Damned Lies

37 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2021 Last revised: 30 Jun 2021

See all articles by Jeremy Waldron

Jeremy Waldron

New York University School of Law

Date Written: March 3, 2021


A popular saying distinguishes lies from damned lies: this paper asks about the difference. It does so as a way of considering the variety of lies told by former President Trump and the variety of ways in which his lying was wrong. Specifically it focuses on the manipulative aspect of lies, the grave and malicious damage that a lie may do to particular person, and the ways in which lying degrades and undermines conventions associated with human communication in various specific areas of discourse. Some of these ideas are found in Kant's moral philosophy, and Kant's views on lying are examined sympathetically and in detail. Many of President Trump's lies were banal and self-serving. But they underline our sense of a common world and the importance of truth as a touchstone in politics as in everyday life. Trump's lies about the 2020 election are given special attention in light of the point that his duty was not so much to convey accurate information--we have other sources for that--but to perform the formal task of *affirming* the results in order to allow the political system to continue operating.

Keywords: ethics, Kant, lies, lying, mendacity, perjury, politics, Trump, truth

Suggested Citation

Waldron, Jeremy, Damned Lies (March 3, 2021). NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 21-11, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3797216 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3797216

Jeremy Waldron (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics