I was watching Judge Judy and the defendant communicated some information about her case. Later, it was determined that some key pieces of information were excluded from her testimony. Judge Judy then proceeded to claim she was lying and called her a liar.

When it comes to deciding if someone is a liar or is lying, does such a claim require that accused intended to deceive or misconstrue the facts?

What if the accused liar sincerely forgot or misremembered a fact? Can this person still be accused of lying?

Edit #1: I believe the defendant sincerely misinterpreted her situation and recounted them from a different perspective. If someone really believes in their story but they really have no intention of deception, are they lying? Is this considered "Bullshitting" since the defendant "demonstrated a lack of concern for the truth"?

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. This is a site with a more academic orientation, descriptions of word meanings can be found in dictionaries and encyclopedias, e.g. Wikipedia:"A lie is a statement that the stating party believes to be false and that is made with the intention to deceive".
    – Conifold
    Commented Dec 24, 2016 at 1:14
  • So lying must involve intent! I thank you answered it, but that has prompted a follow-up question.
    – doremi
    Commented Dec 24, 2016 at 3:32

3 Answers 3


Sure, accusation is sufficient to sully the testimony but accusation alone doesn't make it necessarily so that the person lied.

Imagine you work in a windowless office and you want to know if it is raining outside - it's almost time for your lunch break and as it has been raining lately you want to decide whether or not to bring your umbrella. A coworker with a corner office that has windows happens by your open office door. You call them over and ask them what the weather is like outside. They go to their office and looking out their window, see that the sun is shining without a grey cloud in the sky. Unbeknownst to you, your coworker suffers from a condition whereby they think it is raining when it is sunny. Furthermore, your coworker decides to play a prank and tell you other than the way the weather appears to them. When they return to your office and report that it is sunny outside their statement of the case is true but did they lie?

There is, of course a subjective aspect to what is considered lying. The intent to deceive or the effect of misrepresenting - intentionally or not - the case are not necessarily the same. In Judy's instance, she is a judge in a civil court so she has the authority to determine the reliability of testimony. This includes whether the testimony is insincere, confused, sincerely misdirecting or otherwise, it is her discretion to characterize the testimonial and the person testifying.

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    Thank you for your response. It most accurately responds to my question; however, it still seems like the "intent to deceive" is still required to qualify someone as a liar. Could you clarify a little more about the guy who has the illness? I would consider his response to not be a lie even though it an untrue so it would not be fair to call him a liar, right?
    – doremi
    Commented Dec 24, 2016 at 3:30
  • @doremi the intent was to deceive but the motivation was not malicious - even if the prank was to get a laugh at the coworkers expense. Consider that intent is ponderable and motivation imponderable (and often conflicted, even contradictory, "sub-conscious" and such). In one reading we could imagine that the person with the condition hates their coworker and the motivation was sadistic or petulant. In a civil court, however, even if there is no "intent to deceive" the resulting "deception" from ignorance could still count as lying (especially if the willful ignorance benefits the "liar").
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Dec 24, 2016 at 7:49

Yes. Were they trying to convince someone of their disposition, or report about reality, while intentionally knowing that what they were trying to convince someone of did not comport with reality? If so, then they have lied. The issue is the end, or the goal, and this is the intent. Then we can discuss means, as another commenter has done.


A person can lie by commission or by omission. Probably the situation you've seen was a lie by omission. For example:

John: are you having sex with another BOY? Ann: no! I swear! John: (OK, then I assume she's not cheating on me)

Then, if Ann is having sex with a GIRL, her answer is still true, but she's lying by omission: by not saying that she's cheating john, but with a girl. In this case, the judge will clearly see a lie by omission. It is very difficult to "sincerely forget" something that is absolutely noticeable and is happening now, and it was just omitted.

If it can be sincerely forgotten, the judge should take it into account and do not qualify the fact as a lie.

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