiraatioita, jotka ovat auttaneet löytämään aikaa kirjoittaa jotakin — mutta ei lisäksi vielä kääntää sitä samaa, missä kestää yleensä yhtä kauan. Siksi en ole saanut julkaistuksi mitään. Kirjoittamalla vain yhdellä kielellä ehdin siis saada jotain aikaiseksikin, ja englanti on tietenkin se, jota suunnilleen kaikki lukijani ymmärtävät.

En tiedä, kuinka kauan jatkan näin. Saatan joskus myöhemmin kääntää näinkin julkaisemani kirjoitukset vielä erikseen suomeksi.