Lie, Trick... What's the difference?

I never was able to realize the difference.

What exactly is the difference between a lie and a trick? Upon consulting the dictionary. I found that it says that a lie is "an intentionally false statement" and a trick is "a cunning or skillful act or scheme intended to deceive or outwit someone", but does the intention really make the difference to anyone? Do we not lie to deceive or outwit someone, thus making the act of lying a "cunning act" or "scheme"?

Like when people cheat on their partner and they find out, does anyone actually go "tricked ya!" to make it all okay? Is that even a thing lol?


Openly decieving someone for fun vs openly decieving a person for your own personal gain are two completely different things.... The only way you could really say one is like the other is to purposfully broaden your definition of lying to or tricking someone to encompass them both....

But even any fool understands the difference between the two.... And if a person says they don't, it's only because they are probably trying to lie about the fact that they know the difference....

Either way.... If I'm lying, I'm dying....
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But that's why I say what really is the difference. Sure, it may come down to intention, but aren't the consequences the same? Does intention really justify a whole separate word, because if so, why not create a word for 'deception with the intention of making someone wealth' or something lol?


Your Resident Beardy Bear
I think part of it might have to do with what is the intention going on. If the intention is to institute harm (physical or emotional) onto others, I consider it as part of the lie. Now contrast this to a trick, which the intention is not to directly or indirectly cause harm to the person, but maybe spark curiosity and awe.

On the other hand, if someone were to play a trick on someone-let's use Die Hard with a Vengeance as an example-Simon plays the game Simon says, which the point is to trick the subject into believing something providing Simon states, "Simon says." During an early part of the movie, he talks about the Man going to St. Ives, and the wives, sacks, cats, and kittens, which was all part of the trick, but then he says, "My phone number is 555 and the answer. Call me in 30 seconds or die."

So in this particular scene, Simon used the trick of the game, Simon says, to deceive McClane and Zeus into believing that the answer was how many people were going to St. Ives, which we all know was just the guy as the trick of the riddle is, "As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives, every wife had seven sacks, every sacks had seven cats. Every cat had seven kittens. Kittens, cats, sacks, and wives, how many were going to St. Ives?"

So in some respects, it was a double trick Simon was playing, because he was playing Simon says, and he never said, "Simon says," and the nursery-rhyme was also a trick, but then there was the part where he said, "Call me in 30 seconds or die." So he both tricked and lied to McClane and Zeus, but the intention was the same, which was to deceive them both into believing something that wasn't going to happen.

I honestly don't know if what I'm saying makes much sense, but this is what immediately sprung to mind concerning lies and tricks, so it was just what came to mind as I typed it.


Your friendly neighbourhood robot overlord
Be warned, I'm going to have fun with this topic!

Fundamental Differences

I see that there is a difference between a lie and a trick. Both a lie and a trick involve deception, but being partially composed of the same element does not mean two things are themselves the same. As an example, my alarm clock contains a time-keeping device, as does my oven. However, the inclusion of the time-keeping device does not necessitate that my alarm clock and oven be functionally identical. So, let us break apart the components of each and see how they differ.

To lie is to knowingly communicate an untrue idea with the intent of the recipient accepting it as true. I think, then, that the components are as follows:
1) an agent - the person that is telling the lie
2) a recipient - the person or group of people that is being told the lie.
3) an idea - some information
4) belief in the idea - the agent's acceptance that the idea is true
5) desire to obscure the truth - the agent's desire to prevent the recipient from knowing the idea
6) a communication - whatever medium is used, the act of knowingly sharing the obscured truth.

To trick is to knowingly orchestrate events involving a third party such that the outcome of an act is grossly different from the expectations of the third party. The components of a trick, I think, are these:
1) an agent - the person coordinating the trick.
2) a third party - the person or group of people that is being tricked.
3) an act - a series of events that the trick will aim to manipulate.
4) agent's intent - the outcome of the act that the agent desires.
5) expected outcome - the outcome of the act that the all parties expects to result given that the trick is not performed.
5) agent-directed manipulation - the deceitful altering or orchestrating of events of the act to achieve the agent's intent.
6) resolution - the actual outcome of the act.

Both require an agent and a third party. Both also require the agent to act in a knowingly deceitful manner.

Lies are based upon the agent's desire to prevent the recipient from knowing a true idea. Tricks are based on the agent's desire to manipulate events in order to produce a desired outcome.

A lie appears to be the basic unit if deceit. In order for deceit to exist, there must be a deceiver, the deceived, and the sharing of some known, untrue information. For known, untrue information to be shared, the deceiver must know that it is untrue, and must therefore know either (a) the true information or (b) that the true information exists and is different from the information being shared. These, it seems, are the same components I laid out for a lie. We can conclude, then, that a lie is the simplest form of deceit.

