What logical fallacy would this be? I am doing a project and I need to identify what kind of logical fallacy this would represent.

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    Wait... back up. If telling a lie makes me a liar, and doing something bad makes me a bad person, does saying something true make me trustworthy, or doing something good make me a good person?
    – H Walters
    Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 6:38
  • 2
    The quote is from Michael's Cohen's testimony before the Congress. It is not a fallacy, he is right. If lying or doing bad things on occasion made one a liar and a bad (wo)man, everybody would be both. On the usual meaning of words, it takes a tendency to lie and misbehave for the labels to apply. Whether Cohen displayed such a tendency or not is a separate question. Mercieca gives an interesting analysis of Cohen's rhetorical strategy in Michael Cohen’s verbal somersault
    – Conifold
    Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 6:44
  • 1
    Not a logical falalcy at all... You are only a liar, because you are lying and you are asserting that you are not lying. Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 7:28

6 Answers 6


It is a self-contradiction if it is interpreted as :

'I have lied but I am not a liar [I have never lied], and I have done bad things but I am not a bad man [I have never done bad things].

But in its plain and natural meaning it can perfectly well be true and non-fallacious:

'I have lied [on occasion] but I am not dispositionally, habitually, regularly a liar, and 'I have done bad things [sometimes morally erred, done some morally wrong things] but I am not dispositionally, habitually, regularly a man who does bad things.


It isn't a logical fallacy at all. It all depends on the definition of "liar" and "a bad person", and most people define for example "liar" in such a way that a single lie does not make you a liar.

(That said, in everyday English usage, people often say "You are a liar" when they actually mean "You just told a lie". Natural language is often not quite clear).


I believe there are 3 grades of liar-ness of which, following Conifold and Geoffrey Thomas, the second is normally called liar

  1. Telling a lie – no imputation on a general tendency.
  2. A confirmed chronic tendency. “Liar” should normally be applied here
  3. There is no standard usage here. “You're a (living) Lie!” is close.

    "Integrity" may be used not so much in the metaphorical sense common in lay usage but the technical sense used by structural/civil engineers when they say: "This building/bridge has no integrity." which means the building or bridge only deceptively looks like one. Use at your risk!

    This is also related to the logic Principle of explosion: Wherein adding an inconsistent statement causes an explosion of putatively true but actually useless statements.

  4. One could also make a 0 category: The non-liars —Someone who's never lied. Quite theoretical in my experience!!

Cohen is pleading for first category-membership.

No fallacy.


Christian theology kind of specialises in this. We have a cognitive bias to believe we are good, we are the positive standard, and do things for the right reasons – and that is often extended to things like our ends justify our means, it's everyone else's means that are intrinsically or categorically immoral.

The Christian perspective is to accept we are all sinners. No one should throw the first stone to kill a sinner, because all of us are guilty. Saying we are not liars, not bad people, is an evasion. It is part of all of us. As Solzhenitsyn put it in The Gulag Archipelago:

The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

The theology responding to that is varied. But the psychology is clear. Absolution, progress, requires confession, acknowledgement, and atonement. To be better, we must understand that we are flawed. We cannot simply decide our own identity, whether liar, bad person, or not. We can only try to see clearly and do right, and await judgement.

It is a powerful psychotechnology, regardless of religious stance.

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    What a wonderful answer! Deserves a bounty! I've (besides upvoting) taken the liberty to edit – only formatting spelling. Needless to add you are free to revert/continue
    – Rushi
    Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 3:45
  • Also note rather than "No one should cast the first stone" what Christ said was "Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone" The reification into principle is after the fact. And is a dilution thereof.
    – Rushi
    Commented Nov 17, 2019 at 3:54
  • @Rusi-packing-up So Jesus is just saying, he gets first dibs?
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 3:55
  • "first dibs"? I don't know it's (cultural) significance. (Google tells me it's a children's game) My point was that Jesus evoked conscience in a bunch of specific accusing individuals in a particular cultural context. Paradoxically this is a stronger statement than when reified into general principle which is the domain of theologians and schoolmen. (with all due respect to Kant, golden rule etc).
    – Rushi
    Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 5:00

"I have lied but I am not a liar"

I am still authentic if I admit that I am a lier by fact (insofar a lier is defined as a one having lied) and nonetheless say I'm not a lier - based on the intuition that no fact about me can shape me as consciousness (which has possibilities, including no more lying etc.). I am free from what I have been. But I'm that free by the mode of non-being only.

I get trapped into "bad faith" or self-deception, if swap the accents the opposite way. I claim "I am not a liar" pretending it to play like a fact (e.g., due to my good nature/essence). Consequently, that what I lied becomes, in turn, a non-being. My lie was therefore not a "real" lie, maybe it was a play, trick or a mistake, something not serious that cannot characterize me, an honest one. I make myself free of lying by the mode of being a thing which is beyond lying.

And this is the worst lying of all. The fallacy here being that a potentiality (I'm not a liar) is thought of as propped by being (thence it is a being itself, its derivation), while the fact of being (I lied), self-contained, suddenly appears dispersed by a whim.


Being a liar is a vice, and , according to Aristotle, a vice is a (bad) habit as well as virtue is a ( good) habit. A habit is a disposition, a tendency ( acquired through the repetition of an action).

The action of lying is not a habit.

One could imagine a man that is compelled to lie all the time ( maybe he is a secret agent but does not want his family to know it) , while feeling at each time a deep repugnancy for such an action. This man has to make an effort to lie, he has never gotten used to lying and has no lying tendency.

Such a hypothetical man would not be a liar.

Since this scenario is logically possible, the action of lying does not imply being a liar. And therefore, there is no fallacy.

Of, course, saying that this is not a fallacy does not mean that the conclusion of the reasoning is true.

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