• Happiness
    7
    Suppose a murderer is at your door and asks you where your friend is. Your friend is hiding in your house, but the murderer is going to kill him. Should you tell the truth?

    Kant argues that you should tell the truth because the maxim of lying can't be universalized. A lie is always wrong regardless of the circumstances, your intention (even if it is a good one) and the person to whom you lie. We should not create even a single exception to this rule, Kant argues, as it would make all moral duties uncertain and useless.

    But what exactly does it mean for something "to be universalized"? Suppose universalizing "do A when condition B exists" means to turn it into "do A at all times under all circumstances". Then consider the question "should you drink water when you are thirsty?" Clearly, "don't drink water" will lead to death, so it shouldn't be the moral thing to do. But by the universalization test, "drink water" wouldn't be moral too, because if it were, then you should "drink water at all times under all circumstances, even if you are not thirsty." But if you drink water in this manner, you would also die.

    In any case, if Kant believes that you should ascertain whether an act is moral or not not by its consequences but by the motive or the intention of the actor (since two people may do the same act but with different intentions), then shouldn't he not judge the act of lying itself but the intention of the liar, to be logically consistent? Shouldn't he judge that the liar who intents to save his friend as moral, and the truth teller who intents to kill his friend as immoral?
  • diesynyang
    105


    ^(For The Example) Kant won't support "Lying", but he would support "Misleading Truth". You can lied, of course, it's easy. But you choose to spin your brain and think of an "Misleading Truth" because there is a sense of Duty in your motivation that is "But I don't want to lie".

    I think The concept of universalizing is hard to understand, if we take Kant's Idea at face value (May be that's why people said Kant is maybe the most hard to understand, like the Bible). (It's good when to learn Kant and also learning about Jesus Golden Rule). Your Example, for example

    "You Can Drink Water if you are thirsty"

    let's universalized it - > You can drink water any time > Is it good? Yes.

    "You can lied to customer IF it result in profit for you"

    let's universalized it - > You can lied to customer every time > Is it good? No.

    "You can kill if it mean to save a person"

    let's universalized it - > You can Kill every time > Is it good? No

    Get the gist of it? :D

    Shouldn't he judge that the liar who intents to save his friend as moral, and the truth teller who intents to kill his friend as immoral?Happiness

    ^Kant is REALLY Interesting, it is as if he judge the situation like this (Lying is not moral, Killing is also immoral, Letting friends died is the same as killing, and that is immoral), as he consider those 2 act (Lying and Killing) as equal, like SIN :D :D :D :D. That's why Kant is hard, so hard that only few people can actually do it. Because to be moral with Kant Idea mean.

    Act so that, You wouldn't be in that situation, in which you have to choose between 2 evil

    Because, when you already in a situation like this. You're fuc**d. (Maybe that's why Batman who are LIKE (but not) a kantian, focused on preparation)

    .
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Just wondering how we ended up with two of the same thread.

    Anyway, a different angle on this from me. Not that I agree with the categorical imperative, but it's just a matter of how you conceptually divvy things up. You can certainly universalize "You should lie to a murderer asking where your friend is, because he wants to murder them."
  • Tim3003
    293
    Shouldn't he judge that the liar who intents to save his friend as moral, and the truth teller who intents to kill his friend as immoral?Happiness

    Yes. An act must be judged moral or immoral by its consequences, not by universal tropes like 'lying is wrong'. The core of morality surely is that we have a choice in all our actions, and must weigh up the consequences both ways before deciding. Blindly following a trope abnegates this responsibility and makes us no better than robots.
  • DingoJones
    2.5k


    I agree, I think the focus on the action in morality/ethics leads to inconsistency, and consistency is one of if not the main basis for ethics.
    It doesnt matter WHAT you think is moral so much as WHY.
  • Jamesk
    317
    Important to remember that Kant allows you not to always tell the truth. The murderer at the door is a good example. Firstly, when he asks if your friend is in the house you may answer simply that 'you don't know'. This is not a lie because you do not know if your friend has exited through the back door, tunneled out of your house, been teleported to the the Enterprise and been caught up in the rapture.

    Secondly Kant no where says that you had to open the door in the first place! He does allow for creative thinking and only forces the truth out when having to answer a yes or no question.

    If you lied to the murderer at the door and unknown to you your friend had snuck out the back, and due to your lie the murderer goes away and runs into your friend and kills him, then your lie was a direct cause of the action.

    Lies cannot be universalised because if they were they would not work. Lies only work in an environment of honesty and trust. If everyone lied about X no one would be trusted about X and then no one would be given the chance to get away with X. Lies only work because people believe promises, undermine that and lies don't work anymore (and we would be living in a far worse place).
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Lies cannot be universalised because if they were they would not work. Lies only work in an environment of honesty and trust. If everyone lied about X no one would be trusted about X and then no one would be given the chance to get away with X. Lies only work because people believe promises, undermine that and lies don't work anymore (and we would be living in a far worse place).Jamesk

    Well, they can't work when everyone always lies, because then it's the same as telling the truth. People would just assume that anything anyone says is a lie.

