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date: 18 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Plato famously defends lying by leaders. This chapter argues that there is a strong moral presumption against lying by leaders. Two historically important examples of leaders who lied to gain public support for wars that they wanted to fight are discussed—Franklin Roosevelt and George W. Bush. Also discussed are cases of lying about the historical record, most notably the lies that created the Dolchstoßlegende (myth of the stab in the back) in Germany after WWI. Half-truths are narratives consisting of true statements or sets of true statements that selectively emphasize facts that support a particular assessment of an issue and selectively ignore or minimize other relevant facts that support contrary assessments. Some important examples of half-truths about the historical record are presented and the chapter concludes by discussing the obligations of historians to be accurate and truthful.

Keywords: Plato on the Noble Lie, Roosevelt, Franklin, George W. Bush, half-truths, John Mearsheimer, Lincoln, lying as pretexts for war, The Dolchstoßlegende, lying about history

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