I recall reading several philosophical articles which deal with various types of untruths: lies, misrepresentations, contradictions, omissions, confabulations, delusions, hallucinations, apparitions, veiled implications, exaggerations, gaslightings, misdirections, etc.

Is there a standard reference for classifying/nosologizing these untruths? I'm willing to accept dead-tree answers, but heavily prefer freely-available works.

  • 1
    You would think, given the import of truth conditions in semantics, that there would be taxonomies. There are species of fallacies, logic, and theories of truth, but species of falsity? Maybe a gap in the literature?
    – J D
    May 10, 2023 at 17:15
  • 1
    Particularly pertinent in the era of post-truth. May 10, 2023 at 19:59
  • 3
    Here is my favorite, Frankfurt, On Bullshit:"I propose to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit, mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory philosophical analysis... Humbug: deceptive misrepresentation, short of lying, especially by pretentious word or deed, of somebody’s own thoughts, feelings, or attitudes. A very similar formulation might plausibly be offered as enunciating the essential characteristics of bullshit."
    – Conifold
    May 11, 2023 at 1:42

2 Answers 2


The Definition of Lying and Deception on SEP.

Differentiating everyday lies: A typology of lies based on beneficiary and motivation. Paper

Real Lies, White Lies and Gray Lies: Towards a Typology of Deception. Paper (pdf)

Fake News, Post-truth, and Alternative Facts: Lying and Integrity in the Public Sector, a special issue of the journal Public Integrity; Volume 21, Issue 5 (2019).

An Illustrated Guide to the 4 Types of Liars. Article

How to Tell if Someone is Lying: The Ultimate Deception Guide by Vanessa Edwards. Long online article

Empirical Evidence for a Typology of Lies. Paper

The UK Professional Standards Authority Typology of Lying. Professiinal body project (pdf)

A Pack of Lies: Towards a Sociology of Lying, Barnes. Book.

Quite a lot out there. This is just a quick scan.

Worth a typology of the psychology too. Developmental:

From little white lies to filthy liars: the evolution of honesty and deception in young children. Paper

And psychological types in motivation:

Which Types of People Are the Most Deceptive?. Article, with links to relevant papers


Let's make a list.

Physiological issue. "Too drunk to fish." "Not so stunned as slow."
Psychological issue. "Don't get me started!" "He crazy!"
Religious fables. "The Lord will provide!"
Honest mistake. "How many Romans?"
Fictional literature. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
Social fictions. "No dear, those pants don't make your butt look big." "All good little girls and boys must go to bed now so Santa can come."
Political lies. "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
Militaristic lies. "Our forces are weak here and strong there."
Deliberate deception. "Trust me." "If it gets me a bigger grant..."

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