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Summary

Saint Athanasius was rowing on a river when the pursuers – who did not recognize him – asked, ‘Where is the traitor Athanasius?’ ‘Not far away,’ the Saint replied and rowed past them.

This case is unanimously explained as a case in which the saint managed to avoid lying. Rather than lying, that is, Athanasius seems to have ‘merely’ misled the pursuers that he is not the traitor Athanasius. The case and the lying/misleading distinction also have a very interesting application on ethical debates on lying. 

According to the absolutist view on lying, lying is an offence against truth; hence, we may never lie. Kant, for example, famously writes that the demand not to violate the moral law is so strong that, even if a murderer knocks on my door looking to kill my friend who is in my house, it would be a crime to lie to him. Drawing a sharp and clear distinction between lying and other forms of deceitful speech (i.e., between lying and ‘merely’ misleading) appears to offer a way out of the requirement for absolute truth. Unlike lying, misleading and deceptive speech in general are not unqualifiedly wrong because they need not violate the fundamental principle that we must always be truthful: when I am being misleading, I tell you something true that causes you to infer something false from it.  

But where lies the distinction between lying and misleading speech? On the predominant view, to lie one must assert what one says. However, it has been recently argued that one can lie by presupposing false implication, or by implicating it, or by making false promises (see, the ‘Lying’ leaf). Even some experimental evidence supports some of these views (e.g., regarding lying by implicating). And, if one counts as lying by asserting a true proposition while implicating false information, then what one needs to do to be merely misleading in speech? Also, is it really true that lying is worse than mere misleading? 

These questions have received a notable attention recently and the debate is extremely interesting. 