If a trick is also a form of deceit, and it is different from a lie, as I have previously shown, and a lie is the simplest form of deceit, then a trick must be more complex than a lie. Further, a trick is not a basic unit of deceit. Because a trick revolves around an act, which is a series of directed events, we can see that multiple events can be compounded to create the trick. What's more, a lie itself is a directed event that is deceitful, and so a trick can, among other things, be composed of one or more lies.

Finally, a key component to a trick is the resolution of the act. Whereas a lie is an event that occurs at a single point in time, a trick has both a beginning and an end. Without an end, there can be no trick, and so without an outcome, there is likewise no trick. Whether the trick is successful or not, it has to operate in a finite period of time and therefore the outcome has to be known. Some would even argue that in order for it to truly be a trick, the outcome must largely match the agent's intent. I would argue, however, that the trick still existed even if the outcome entirely matched the original expected outcome - the trick was simple unsuccessful.

A lie and a trick or fundamentally different things. Whereas a lie is a basic unit of deceit that occurs at a singular, fixed time, a trick is a composition of deceitful units that occurs over a finite period of time and has some result.

Moral Differences
It is more difficult to discuss the moral differences between lies and tricks, largely because we would first have to define some basis for morality. I don't intend to do that here, but I hope to show that neither lies nor tricks are inherently "bad" but are rather classifiable as "bad" by their context.

What is Good and Bad?
I said I wouldn't try to define a system of morality, and I don't intend to... at least not in any depth. However, I think I should indicate what I mean when I refer to "good" and "bad" throughout this post, and to do that I require at least a simply system of morality. In this system, we will say that "good" things are those benefit others while "bad" things are to their detriment. A "neutral" act, then, is an act that does not have positive or negative effects on a third party. Clearly, it can become a lot more complicated, but I think this definition will suffice for now.

The Morality of a Lie
As I said I had hoped to show, a lie is not inherently bad. That is to say, lies do not necessarily have negative effects on third parties. This, I think, can be demonstrated in a very simple fashion - if you were to tell a person in secret, seconds before they died, that Jean Harvnester (a made up name) told you that they liked your shoes, it would, in the vast majority of cases, have no negative consequences. The dying person would most assuredly not care - perhaps they wouldn't even hear you, and so there would be no negative effect on them, providing other communication was not pre-empted for the lie. And so a lie is not always bad. What must make a lie bad, is the content of the lie and the conditions under which the lie is told.

Our previously imagined scenario could have been made morally bad if, instead of telling the dying person that a stranger liked your shoes, you instead told them that their daughter was just in a horrible car crash. Seemingly under any circumstance, this would cause sadness and grief in the recipient - which we will take to be negative. However, if the dying person truly hated their daughter, perhaps the lie would bring them joy, and therefore, was it really so bad? The effect will have been positive, so one could even say that it was good.

The Morality of a Trick
A trick, as has been discussed, is similar to a lie, but not the same. However, like a lie, it is not inherently bad. Let us imagine a scenario, then, where a trick is for the good. Consider a homeless man who is truly down on his luck - if he had the resources, he would happily work hard to turn his life around. Now imagine giving this man a lottery ticket which you know is not a winning ticket and getting him to go into the nearest gas station with you to check it. The crux of the trick will be that the employee at the gas station is aware of the deceit and will lie, telling the man that he won, and proceeding to give him a large sum of money which you had previously supplied the employee with.

In what was could this be bad? If the man is able to use the money to improve his life and others do not come to have negative effects on them because of his turn-around (that is to say that he doesn't do bad things that he otherwise would not have), then why is the trick not morally good?

Again, we can affect the situation simply by changing the content or the context of the deceit. For example, if the employee told him that it was a winning ticket and then provided him with monopoly money, that would be morally bad. Similarly, if the homeless man, rather than using the money to improve his life and the lives of those around him instead used the money to buy weapons and go on a killing spree, that would be morally bad.

The morality of a lie or a trick is dependant on the content and context of the deceit. Therefore, we cannot say that lies and tricks are morally equal because it is not even necessarily true that two lies or two tricks are morally equal. And therefore, we can say that lie and tricks may be morally different.

In the context of fundamental existence, what you might call the epistemology of deceit, lies and tricks are separate things. In the context of morality, lies and tricks may be different depending on the individual lie or trick. Now, we can say that two things are different if, in any way, they differ from each other, since that is what different means. We can say, then, that lies and tricks are in fact different. I hope this post has helped to clear up the issue for you, and if you find a counter-argument, feel free to fire-back!

I'm happy now, I haven't had a chance to indulge myself like this in awhile...