A half-truth is a deceptive statement
Deception, beguilement, deceit, bluff, mystification, bad faith, and subterfuge are acts to propagate beliefs that are not true, or not the whole truth . Deception can involve dissimulation, propaganda, and sleight of hand. It can employ distraction, camouflage or concealment...

 that includes some element of truth
Truth has a variety of meanings, such as the state of being in accord with fact or reality. It can also mean having fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. In a common usage, it also means constancy or sincerity in action or character...

. The statement might be partly true, the statement may be totally true but only part of the whole truth, or it may utilize some deceptive element, such as improper punctuation
Punctuation marks are symbols that indicate the structure and organization of written language, as well as intonation and pauses to be observed when reading aloud.In written English, punctuation is vital to disambiguate the meaning of sentences...

, or double meaning, especially if the intent is to deceive, evade
Evasion (Ethics)
Evasion is, in ethics, an act that deceives by stating a true statement that is irrelevant or leads to a false conclusion.For instance, a man knows that another man is in a room in the building because he heard him, but in answer to a question, says, "I have not seen him," thereby falsely implying...

, blame
Blame is the act of censuring, holding responsible, making negative statements about an individual or group that their action or actions are socially or morally irresponsible, the opposite of praise. When someone is morally responsible for doing something wrong their action is blameworthy...

 or misrepresent the truth.


The purpose and or consequence of a half truth is to make something that is really only a belief
Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.-Belief, knowledge and epistemology:The terms belief and knowledge are used differently in philosophy....

 appear to be knowledge
Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something unknown, which can include information, facts, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject...

, or a truthful statement to represent the whole truth, or possibly lead to a false conclusion. According to the justified true belief theory of knowledge, in order to know that a given proposition is true, one must not only believe in the relevant true proposition, but one must also have a good reason for doing so. A half truth deceives the recipient by presenting something believable and using those aspects of the statement that can be shown to be true as good reason to believe the statement is true in its entirety, or that the statement represents the whole truth. A person deceived by a half truth considers the proposition to be knowledge and acts accordingly.


  • "You should not trust Peter with your children. I once saw him smack a child with his open hand." In this example the statement could be true, but what if Peter was actually slapping the child on the back, because he was choking.
  • "I'm a really good driver. In the past thirty years, I have gotten only four speeding tickets"* This statement is true, but irrelevant if the speaker started driving a week ago.
  • After being stopped for drunk driving, the inebriated driver proclaims "I only had a couple of beer
    Beer is the world's most widely consumed andprobably oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of sugars, mainly derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat...

    s" in slurred speech. The driver may have also consumed alcoholic drinks other than beer, and the "beers" may have been litre-sized as opposed to the usual contents of a normal-sized can, bottle, or glass
  • The classic story about blind men and an elephant
    Blind Men and an Elephant
    The story of the blind men and an elephant originated in India from where it is widely diffused. It has been used to illustrate a range of truths and fallacies...

    . Each blind man touches a different part of the elephant and reaches a different conclusion about the nature of the elephant; while each man's experience of the elephant is accurate, none of them have a full understanding of the nature of the beast. One may be touching the tail and believe that the elephant is long and thin, another may be touching the belly and say that it is round and big.


Some forms of half-truths are an inescapable part of politics in representative democracies
Representative democracy
Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy...

. The reputation of a political candidate can be irreparably damaged if they are exposed in a lie, so a complex style of language has evolved to minimise the chance of this happening. If someone has not said something, they cannot be accused of lying. As a consequence, politics has become a world where half-truths are expected, and political statements are rarely accepted at face value.

William Safire
William Safire
William Lewis Safire was an American author, columnist, journalist and presidential speechwriter....

 defines a half-truth, for political purposes, as "a statement accurate enough to require an explanation; and the longer the explanation, the more likely a public reaction of half-belief".

In his 1990 work The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of 1989 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague, Timothy Garton Ash
Timothy Garton Ash
Timothy Garton Ash is a British historian, author and commentator. He is currently serving as Professor of European Studies at Oxford University. Much of his work has been concerned with the late modern and contemporary history of Central and Eastern Europe...

 responded to Václav Havel
Václav Havel
Václav Havel is a Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. He was the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic . He has written over twenty plays and numerous non-fiction works, translated internationally...

