Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Section 8, Kant's Philosophy Installment 2


my comments

Lucy Haston
Philosophy 1030
Dr. Oliver
02 May 2017
Kant: Installment II
            Aaaaaand we’re back. Between my first installment and now, I’ve gotten to do a lot of thinking about lying and Kant’s belief that you should never do it. Like I said in my first installment, I think there are definitely times when lying is the better option. In fact, our book LH gives the famous example of a murderer looking for someone and they come to your door. You lie and say you do not know where they are, even though you do. How could one possibly argue that you should have told the truth in that situation? I think it is important to discuss what Kant really means by his philosophy that you should never tell a lie. Helga Varden writes in the Journal of Social Philosophy that Kant never said that you must tell the murderer any sort of information. You are not required to answer his question on the whereabouts of his potential victim. Varden believes this part of Kant’s philosophy is widely misunderstood. And when you take this into account (the belief that you don’t have to give any information at all) it really changes Kant’s philosophy. It makes it seem a bit more possible to do. Instead of lying, just don’t answer the question. This seems much more plausible to me, at least. I’m really glad I found Varden’s essay before writing this installment, because when I was writing the first installment, I was pretty set in the idea that Kant’s philosophy on lying was completely absurd. This essay changed things a bit. Varden also writes that Kant did not believe others have the right to have you tell them the truth. (Does that make sense? It’s a hard idea to word…) Kant’s philosophy on lying is so much more complicated than it seems. Varden addresses the murderer at the door example, saying that Kant believed that in this particular situation, you are being wronged. You are not wronging the murderer by lying to him or her. You are in an “unjust constraint.” And by lying to the murderer, you are not taking anything from him or her. Again, you’re not wronging him or her. He or she is wronging you. I suppose Kant saw this situation in a much more complex way than just “tell the murderer the truth because you should never ever lie.” Following this philosophy, I can only assume that Kant believed you should never ever lie if it takes something from someone, such as a right. And Varden goes on to write a similar idea. She writes about defamation, which takes something from another person through the act of lying. Varden writes that lying to the murderer at the door is not wrong because it wrongs the murderer… but Kant does say that your lie is still wrong. It’s just what he refers to as a “general wrongdoing.” Kant claims that the priniciple of lying is what is wrong in this situation, not the lie itself (that you told the murderer). Varden’s argument for Kant’s philosophy has helped me understand all of this so much more.

https://philpapers.org/archive/VARKAL.pdf  ß a link to Varden’s essay

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