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Moral Philosophy/What is deceit?


I want to ask about lying. People said lying includes deceit.

"Deceit" - "act or practice ... intended to ... mislead by a false appearance or statement" - Random House College Dictionary.

But I have difficulty to identify Deceit. Letís say makeup. Nowadays it is common for woman to have makeup. However, makeup alter the actual appearance but not aim at cheating people. Then will makeup be classified as deceit? Then if makeup classified as deceit, then painting a house should also be classified as deceit because painting will alter the original appearance of the house. Other case is having laser facial to remove dark blemish. Although it does not add anything on the face but alter the appearance by removing the dark blemish. Will it be classified as deceit?? Some said that if you have makeup, and you tell your friends, then you are not lying. However, you cannot tell each person in the world who will look at you, and therefore, it is impossible to tell all people that you have makeup. Then although the person has not planned to lie, but he actually mislead people by a false appearance.

Will the above be classified as deceit?
Please kindly advise.

Many thanks!!

Dear Cole,

thankfully you already included a dictionary's definition. It includes the wording "intended to ... mislead". And that is what I will focus on when answering your question: it depends on the intention in each specific case towards each specific person.

If everyone knows that women are wearing make-up, nobody is mislead. If you wear that much make-up that everyone will notice it, it's no deceit. I would hope that everyone else brushes their teeth or washes their hair before going out, so if at all, there is a general agreement that we work on ourselves (at varying degrees) before leaving our house.
But I would go one step further: Even if you apply decent make-up which cannot be immediately spotted, it is generally no deceit if you are not doing it to mislead anyone in particular. There is no addressee of anything that could constitute deceit. If you walk down the street, it's nobody's business what you look like. It's your personal matter. You are not trying to deceive anything because there never has been any agreement between you and the other people in the street or on the subway that everyone would leave the house the same way as they rose from bed this morning.
That leads me to the exception: If somebody is interested in you because of your looks, then I think it should be disclosed if you normally look completely different than with make-up. By getting closer to somebody, we assume responsibilities and one of these responsibilities is being truthful.

There I think it's even less of a deceit because you did actually change yourself. There wouldn't be any point in telling others what you used to look like, because you are no longer going to look like that.

Painted house:
I don't see any deceit in painting a house, as most people will know that houses, cars and other stuff gets painted over from time to time. It would be a deceit only if you told people that this is the house in its original state from the 18th century, when in reality you painted it last year.
And again, unless someone is buying your house, it's nobody's business how fresh the paint is.

As you see, I would generally be very reluctant to see obligations to truthfulness outside of personal or business or similar relationships.

Andreas Moser

Moral Philosophy

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Andreas Moser


Moral philosophy, ethics, legal philosophy.


The rare combination of a lawyer and a philosopher. Studied and practised law in Germany and then went on to study for an MA in philosophy in the UK.


2000: law degree, University of Regensburg, Germany 2002-2009: practising as a lawyer in Germany 2013: MA Philosophy, Open University, UK

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