's call for "living in truth":
Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead
Alfred North Whitehead
Alfred North Whitehead, OM FRS was an English mathematician who became a philosopher. He wrote on algebra, logic, foundations of mathematics, philosophy of science, physics, metaphysics, and education...

 was quoted as saying: "There are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil". If this is true, statements, or truths, which according to Whitehead are all half-truths, are susceptible to creating deceptive and false conclusions (see Alfred North Whitehead).

Meme theory

Richard Brodie links half-truths to meme
A meme is "an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture."A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena...

s "the truth of any proposition depends on the assumptions you make in considering it - the distinct memes you use in thinking about it". Brodie considers half-truths are a necessary part of human interaction because they allow practical application of ideas when it is impractical to convey all the information needed to make a fully informed decision, although some half-truths can lead to a false conclusions or inferences in the world of logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...



The notion of half-truths has existed in various cultures, giving rise to several epigrammatic sayings.
  • Karl Kraus
    Karl Kraus
    Karl Kraus was an Austrian writer and journalist, known as a satirist, essayist, aphorist, playwright and poet. He is regarded as one of the foremost German-language satirists of the 20th century, especially for his witty criticism of the press, German culture, and German and Austrian...

    , an Austrian journalist, critic, playwright, and poet noted, "An aphorism
    An aphorism is an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic and memorable form.The term was first used in the Aphorisms of Hippocrates...

     can never be the whole truth; it is either a half-truth or a truth-and-a-half"
  • William A. Mathews, author of Lonergan's Quest: A Study of Desire in the Authoring of Insight, stated, "All maxims have their antagonist maxims; proverbs should be sold in pairs, a single one being but a half truth."
  • Ardha-Satya Mithya Apeksa Bhayankara Translation: Half-truth is more dangerous than falsehood.
  • Arthur Koestler "Two half-truths do not make a truth, and two half-cultures do not make a culture."
  • Niels Bohr
    Niels Bohr
    Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

    , a Danish physicist
    A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

     who made fundamental contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics
    Quantum mechanics
    Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

    , said, "The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth." This reflects the little understood world of dimensional truths, or half-truths as they are called.

See also

  • Contextomy
  • Principle of bivalence
    Principle of bivalence
    In logic, the semantic principle of bivalence states that every declarative sentence expressing a proposition has exactly one truth value, either true or false...

  • Degrees of truth
  • Fuzzy logic
    Fuzzy logic
    Fuzzy logic is a form of many-valued logic; it deals with reasoning that is approximate rather than fixed and exact. In contrast with traditional logic theory, where binary sets have two-valued logic: true or false, fuzzy logic variables may have a truth value that ranges in degree between 0 and 1...

  • Lie
    For other uses, see Lie A lie is a type of deception in the form of an untruthful statement, especially with the intention to deceive others....

  • Truth
    Truth has a variety of meanings, such as the state of being in accord with fact or reality. It can also mean having fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. In a common usage, it also means constancy or sincerity in action or character...

  • Limited hangout
    Limited hangout
    A limited hangout, or partial hangout, is a public relations or propaganda technique that involves the release of previously hidden information in order to prevent a greater exposure of more important details...

  • Modified limited hangout
  • Multi-valued logic
    Multi-valued logic
    In logic, a many-valued logic is a propositional calculus in which there are more than two truth values. Traditionally, in Aristotle's logical calculus, there were only two possible values for any proposition...

  • False dilemma
    False dilemma
    A false dilemma is a type of logical fallacy that involves a situation in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there are additional options...

  • Weasel Word
    Weasel word
    A weasel word is an informal term for equivocating words and phrases aimed at creating an impression that something specific and meaningful has been said, when in fact only a vague or ambiguous claim, or even a refutation has been communicated.For example, an advertisement may use a weasel phrase...

  • Political correctness
    Political correctness
    Political correctness is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts,...

External links

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