    They only work when people sometimes don't lie, sometimes do.

    Re universalizing anything, again, as I noted above, it's just a matter of how you conceptually divvy things up. You can make that more or less specific/detailed/general.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k
    How about instead of lying - I just open the door and shoot him dead. Is that any more or less moral ?
  • Jamesk
    317
    I think that simply not opening the door is the most obvious solution, don't you?
  • Jamesk
    317
    Well, they can't work when everyone always lies, because then it's the same as telling the truth. People would just assume that anything anyone says is a lie.Terrapin Station

    So ultimately lying is self defeating. The murderer at the door comes at the end of Kant's Groundwerk as an answer to a question on his perfect duty to never make a lying promise. It doesn't everyone to always lie, just the majority and the trust system breaks down.

    The same happens with animals, each species has a number of 'cheaters'. With humans we deal with this by an 'arms race' where the conned become increasingly wary and harder to con. Eventually the only way the cheater can get anything from society is by adopting the moral rules. Other species may avoid arms races because there is always the chance that the cheaters will become unstoppable and destroy system.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k


    As long as some people tell the truth sometimes, lying would work.
  • Jamesk
    317
    As long as some people tell the truth sometimes, lying would work.Terrapin Station

    The people that tell the truth would only believe people they can verify are most likely not to lie. This is kind of the current state of world affairs.
  • gloaming
    116
    One acts based on results only in teleological ethics, not in deontic ethics.


    Kant's maxim isn't bereft of consequential thinking because, although lying is proscribed, preventing the murderer from entering your domain isn't. You may defend yourself, and your own. This is anticipatory in nature, thus giving regard to possibilities, i.e., consequences.
  • Tim3003
    293
    ↪Tim3003
    One acts based on results only in teleological ethics, not in deontic ethics.


    Kant's maxim isn't bereft of consequential thinking because, although lying is proscribed, preventing the murderer from entering your domain isn't. You may defend yourself, and your own. This is anticipatory in nature, thus giving regard to possibilities, i.e., consequences.
    gloaming

    Wrong quote. Someone else said that, not me!
  • gloaming
    116
    "..Yes. An act must be judged moral or immoral by its consequences, not by universal tropes like 'lying is wrong'..."

    Was that not you?
  • Marchesk
    4.4k
    Is anyone going to actually in real life tell a murderer where their friend is in order to uphold some principle of truth telling? The answer is no.

    As such, it's a pointless conundrum. Even if we still consider it immoral to lie in such a situation, who cares? Our friend gets to live, and that's what matters, not whether we upheld some abstract principle.

    From this we realize that other people's well-being matters more than upholding principles. So yeah, you should lie, be disloyal, blow the whistle, tattle, etc. when the welfare of others comes into conflict with doing the principled thing.

    People matter more than principles. We could even make that a principle. Do the right thing except when it harms others. Asimov's zeroeth law for humans.
  • Jamesk
    317
    Kant quite specifically does not tell us what is an immoral act or whether the act is good or bad in relation to practicality. He is specifically telling us what acts and under what conditions that we can claim 'moral worthiness' of the act.

    Under no condition, even such an exaggerated one as the murderer at the door can you claim that lying is of moral worth. It might be the right thing to do, the only thing to do but that will never make telling a lie morally worthy.

    His original example was about lying promises. You promise to repay money loaned knowing that you cannot do so. No matter how noble the purpose that you need the money for, it is never morally right to lie in order to get it.

    I think that Kant gives us a valuable way of looking at morality, even when we cannot attain moral worthiness, it still is theoretically attainable. We will be better people by pursuing the aim without attaining it than we would be by mitigating morality or just giving up all together.
  • ChrisH
    192
    Under no condition, even such an exaggerated one as the murderer at the door can you claim that lying is of moral worth. It might be the right thing to do,Jamesk
    If it's not the the right moral thing to do, in what sense, in your view, could it be 'right'?
  • Jamesk
    317
    That is not the point, Kant will tell you that the only thing in your view that is right is if everyone else made the same act things would not get worse. All of our actions must treat others as ends in themselves and not just as a means to our ends.

    In my view though, and I think that Kant would probably agree with me, is that I would not open my front door to a person with bad intentions towards me or my household, so I would not open the door and I would call the police. Isn't that what most sensible people would do?
  • ChrisH
    192
    That is not the point,Jamesk
    I don't understand this response.

    All I'm asking is if X has no 'moral worth' but it is the right thing to do, in what sense is X right?

