Lies, jokes, and Santa Clause
I was thinking about something today on my way to Mt. Pleasant. It's an hour and a half drive, so it gives me lots of time to think. Truth is correspondence with reality. When what you say corresponds with reality, then you've said the truth. But what about when you say something that does not correspond with reality? What's that called?
Usually, we'd call that a lie. A lie is when we say something that isn't true. We can't say that without qualification, though. I was thinking today about different things we say that aren't true, but that aren't exactly lies either.
One example is when we're mistaken. If we believe something is true, and it isn't, then we're not exactly lying when we say what we believe. Telling a lie, then, must mean that we knowingly say something that isn't true.
Fiction is another example. The whole genre is based on telling stories that aren't true. But we don't consider that lying even though the story teller knows that what he's saying isn't true.
Jokes are another example. Of course a joke can be taken too far. I used to be really bad about carrying on jokes for a week at a time--having people believe something that isn't true. I used to be involved with a girl who didn't appreciate that sort of thing, and we had to come up with a rule to distinguish between a joke and a lie. We decided that if a joke goes on for more than five minutes without revealing that it had been a joke, then it's a lie. I've had similar agreements with other people who aren't into practical jokes.
The one that really got me to thinking today was Santa Clause. When parents tell their kids that Santa Clause comes down their chimney and leaves presents under the tree and eats their cookies, they are saying something that isn't true. They knowingly say something that isn't true, but it's not fiction, and it's not a joke. Is it a lie? What do you think? If it's not a lie, what would you call it?