Key works I think that it is too early to talk about key works but one should surely read Saul 2012, which can also be used as a nice introduction into the topic. 
Introductions Saul 2012
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  1. Saying, Commitment, and the Lying – Misleading Distinction.Neri Marsili & Guido Löhr - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
  2. Lying, Misleading, and Fairness.Emanuel Viebahn - 2022 - Ethics 132 (3):736-751.
    Sam Berstler defends a general moral advantage for misleading over lying by arguing that liars, but not misleaders, act unfairly toward the other members of their linguistic community. This article spells out three difficulties for Berstler’s account. First, though Berstler aims to avoid an error theory, it is dubitable that her account fits with intuitions on the matter. Second, there are some lies that do not exhibit the unfairness Berstler identifies. Third, fairness is not the only morally relevant difference between (...)
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  3. Lying, Misleading, and the Argument From Cultural Slopes.Lisa Herzog - 2021 - Res Publica 27 (1):77-93.
    This paper discusses a novel kind of argument for assessing the moral significance of acts of lying and misleading. It is based on considerations about valuable social norms that might be eroded by these actions, because these actions function as signals. Given that social norms can play an important role in supporting morality, individuals have a responsibility to preserve such norms and to prevent ‘cultural slopes’ that erode them. Depending on whether there are norms against lying, misleading, or both, and (...)
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  4. To Lie or to Mislead?Felix Timmermann & Emanuel Viebahn - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (5):1481-1501.
    The aim of this paper is to argue that lying differs from mere misleading in a way that can be morally relevant: liars commit themselves to something they believe to be false, while misleaders avoid such commitment, and this difference can make a moral difference. Even holding all else fixed, a lie can therefore be morally worse than a corresponding misleading utterance. But, we argue, there are also cases in which the difference in commitment makes lying morally better than misleading, (...)
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  5. The Lying-Misleading Distinction: A Commitment-Based Approach.Emanuel Viebahn - 2021 - Journal of Philosophy 118 (6):289-319.
    The distinction between lying and mere misleading is commonly tied to the distinction between saying and conversationally implicating. Many definitions of lying are based on the idea that liars say something they believe to be false, while misleaders put forward a believed-false conversational implicature. The aim of this paper is to motivate, spell out, and defend an alternative approach, on which lying and misleading differ in terms of commitment: liars, but not misleaders, commit themselves to something they believe to be (...)
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  6. Lying, Misleading, and Dishonesty.Alex Barber - 2020 - The Journal of Ethics 24 (2):141-164.
    An important moral category—dishonest speech—has been overlooked in theoretical ethics despite its importance in legal, political, and everyday social exchanges. Discussion in this area has instead been fixated on a binary debate over the contrast between lying and ‘merely misleading’. Some see lying as a distinctive wrong; others see it as morally equivalent to deliberately omitting relevant truths, falsely insinuating, or any other species of attempted verbal deception. Parties to this debate have missed the relevance to their disagreement of the (...)
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  7. Strategies of Deception: Under‐Informativity, Uninformativity, and Lies—Misleading With Different Kinds of Implicature.Michael Franke, Giulio Dulcinati & Nausicaa Pouscoulous - 2020 - Topics in Cognitive Science 12 (2):583-607.
  8. Truthful but Misleading: Advanced Linguistic Strategies for Lying Among Children.Chao Hu, Jinhao Huang, Qiandong Wang, Ethan Weare & Genyue Fu - 2020 - Frontiers in Psychology 11.
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  9. What’s the Good of Language? On the Moral Distinction Between Lying and Misleading.Sam Berstler - 2019 - Ethics 130 (1):5-31.
    I give a new argument for the moral difference between lying and misleading. First, following David Lewis, I hold that conventions of truthfulness and trust fix the meanings of our language. These conventions generate fair play obligations. Thus, to fail to conform to the conventions of truthfulness and trust is unfair. Second, I argue that the liar, but not the misleader, fails to conform to truthfulness. So the liar, but not the misleader, does something unfair. This account entails that bald-faced (...)
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  10. The Aesthetic Significance of the Lying-Misleading Distinction.Jessica Pepp - 2019 - British Journal of Aesthetics 59 (3):289-304.
    There is a clear intuitive difference between lying and attempting to mislead. Recent efforts to analyse this difference, and to define lying in ways that respect it, are motivated by the conviction that the difference is important or significant in some way. Traditionally, the importance of the lying-misleading distinction has been cashed out in moral terms, but this approach faces a number of challenges. The purpose of this paper is to suggest and develop a different way in which the lying-misleading (...)
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  11. Lying and Insincerity.Andreas Stokke - 2018 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    Andreas Stokke presents a comprehensive study of lying and insincere language use. He investigates how lying relates to other forms of insincerity and explores the kinds of attitudes that go with insincere uses of language. -/- Part I develops an account of insincerity as a linguistic phenomenon. Stokke provides a detailed theory of the distinction between lying and speaking insincerely, and accounts for the relationship between lying and deceiving. A novel framework of assertion underpins the analysis of various kinds of (...)
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  12. Lying, Misleading, and What is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics, Written by Jennifer Mather Saul. [REVIEW]Eliot Michaelson - 2016 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (4):491-494.
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  13. Lying and Misleading in Discourse.Andreas Stokke - 2016 - Philosophical Review 125 (1):83-134.
    This essay argues that the distinction between lying and misleading while not lying is sensitive to discourse structure. It shows that whether an utterance is a lie or is merely misleading sometimes depends on the topic of conversation, represented by so-called questions under discussion. It argues that to mislead is to disrupt the pursuit of the goal of inquiry—that is, to discover how things are. Lying is seen as a special case requiring assertion of disbelieved information, where assertion is characterized (...)
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  14. Lying, Misleading, and What is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics by Jennifer Mather Saul, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012, Pp. XIII + 146, £32.00, Hbk. [REVIEW]John D. O'connor - 2015 - New Blackfriars 96 (1061):119-120.
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  15. Lying, Misleading, and What is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and Ethics by Jennifer Mather Saul.C. Brown - 2014 - Analysis 74 (1):179-180.
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  16. Lying, Misleading, and What Is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics, by Jennifer Mather Saul. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, Xiii + 146 Pp. ISBN 978-0-19-960368-8 Hb £30.00. [REVIEW]Don Fallis - 2014 - European Journal of Philosophy 22 (S1):e17-e22.
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  17. Better Lie!Clea F. Rees - 2014 - Analysis 74 (1):69-74.
    I argue that lying is generally morally better than mere deliberate misleading because the latter involves the exploitation of a greater trust and more seriously abuses our willingness to fulfil epistemic and moral obligations to others. Whereas the liar relies on our figuring out and accepting only what is asserted, the mere deliberate misleader depends on our actively inferring meaning beyond what is said in the form of conversational implicatures as well. When others’ epistemic and moral obligations are determined by (...)
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  18. Lying, Misleading & What Is Said.Jamie Whyte - 2014 - Philosophical Quarterly 64 (254):209-210.
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  19. Lying, Misleading, and What Is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics, by Saul Jennifer Mather: Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, Pp. Xii + 146, £30.00. [REVIEW]Stuart Brock - 2013 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (4):831-832.
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  20. Jennifer Mather Saul , Lying, Misleading, and What Is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics . Reviewed By.Melissa MacAulay & Stainton - 2013 - Philosophy in Review 33 (5):403-405.
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  21. Lying, Deceiving, and Misleading.Andreas Stokke - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (4):348-359.
    This article discusses recent work on lying and its relation to deceiving and misleading. Two new developments in this area are considered: first, the acknowledgment of the phenomenon of lying without the intent to deceive , and second, recent work on the distinction between lying and merely misleading. Both are discussed in relation to topics in philosophy of language, the epistemology of testimony, and ethics. Critical surveys of recent theories are offered and challenges and open questions for further research are (...)
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  22. Saying Too Little and Saying Too Much. Critical Notice of ‘Lying, Misleading and What is Said’, by Jennifer Saul.Andreas Stokke - 2013 - Disputatio 5 (35):81-91.
    Stokke-Andreas_Saying-too-little-and-saying-too-much2.
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  23. Lying, Misleading, and What is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics.Jennifer Mather Saul - 2012 - Oxford University Press.
    1. Lying -- 2. The problem of what is said -- 3. What is said -- 4. Is lying worse than merely misleading? -- 5. Some interesting cases.
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  24. Why Lying is Worse Than Merely Misleading.Stephen Wilkinson - 2000 - Philosophy Today 13 (34):6-7.
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