    In my view though, and I think that Kant would probably agree with me, is that I would not open my front door to a person with bad intentions towards me or my household, so I would not open the door and I would call the police. Isn't that what most sensible people would do?Jamesk

    Of course, but I think it's normally assumed that those (evasive) options are not available and your only options are to say nothing, tell the truth or lie.
  • Jamesk
    317
    Of course, but I think it's normally assumed that those (evasive) options are not available and your only options are to say nothing, tell the truth or lie.ChrisH

    Not by Kant, he is very specific that only when you have no other option than answering yes or no that you must not lie. This even gives scope for permitting the telling of 'white lies' in order not to offend, such as when asked by your aunt if you like the hideous tie she bought you for your birthday you could answer 'I have never seen such an interesting tie'.

    Bill Clinton used Kant most famously when asked if he had had sex with Monica he answered "I did not have sexual relations with that woman'. In the Kantian sense this was not technically a lie because he was never asked to explain what he defined 'sexual relations' as meaning.

    So I think that Kant give a lot of room for being truthful with discretion. When the murderer asks you whether his intended victim is in your house you could also answer that you do not know. This would not be lying because at that exact moment you don't know whether the person is still in your house or has run away by the back door.
  • ChrisH
    192
    Not by Kant, he is very specific that only when you have no other option than answering yes or no that you must not lie.Jamesk
    I'm struggling to make sense of this. What you say here implies that you may lie if you do have other options! I'm sure this wasn't what you intended.


    In any event I'd still be interested in seeing your response to my earlier question:

    All I'm asking is if X has no 'moral worth' but it is the right thing to do, in what sense is X right?ChrisH
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Re this topic, if you enjoy comedy films. if you don't mind something with a prominent atheism bias, and you haven't seen it yet, check out the Ricky Gervais film from 2009, The Invention of Lying.
  • Arkady
    762
    Suppose a murderer is at your door and asks you where your friend is. Your friend is hiding in your house, but the murderer is going to kill him. Should you tell the truth?

    Kant argues that you should tell the truth because the maxim of lying can't be universalized.
    Happiness
    Even if I accepted the logical force of Kant's argument, it would have little effect on my practical reasoning. I would still lie, and accept that I was thereby doing something unethical in order to save my friend or loved one. Even if I accepted a similar maxim such as "stealing is always wrong," it wouldn't stop me from, for instance, stealing bread to save a starving family.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k
    Lying is always an immoral act
    Not doing what is in your power to do to prevent harm to others is immoral

    my point being we are not always presented with an option of moral vs immoral, right vs wrong

    we are often asked to chose the lesser of evils, or the greater of goods.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    Lying is always an immoral actRank Amateur

    I know a lot of people think that, but I can't say I understand why (outside of possibly it being decreed by their religion . . . but then why did the folks inventing the religion think this?)
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k


    To define it first:
    A lie communicates some information
    The liar intends to deceive or mislead
    The liar believes that what they are 'saying' is not true

    Lying is bad – immoral because –

    If diminishes truth in the world – and therefor diminishes trust
    If one believes truth and trust are good – things that diminish them are bad

    The liar is treating those lied to as a means to an end

    Lying makes it harder for those lied to to make an informed decision

    Lying corrupts the liar - (a gateway moral wrong to other moral wrongs)
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    To define it first:
    A lie communicates some information
    The liar intends to deceive or mislead
    The liar believes that what they are 'saying' is not true

    Lying is bad – immoral because –

    If diminishes truth in the world – and therefor diminishes trust
    If one believes truth and trust are good – things that diminish them are bad

    The liar is treating those lied to as a means to an end

    Lying makes it harder for those lied to to make an informed decision

    Lying corrupts the liar - (a gateway moral wrong to other moral wrongs)
    Rank Amateur


    Even if we go with all of that, how would a lie like "Pleased to meet you" (when the person doesn't actually feel like being social at all at the moment) diminish trust or make it harder to make an informed decision?

    There are tons of "polite" lies that fit the definition you gave. But it's difficult to say how they'd dimiish trust etc.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k
    Even if we go with all of that, how would a lie like "Pleased to meet you" (when the person doesn't actually feel like being social at all at the moment) diminish trust or make it harder to make an informed decision?Terrapin Station

    how does is add to trust of make informed decisions easier ? These types of games are easy.

    To your point -
    is your intent above to deceive or mislead the person you are speaking to ??? Why do you feel a need to deceive them ?? Who's purpose are you serving ?? If you feel you can deceive them with impunity on this - will it be easier to deceive them on greater things.

    My point that all lies are immoral - does not state that all lies are equally immoral. -

    Next time just say hello.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    how does is add to trust of make informed decisions easier ?Rank Amateur

    Something wouldn't have to add to trust in order for it to not diminish trust. It can simply be neutral.

    Polite lies are usually performed for the emotional benefit of the recipient.
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