Lies, Deceit, and Bullshit in Law

33 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2018

Date Written: August 31, 2018


The law purports to disapprove of dishonesty. But not all species of dishonesty are created equal, and not all contexts are equivalent when it comes to the law’s intolerance of dishonest conduct. This article distinguishes among three types of dishonesty: lies, deceit, and bullshit. Lying is a statement that the speaker projects as true, while believing it to be false. Deceit depends on altering the hearer’s state of mind to believe something the speaker believes to be false, regardless of whether the deceitful statement is true or false. Bullshit, following the work of philosopher Harry Frankfurt, is a statement made without regard to its truth or falsity. The article touches on such areas of law as perjury, making false statements to government agents, fraud, pleading requirements, as well as political speech.

Keywords: perjury, fraud, deceit, Rule 11, bullshit, lies

Suggested Citation

Solan, Lawrence M., Lies, Deceit, and Bullshit in Law (August 31, 2018). Duquesne University Law Review, Vol. 56, p. 73, 2018; Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 566. Available at SSRN:

Lawrence M. Solan (Contact Author)

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States
718-780-0357 (Phone)


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